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Help me troubleshoot my husband's diet!

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

We have twins on the way and one of the things we're both very conscious of is wanting our kids to have a healthy relationship with food. My husband was raised in England and his mother is a nice lady but is the epitome of a bad British cook. He grew up with everything boiled to within an inch of it's life, hardly any fresh produce, no seasoning, etc. When he met me he'd never had a raspberry before!!! He still has a very limited palate, he'll pick garlic and onion out of things I cook, etc, but he's such a good sport about trying new things. One of his absolute favorite things to eat these days is raw kale salad with lemon juice, olive oil and parmesan. I consider this a huge victory for someone who never ate salad even once growing up.


That said, some things are still a struggle: He's a total carb addict. He says this is due to his English upbringing, and it's true, they do eat a lot of toast -- but it makes me crazy. He never finishes his dinner, we eat at around 7p, and then at 9:30pm he wants supper. Supper consists of cornflakes and two pieces of toast. My mother is Mexican and we were raised with "cena" -- a small quesadilla or tortilla with avocado at around 7/8pm, but this was after "la comida", our big meal, at 3ish. I say that the two traditions are very different nutritionally, he insists it's the same thing.


I feel like if I could get more protein into him he wouldn't get the carb cravings, but it's difficult. He says he is absolutely starving when he wakes up in the morning. He eats two bowls of cereal and toast in the morning, and scrambled eggs if he has time. He won't eat yogurt, refuses beans and doesn't love nuts. He's usually hungry an hour or so after breakfast. His job is manual labor so he needs a big lunch but he's picky so I end up packing what he'll eat: two turkey and cheese sandwiches (but he only wants one piece of turkey and one piece of cheese on each sandwich), celery sticks, carrot sticks, a portion of fruit (banana, melon, berries) and a babybel cheese.


He comes home starving, devours more toast and/or popcorn (air popped), a banana, and if there are any tea biscuits around he'll have four or five of those with his cup of tea.


Then we have dinner -- I try to keep it healthy, our dinners for the last week have been: roast chicken with veggies, moroccan butternut squash couscous salad, steak with beets and kale salad, spaghetti bolognese with peas, chicken "fajitas" and raw veggies, and kasha varnishkes (buckwheat groats and pasta in mushroom gravy).


He never finishes dinner and insists he can't eat "that much" in one sitting. Then he's hungry again two hours later and away we go.


What can I do Mamas?  I'm in charge of the cooking and I feel a responsibility to help him but I'm not sure what to do. Relevant information: He is underweight, not overweight, very active, and constantly exhausted and hungry. :( We only eat grassfed meats and pastured dairy. I'd love any ideas you have to help me fill up my picky eater!

post #2 of 17

Can you save him some dinner on the side for his hungry time later.


Honestly if your husband is under weight and eating the food you make him and snacking later it does not sound like he has an unhealthy relationship with food other than he does not eat enough of it. I would Give him a small protein packed snack early in the afternoon and the dinner and let him have his late snack.

post #3 of 17
Thread Starter 

Sorry - the "healthy relationship with food" bit in my original post was a thought I didn't properly follow up on in my original post. My mistake, I'll clarify: By his own reckoning he had a bad relationship with food as a kid - home cooked food tasted bad, candy and fast-food were the "good stuff" and he wasn't encouraged to try new things as a youngster. We don't want that for our kids, so we're both really conscious of it right now, since I'm pregnant and it comes up. I see him eating bowls of cereal before bed and I don't want our kids picking up on these habits since I think they are unhealthy. He blames his eating habits as a kid for the way he eats now, he's still very fussy and because he's so picky I feel like I can't feed him enough of what he needs, like protein.

I'm just worried about his health. As I type this he's across the room from me sleeping on the couch as usual because he's exhausted. At 31 years old I feel like he's too young to be this tired all the time and in my view a lot of it comes down to what he's not eating. The doctor said his blood sugar, cholesterol and all that were fine but that he is underweight and needs to gain a bit more. Unfortunately, that's proving difficult for me to accomplish.


So, concretely I think what I was hoping for advice on was tips on cooking for a very active guy who won't eat a lot of the foods that come to mind when I think of protein-and-good-fat packed snacks and foods (e.g.,  hardboiled eggs, nuts, hummus, yogurt, avocado, etc). And also, if your husbands are picky, how do you model good eating behaviors for your children? What has worked for you?


