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Help feed my boyfriend. It's like cooking for a toddler.

So I apologize in advance that this is so long. I moved in with my boyfriend a couple months ago. We both promised ourselves before moving that we were going to start eating better and cooking more for ourselves at home. I've started, but he's not exactly jumping on board. I wouldn't call him fat, but he's carrying some extra pounds, and his family has a history of diabetes. Plus he smokes. I would like all of this to concern him, but it doesn't because he argues that he's not technically "fat." He eats tons of fried and spicy foods and has stomach problems like every other day. I try sneaking fruits and vegetables into the things that I make, but he professes his hatred for both.

He likes Asian stir-fries, mexican food, and pizza. And it's not easy for me to want to eat healthy when I have cookies, chips, and snack cakes staring back at me when I open the pantry. So I'm looking for ways to give him what he likes AND to keep it healthy. I'd really appreciate some suggestions for lighter fare from each of these categories, or for ways to sneak fruits and vegetables into our meals without him catching on. I'd love recipes for low-fat cookies and baked goods as well!

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  1. I used to have a guy like that. It can be tough.

    One thing that helps considerably is, if he only wants pizza, mexican, and spicy food, make them at home. It will always be considerably healthier if made by you. You can make easy pizzas on whole wheat pitas, or make your own whole wheat pizza crust. If you want him to eat more veggies on his pizza, try cooking them in some way first so they're not so obvious and also putting them under the cheese(roasted red peppers rather than raw, caramelized onions instead of uncooked, etc). Mexican food can be made healthy pretty easily. Fajitas are a great example. Just go easy on the tortillas and skip the cheese. For spicy try veggie laden curries or cajun spiced seafood both of which are pretty easy and healthful. Get in as many whole grains with dinner as possible to help fill you up and prevent snacking later.

    As far as snacks, I've had great success with baked sweet potato chips as a sub. for crackers/conventional chips. Make the chips using a veggie peeler so they're super thin then toss with a smidge of EVOO and S&P before baking. For dessert baked apples are great and can be served with a scoop of non-fat vanilla ice-cream or fro-yo to fill a pie craving.

    It's a shame he won't take more responsibility for his health, but he's lucky to have someone loking out for him. I'd also try having a heart to heart with him and explaining he may not be too concerned with his own weight, but in support of you it'd be very helpful and nice if he'd keep the junk in the house to a minimum.

    Good luck!
    Arika
    http://rawforamonth.blogspot.com

    14 Replies
    1. re: ArikaDawn

      Thanks! I have one question about the sweet potato chips though. I LOVE them, and I used to make them a bunch back in college (I put them on a cookie sheet greased with cooking spray), but they either came out burnt or undercooked, and then after they cooled off, they just got kinda soggy. Is there some secret to making them that I'm overlooking? Perhaps because I never seasoned them with any salt and pepper?

      1. re: Al_Pal

        They can be tricky, and I stil under/over cook them on occasion. Just try to make sure they're in a single layer, the slicing is as uniform as possible, and not at too high a temperature. I cook mine at 300 degrees and start checking them at about 17 minutes or so. It also helps to mix them around the pan so there aren't any stuck in hot spots. I also let mine cool in the oven with the door cracked so they continue to dry out a bit. Hope that helps!

        Oh, and I don't always use S&P, I actually prefer them plain, so I don't think that makes much of a difference.

          1. re: JMF

            I never even thought about that. What a great tip!

      2. re: ArikaDawn

        "I used to have a guy like that. It can be tough."

        Did you break up over food preferences?

        Gosh, Al Pal it sounds like you are going to be a great parent. But are you sure you want to adopt and baby an adult? This sounds like it could grow into a relationship issue so you might want to set some boundaries early. Suggest that he have his snacks/junk food outside the home (at work, etc) and not bring them into the house. Offer healthy snacks as suggested here (my fav is nuked popcorn with spices and a mist of hot chili olive oil - you can micro old-fashioned popcorn in a paper bag) and continue to cook balanced meals. Unfortunately, you can't make him actually eat it, since unlike a 7 year old, it's up to him. You could trick him into healthy food (a la Seinfield's cookbook and some of the sneaky suggestions here) but again, he needs to make the choice. He's an adult just like you.

        I'm interested in ArikaDawn's answer - it might help you.

        1. re: alwayscooking

          It certainly was part of the reason. About 3 years ago I started getting in shape and all told have lost around 45 lbs. It really is a commitment and a lifestyle and if your partner lives in a way that opposes that it can be tough. Also, I am big into food and trying new things and felt hindered and uninspired cooking for a picky eater. It wasn't the WHOLE reason for the breakup(huge age difference, different goals etc.), but it didn't help at all.

