How to Drag Him, Kicking and Screaming, Away from Those Burgers and Toward a Nice, Juicy Tofu

My husband’s diet centered on the three food demons of fast food, processed food, and meat.

He ate at McDonald’s and other fast food joints at least three times a week. He stuffed his freezer with processed food for breakfast and lunch. And his fridge overflowed with meat. Deli meat. Chicken. Hamburger meat. And so on.

Sure, he had his vegetables. He had potatoes. Which lead to fun, fun arguments between us such as . . .

“A potato is not a vegetable.”

“Yes it is.”

“No it’s not. It’s just the vegetable equivalent of white bread.”

“Ha! You called it a vegetable!”

(On a side note, you can see why I was sorely tempted to chase the man around the kitchen table with a wooden spoon. I never did. I mean, why waste your breath chasing when you can throw, I ask you?)

So, of course, I figured it was my job to get Mr. Meat ‘n Potatoes away from fast food, processed food, and meat and toward something healthier. Like, oh, a celery stalk.

1. Arguments
Did I say first step? I meant misstep. Because arguments didn’t work as well as I had hoped. Still, I persisted. Because if it doesn’t work, it clearly means you are just not trying hard enough.

2. Appeasement
Six, seven months of arguments and I clued in right away that it wasn’t working (I am nothing if not incredibly swift). So I quit and promised the man I would not make him eat anything he didn’t want to. That worked a lot better.

3. Magical shrinking meat
So I gave him what he wanted. Namely meat. But I gave him less. I moved it to the side of the plate and overloaded him with vegetables. At first, the veggies were potatoes (okay, let’s just not have that argument again). Then I introduced sauteed mushrooms knowing full well that butter can even make shoe leather taste good. Then cauliflower in a cheese sauce. Then, well, you get my drift.

4. Meat as condiment
I started cutting down the meat even more by using it as a condiment. Such as sprinkled on a stir fry. Or as chunks in a salad. Nicely switching the emphasis from meat to veggies.

5. No meat at all
Interspersed with his normal meals, I added the odd non-meat dish. Like a hearty mushroom lasagna. Or a cheese and vegetable casserole. First, we had these once a week. Then twice. Then more.

6. Buh bye fast food
Now that he was eating a whole lot less meat, he was primed and ready to say adios to fast food. I used the money angle (Do you know how much we spend on fast food every month?). That worked pretty well, especially when coupled with the weight angle (Do you know how many pounds that meal is adding to our waistline?). Everybody wants to be thin and rich. Even men.

7. Education
The problem with processed food is . . . oh, what isn’t wrong about processed food? You got your chemicals, you got your preservatives, you got your way too many calories and way too little nutrition, you got your, well, I don’t want to smack you over the head with all the problems of processed food. And I didn’t want to smack my husband, either. So, as I read the paper or saw a commercial or, whatever, I would slip him a little fact. “Yeah, that stuff is sure real juice. Maybe 10% real juice and 90% sugar water. Not so good after all.” And “Hey, here’s the high fructose corn syrup for this century: Inverted sugar. This stuff is just as bad at half the price.” He learned. Slowly. But he learned.

8. Read the label
Before we bought any processed food, I would flip the box around and read the label. Out loud. “Isn’t this the stuff they use in lubricants?” and “What do you think this unpronounceable thing is?” and “Good heavens! These are 140 calories for just one!” He was learning all sorts of things. And he was pretty shocked at some of what he was learning. Like the fact that just because it says “Low Fat!” on the cover didn’t mean it was low in calories.

Now, I don’t want you to think this has been a fast journey. Not by a long stretch. In fact, this has taken us five years. And although we have not rid ourselves of all our food demons we are gaining.

In fact, we have gone from eating fast food three times a week to maybe once every three months. And, even then, it is just during an emergency. Like the time the hot water heater dumped gallons and gallons of tepid water on the kitchen floor. We mopped until midnight then had no energy to cook.

We also eat a lot less processed food. In general, I never touch the stuff. But my husband was addicted. So I was absurdly proud when he put himself on a one week on / one week off plan where he has processed food for breakfast one week and something not processed the next. And, even better, about half of the processed food he does have are health food fare, like garden burgers. And, best of all, none of this was my idea.

And we eat tons less meat, too. We may order meat at a restaurant (and bring restaurant meals containing meat home). And my husband still has a deli meat sandwich every workday (although, more often than not, he will pack it with, my prayers have been answered, some celery stalks). But it has been almost a year since we cooked any meat at home. In fact, we sold our barbeque this summer at a garage sale.

Finally, my husband now reads labels. He reads labels of foods he buys. And he reads labels of foods I buy. And sometimes he even lectures me on what I am buying.

The man can be so annoying sometimes. Really.