Hope that makes more sense!

post #4 of 17
You're description of him as underweight and exhausted makes me wonder about coeliacs disease. It sounds like his diet is fairly gluten-rich so, if he did have coeliacs, he is probably malnourished due to absorption issues.
post #5 of 17

Little changes:  


What if he was able to have hot cereals (think: oatmeal, quinoa, millet - all can get done in a mini-crockpot for convenience too) - or eat these cooled with milk & fruit, instead of the cold, processed cereal.  What about mildly 'higher quality' cold cereals like simply puffed grains, or maybe grape nuts (which happens to have a lot of protein, in comparison to others).


Hummus or bean dips to go with the raw veggies at lunch?  (wait, did you say he dislikes hummus. . . sorry).   What about beef jerky or sausage (maybe with breakfast, especially?).  Will he eat different breads - something with added seeds or similar might be a nice change every so often?  


What about soups?  A lot of people who 'don't like beans' will sometimes go for bean soups, or various split pea soups.  Might be something he could have with the toast he already prefers and/or instead of the extra cereal sometimes (that's also in a bowl and liquidy, but has at least a bit more nutrients to it).

post #6 of 17

Although you are responsible for cooking, he is an adult, and unless he thinks there is a problem and wants to fix it, I think you might be setting up a difficult dynamic.


Have you asked him what he thinks about his eating and health? Does *HE* think he eats too many sweets & cookies? Does he want to eat more protein?


People do change, when DH and I first married, he did not like to eat beans much. Now he buys and cooks them himself. :)


In terms of practical stuff:



- Make eggs almost every day?

-  instead of cold cereal - offer steel-cut oatmeal on some days & whole grain breads w/ butter or olive oil or cheese


Lunch - pack him some hot food  like roast chicken, mashed potatoes, & gravy?


For "second supper" - suggest he could have second portions of the dinner that he ate only 1 portion at supper time? Find out if he's not eating much  'cause he really wants a simple roasted or boiled instead of things like butternut squash & kashka?


Don't see much pork or lamb or mutton or goat on the menu - see if he likes those?


Ideas of food that you could make at home

Shepherds pie

Cornish pasty

Roast leg of lamb

Breaded fish fillets & french fries (fish & chips, not deep fried)


Or, is he homesick for curries? Some say that "Chicken Tikka marsala" is Britain's true national dish. :)

Edited by skreader - 8/18/13 at 11:58pm
post #7 of 17
Thread Starter 

Skreader you are absolutely right, he is an adult and this has to be his decision. Happily, it is. He also thinks there is a problem, he doesn't like how tired he is and his constant hunger. I have his blessing to find a solution, he'll be the first to say that he doesn't know what to do so he's grateful I'm willing to tackle it in the kitchen.


mumkimum - good suggestion on the jerky, he loves it but I've just not gone out of my way to find grassfed jerky. That said, he likes it and it's a great portable protein so I will add it to my list. And soups! You're right, he might go for beans in soup form. I'll try it.


katelove - I don't think it's celiac simply because he doesn't have the other symptoms (stomach ache, digestive upset, etc).

post #8 of 17

What about adding some sausage or bacon along with his breakfast for protein?  


If he's willing to try new things, would he try nuts in a mix with other things he likes?  Say a trail mix with nuts, dried fruit and some chocolate chips.  Not too unhealthy and the bonus would be more protein for him and a little sugar to boost him through the afternoon.  


It sounds like he doesn't eat that much to me.  If he does manual labor, he's expending a lot of calories each day.  His lunch sounds paltry.  Two sandwiches sounds like a lot but there's nothing on them (no fault of yours).  And the rest of the lunch is vegetables.  Not exactly filling.  He's not eating enough which is why he's constantly hungry and tired.  Talk to him about eating a few smaller meals on top of what he's already eating.  Start adding another piece of turkey or cheese (or both) to each sandwich.  I bet he'll eat it when he sits down to lunch.  I'd add some olives and crackers to his lunch also.  I know you're worried he eats too many carbs but maybe a small amount to round out all the fruits and veggies.  