          Arika
          http://rawforamonth.blogspot.com

          1. re: ArikaDawn

            Congrats on the weight loss - and that it sounds like it's part of a lifestyle change!!! And it seems as if you are in a better place as well. Much luck to you.

            And for me , since I watch what I eat - it has to be GREAT and interesting - not just some slice of pizza.

            1. re: alwayscooking

              you make it sound like pizza can be neither great nor interesting

              i must disagree

              1. re: thew

                you are so right - when I wrote the post I was thinking of the corner 'pizza' joint and not the real stuff. In fact, I'm having pizza tonight!

          2. re: alwayscooking

            I've got to say it's not a good idea to trick your partner into eating certain foods because if they find out (which is inevitable) they tend to distrust everything you cook thereafter. I tried it once by sneaking anchovies into pasta sauce - he kept saying how the sauce tasted 'funky' (it was delicious) and when he opened the fridge later and saw the jar of anchovies well for several months after that whenever I made pasta he would smell it suspiciously and then go check the level in the anchovy jar! (Actually i thought it was funny but if every meal had become a battle like that... ).

            Also usually when your sneaking fruit and vegetables into meals your defeating the objective on three fronts a. the whole distrust problem when they find out, b. much of the nutritional value is lost when vegetables are sneaked into a meal and c. your partner will never develop acquire and acceptance of fruit and vege's as part of his diet.

            I had a similar problem with my partner but I eventually realised that the problem was that I was (as the predominant cook) always asking what he wanted for dinner, or making suggestions for dinner which he would then reject because as something not exactly familiar and, therefore, it didn't sound appealing.

            Anyway the the point is I realised that I'm the cook and he'll just bl##dy well eat what I cook for him - he isn't as fussy as I think it's just when given an option he likes the familiar over the unfamiliar. With this approach I've (and he as well) since discovered that he loves pumpkin and chickpea curry, loves a genuine napoleatana (with chickpeas - although he doesn't ask and I don't tell, although I would if he did) and chicken tangine etc.

            Also with the fruit thing of his own volition he won't pick up an orange and eat it but, to my eternal frustration, if I peel and orange, quarter an apple etc for myself he wants half of it!

            Ultimately, as the more mature and healthier individual (who presumably is also the main cook) you've just got to cook for your own nutritional needs and tastes and eventually (hopefully) your partner will come around, particularly if he gets tired of the expense of feeding his own 'likes'. Similarly, If you do the shopping don't buy the snacks that he lives off but are too tempting for you, buy for your needs.

            It's a slow road to progress (my partner also has a family history of type II diabetes) and at times can be very frustrating, particularly as whenever I bring up the diabetes risk thing he feels like I'm attacking him, but I'm just worried and wish he would worry a bit more too.

            You've got a good grounding with stir-fry (I'm assuming it contains vegetables) because it such a flexible dish. This is one of the most nutritious was to eat vegetables.

            I recommend the following:

            Stir fry (in peanut or vegetable oil - approx 1 tbs) chicken breast (cut into 1 inch strips) with garlic, ginger, sesame oil and a pinch of white pepper (or cracked black pepper) when cooked remove from wok.
            Add more oil to wok, toss in more garlic and ginger, along with some rinsed bok choy, carrot (cut if you have the patience into double thickness matchstick, 2 inch long sized pieces), sliced mushroom (shitake if you think you can get away with it) and capsicum.
            Stir fry until bok choy leaves wilt then add 1 tbs oyster sauce, 1/2 tbs Shaoh hsing wine (chinese rice wine) and 1/2 tbs soy sauce then reduce heat to med-low, cover wok with lid and let sit for a 3-5 minutes.
            Serve on rice or rice noodles, or hokkien noodles, of egg noodles, or udon noodles etc.
            Obviously there are no hard and fast rules - this dish can be modified in what ever way you see fit except by adding one of those packet sauces - particularly the dry ones where you add water first. Stir fry is so quick and simple that it really doesn't require those sorts of short cuts.

            1. re: irisav

              Unfortunately OP said that SHE won't eat stir-fry. Maybe that's an area where they can compromise.

              1. re: c oliver

                It's not that I flat-out refuse to eat stir-fry. I'm just not good at preparing it, which leaves it up to him. I'm trying to watch my caloric intake, and he's not at all calorie-conscious. If he's not going to try to use less oil and less of the ingredients that I find objectionable, I just can't eat it.