Will he drink a smoothie?  He doesn't like yogurt, but would he "drink" it in a smoothie?  Make one with milk, yogurt, and fruit.  Or one with milk and a nut butter (maybe he'll like nuts better if blended?).  These are good with breakfast or when he gets home. 

post #9 of 17

How about protein shakes?  My husband is a farmer and mechanic and could eat an entire beef if I would let him :)  He is obviously crashing from the simple carbs- which makes total sense.  Warrior Whey makes a great grass-fed organic whey powder that you can mix with practically anything to give him sustained energy.  I would try to be flexible with him on breakfast- either have the protein shake and some carbs or give him the protein shake for his post breakfast crash.  Soon he will figure out that it keeps him fuller than cereal and toast.  We have these for breakfast most mornings because I am too lazy to fry eggs.  But he likes toast so would he eat fried egg and cheese sandwiches?  You could pre make them and freeze them and then just throw one/two in the oven or microwave in the morning.  How about egg burritos?  Also- I don't know what kind of bread you eat?  We do almost all whole spelt- which I think keeps my kids fuller than wheat.  


Also is he getting enough good fats?  I put coconut manna in my shakes for extra fat (coconut oil is chunky in them and makes me nuts).  Is he getting enough butter?  


How about cottage cheese?  I agree with putting in olives.  I would personally scrap the veggies- they are filler. He needs protein and fats in his lunches.  And he needs "break" foods.  I have never seen a manual laborer (and I used to work construction and have been on a farm ever since) who didn't get a morning and afternoon break for little light lunch.  


I sneak in beans by blending them up and mixing them in soups.  It thickens them and they don't early taste.  My family loves anything with lentils though- maybe he would like the flavor of those more?   


Another thing my DH turned his nose up at but now loves is tuna, olive oil, tomatoes, and black beans.  Very filling and super easy to make.  I think you being creative with proteins and telling him that he isn't necessarily going to love all of them- but to let you know the ones he does love with help expand his tastes and give him more calories.  Or you could cook more suppers and send them with him for lunch.  A good thermos will keep them warm all morning or a good ice pack to keep it cool- whichever works.

post #10 of 17

You've had some good suggestions for improving what he eats. I just wanted to comment on the issue of when he eats. I wouldn't put a lot of effort into changing that, especially not at first. Some people naturally prefer to eat several times throughout the day. It sounds like his natural, normal satiation threshold level is fairly low so he fills up fairly quickly. I would try to work with that rather than changing it. Keep the focus on eating high quality, healthy foods. In terms of maintaining healthy blood sugars, it's probably easier too if he eats several small but nutritious meals and snacks rather than fighting his personal normal eating/hunger cycles. 

post #11 of 17

What helped us is to replace all the empty carb snacks in the house with rich nutrient dense snacks. Trail mix of nuts and dry fruit, jerky or tanka bars, different kinds of coconut oil fudge. Avacados for guac. Fruit. Cheese for those who don't react poorly to it (my DH gets an upset tummy though).


I have to wake up early enough to make breakfast each day. An egg per person plus sausage and bacon. If I don't DH buys fast food and/or gets a headache.

post #12 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thanks everyone! These are great suggestions! I premade a bunch of egg, sausage, kale, and cheese burritos for his breakfasts and they are now waiting in the freezer for mornings when I don't feel up to cooking a hot breakfast.


I've never been a shake or smoothie person myself, but I think we'll try them. I also like the idea of pureeing beans into soups. I also tried the lentil soup  on the $5 Mothering Meal ideas and it was a big hit -- so hooray for lentils! Jerky is also on our list now.


I am going to keep trying to prepare his "Will Not Eat" foods in different ways, so maybe he'll wind up liking them! It's a long list (avocado, beans, olives, tuna, cottage cheese, nuts etc etc) so I'll have a lot to work with! :)


and Ollyoxenfree, good point about his "natural satiation threshold" I guess I just always saw it as a problem but I should just accept it as part of how he is while focusing on feeding him better.

post #13 of 17
Hard boiled eggs are a great snack with their own packaging.
post #14 of 17
Wow, you are really dilegent! I know a lot of wives who wouldn't go to half the effort you are going to! Glad to hear that you've gotten some good suggestions to get you started. Hopefully, his palate will continue to expand as he gets used to new foods. Does he understand the connection between the carbs and his sleepiness? It seems like that would help him try to kick some of the habit. Someone mentioned celiac. . . .I don't think he has that, but it is quite likely he has a gluten intolerance - the fogginess/tiredness is a pretty strong indicator. You don't need digestive symptoms to have it.
post #15 of 17

Most Americans eat twice as much protein as we need every day. Yeah it's an important nutrient, but I think he needs more fats in his diet instead of just more protein. Is the dairy you are getting low fat? I think higher fat versions of things are actually the way to go, they make you feel much more satisfied and at least as far as milk goes I think it helps you absorb more of the nutrients because they are fat soluble. Does he like avocados, or guacamole? Dressings with olive oil? Nuts? Whole milk yogurt, cheese? I'm a big proponent of butter too. Eating a variety of fats is healthy, I think he (and most of us) probably overdo the amount of low nutrient carbs and sugars we eat, but they mess with your blood sugar and don't keep ya full for long. 


I understand liking breads and sweets and stuff a lot, but there are ways to cut it down a little but still eat some really good crusty sourdough bread and butter or homemade jam or peanut butter on it instead of the high sugar cereals and pastries an such. 

post #16 of 17
Thread Starter 

@Sheepdoc he won't eat hard boiled eggs.

@sonjagrabel  aw, thanks! I like him a lot so I want to keep him in tip top shape :) He understands about carbs, but still can't resist them!

@Oread We are big fans of fat too! (The good stuff!) We only buy whole milk, cook with lots of butter, etc, but he won't eat yogurt or avocados. He prefers his salad without any kind of dressing whatsoever -- I can't even get him to dip bread in olive oil! He's not overly fond of nuts, but he will eat cheese.


So far what I've done is started including some slices of summer sausage and cheese sticks in his lunch. I also made him a "trail mix" type thing with walnuts, almonds, sprouted sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds, and some Kashi protein crunch cereal (it's soy protein, which I am not super fond of, but he likes it so it works). He won't eat apples dipped in peanut butter but he will eat celery dipped in peanut butter so that goes in too. I've been putting more butter on his sandwiches and I made a whole pile of breakfast burritos (egg, sausage, kale, peppers) for the freezer, so that's been helping. He'll usually eat one after his bowl of cereal.


And, major victory -- I asked him if he would consider drinking a protein shake and he said, "Maybe if you make it and it tastes nice. Maybe." So, the immersion blender and I are going to become friends this week after I get my hands on some grassfed protein powder :)

post #17 of 17
Originally Posted by katelove View Post

You're description of him as underweight and exhausted makes me wonder about coeliacs disease. It sounds like his diet is fairly gluten-rich so, if he did have coeliacs, he is probably malnourished due to absorption issues.

:yeah  Exactly what my first thought was.  Even if it's not true celiac, he could still have gluten intolerance and/or other food intolerances...such as corn, soy, dairy, etc. I had those same issues before I discovered my celiac and the other foods I react to; I was malnourished and underweight, always exhausted and foggy-headed, constipated, bad acne (which it turns out was food-related dermatitis), etc. Once I changed my diet, I felt like a different person! My kids have similar issues, so I do a lot of baking and cooking from scratch. It could be a huge improvement if you find out he has food intolerances!


Maybe try packing in the protein and good fats, and satisfying his carb craving with home-baked goods that use gluten-free flours and nutrient-dense ingredients. I have a great recipe for "power muffins" that I created for my kids' snacks using berries, Pamela's GF artisan flour, ground flaxseed, whole amaranth, an egg, some coconut milk kefir, streusel topping with chopped pecans, etc...they feel like they're eating cupcakes, but they're actually healthy!  Another thing we love is homemade chicken & wild rice soup with veggies - great way to use the leftover roast chicken, and pack in protein without adding a ton of carbs - plus it might be more of a familiar "comfort food" for him, being used to boiled things and all. (I'll gladly give you the full recipes if you want to try them!)  Soups in general are great, you can sneak just about anything in there and puree it, as long as it tastes good, and you can satisfy his carb craving by serving it with some garlic bread or healthy crackers or something.


What about snacks like candied nuts in granola? (my kids aren't big on nuts either, unless they're honey roasted or maple-coated or something.) Peanut butter on apple slices, or peanut butter sandwiches with fresh raspberries instead of jelly? Popped amaranth instead of popcorn? Black Bean-Lime hummus and lentil chips? Instead of toast for breakfast, try giving him homemade waffles - I use GF baking/pancake mix, add in mashed butternut squash, ground flaxseed, and some pumpkin pie spice, and the kids devour them. You can make a double batch and keep leftovers in a Ziploc in the fridge, then warm them in the toaster. Cereals can be switched to healthier options, like Enjoy Life's Crunchy Flax - it has a ton of protein and fiber.  I love your idea of pre-made breakfast burritos - what about pre-made quiches with veggies, sausage or ham and cheese?


You are definitely going above and beyond - good for you! It's so nice to see another woman who cares about her hubby so much. :love Feel free to PM me for recipes if you want...good luck!

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