                1. re: Al_Pal

                  Stir fry doesn't take much oil at all. Ask him to cut back 1/4 to begin with and then more as he realizes how little he needs. What are the ingredients you find objectionable? I can't think of anything I've ever used is unhealthy or is it that you don't like certain of the things. The breadth of ingredients for stir-fry is so HUGE, I can't imagine that y'all can't find lots of common ground there. And served with steamed rice, you can eat as little as you want. And, if the fella likes spicy, you can really lay it on there :)

            2. re: alwayscooking

              err! I meant a genuine napoleatana with anchovies! not chickpeas...that would b weird!

          3. You can add veggies to anything--I've made mac and cheese with pureed butternut squash added to the cheese sauce and no one was the wiser. Carrots can be added as well.

            If you want him to actually try eating veggies though, as opposed to just hiding them in his food, try making homemade salsa with garden tomatoes and serve it with baked tortilla chips (homemade or from the store) Fresh salsa is amazing, easy, and adds a fair amount of nutrients to any dish. I put it on scrambled eggs, burgers, sometimes on a grilled steak.

            You can make fresh tomato pasta sauce as well.

            Or what about chili? Ground turkey, beans, tomatoes, as spicy as he wants, and if you use low fat cheese and sour cream as toppings, it should be relatively healthy.

            hummus and pita instead of chips and dip. And make the hummus with Greek yogurt instead of oil--it's great and significantly less fattening.

            Does he like fruit desserts? Apple crisp, heavy on the apples, light on the crisp, is pretty healthy, and if you use whole grain flour, oatmeal and nuts, can actually be a decent winter breakfast.

            How about banana bread? You control the amount of oil etc, and if you toss in some chocolate chips, it usually goes over.

            Cooking at home is the key to a lot of this. I subscribe to Cooking Light, which usually has at least a couple recipes a month that would fit your needs. Or check out the cookbook aisle at the bookstore.

            2 Replies
            1. re: lulubelle

              LOL, your post reminded me of the book Jerry Seinfeld's wife wrote about hiding veggies.

              1. re: lulubelle

                Yes, I was going to raise that as a suggestion.

              2. Eating healthy isn't a program, it's a lifestyle. It's not something that you can jump into and out of. He's a grown person, it's either something he wants to do or not. You can't eat healthy today and go out and get a double whopper with cheese tomorrow. I would recommend a book, "The Sonoma Diet" by Connie Gutterson. It answers lots of the issues that you have. Check it out at www.sonomadiet,com . A Mediterranean diet is not only healthy but can be spiced up and taste out of this world.

                Judging from the foods you've mentioned, it sounds like he likes bold flavors, learn to cook those types of dishes but using healthier ingredients, One of the easiest ways to loose weight and get healthier is with portion control. If you eat less you can control your weight, 2 pieces of pizza is better than 4. Instead of chips and stuff to snack on, switch to un-salted light butter popcorn, filling but low calorie, change from high test cokes to diet ones. Sorry but the snack cakes and junk has to go. Make cookies with Splenda, I make Choc, Chip Cookies with Splenda sugars and carob chips, hard to tell the difference. Sugars and salts are way too high these days, in most foods. Sugars will really put the pounds on, if you cut back it should help with diabetes control. When you shop, do it together, and don't buy snacks, if he wants them make him put them in his basket.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Grillncook

                  I'm definitely aware of the importance of portion control. He eats an incredible amount though, and I haven't tried to even address the issue yet. I'm hoping to first get him on board with the healthy eating. THEN we can work on portion control.

                2. A few suggestions...
                  - rice and beans (maybe with some cumin added) should be similar enough to the mexican that he likes so much. I often added some salsa to the beans for taste.
                  - i made some zucchini muffins that i thought were great, bf couldn't really get past the fact that there was succhini in them. banana muffins went over really well. maybe play around with some lowfat recipes. we had them for breakfast and snacks.
                  - i made a roasted veggie soup and added some sriracha to kick up the heat. something like that might appeal to his spicy side. or maybe a roasted tomato soup with some lowfat mozzarella cheese on top. add some crusty bread and it's almost like pizza!
                  - when I make chili i sneak in all kinds of veggies...a can of pumpkin, some sweet potatoes...maybe you could roast some veggies, puree them and add them to chili?
                  - would he eat quiche? i've had ones with breakfast sausage, cheese, o'brien potatoes and salsa that were quite tasty. maybe you could sneak in low fat or turket sausage...

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