Living With Omnivores

When your spouse, partner or roommate doesn't want to share your dietary restrictions here are some suggestions that have worked for many couples.

Each person can prepare meals separately. While this doesn't make for togetherness, it takes care of meals without any dietary sacrifice on the part of either person. The time it takes to cook and prepare food is doubled and unless one of you is willing to cook and then wait, it usually means eating separately. There's a potential positive, though. If the person who doesn't want to eat very- low-fat (VLF)/veggie foods isn't used to preparing meals, or doesn't particularly like to cook, the tendency will be for that person to gradually begin to accept (and often prefer) the VLF/veggie meals as prepared. A word of advice. Don't nag. Don't even talk about food unless asked. Do your thing with good grace and humor, without any hint of gloating, superiority, guilt-making or resentment. Watch your body language as well as verbal messages.

You can prepare two versions of each meal, one VLF/veggie and one which contains the stuff the omnivore wants. It is surprising how many dishes can be prepared VLF/veggie first, reserving a portion for yourself, and then have the other stuff added to satisfy the other person. Love may be defined in many ways, but letting the other person do their thing is one facet of making a relationship work. Preparing carnivore foods may be a serious test of your limits; if this is too difficult, talk it out.

One VLF/veggie meal can be prepared and the omnivore can supplement it by adding other foods. A balanced VLF/veggie meal is available, but if the omnivore wants meat or higher fat items, the option to add them is there.

A successful technique may involve a bit of deception. Using meat substitutes (see TVP and gluten/seitan in the Recipes introduction) you can prepare meals that appear to have meat or other expected ingredients but are truly meatless and low fat. This approach is most successful when used occasionally, gradually becoming more frequent. After a meal which has been awarded a compliment you can disclose that it was meatless. If no positive comment was made about the meal, or it wasn't well liked, it might be best to say nothing about the substitutes used. The usual reaction is one of surprise, disbelief, and finally approval.

An equitable basis of giving up things is to trade the elimination of vices. I'll give up X if you give up Y. We all have some habits others see as negative (usually after the urgency of newly-found love wanes). Caffeine or other health hazards are reasonable trades, as are habits that may be just annoying to your partner (knuckle crunching, tooth-picking, etc).

When a VLF/veggie dish gets compliments from your partner, serve it again after a short wait. If you can get some favorite dishes established, it will be easier for your partner to accept the other low fat, meatless dishes.

Don't expect a person who is used to eating meat and who doesn't believe that a meal is complete without it to accept the transition in a short time. The change does happen, but it may take quite a while. A good way to make it happen is to set a positive example. If your attitude is bright and cheerful, your energy level higher, your affection undiminished and your health improved after not eating what your partner believed to be essential, gradually the realization that meat or fat is not necessary will settle in. Don't press, nag, or make sarcastic comments, and never criticize your partner's eating. When your mate isn't feeling well, is overtired, depressed or sluggish, don't fall into the temptation of saying I told you so or If you'd just eaten . . .

Having heard from many low fat veggie/omnivore partnerships, it is clear that the desired change does take place in most cases, although sometimes slower than was hoped for.

When it comes to in-laws, all reasonable wisdom may fail. If all other reasonable approaches fail, and your conscience allows it, fibbing may be the most effective survival technique. If you can get your mate to support you, you can claim that you're allergic to the enzymes in red meat or a protein factor in animal flesh and may keel over or be messily sick within minutes after ingesting these. It may get you some strange looks and see I told you he/she wasn't the right one attitudes, but there will be fewer arguments and much less chance of hidden meat or fats added with the belief that you'll never know the difference.

The most important thing is that you maintain your healthful eating style. If others around you choose not to follow the healthful patterns you have established, they will have to take responsibility for their own choices. Don't let others browbeat or ridicule you into changing what is best for you.

Next: Fiber content in common foods

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©1994, 1996, 2002
Dr. Neal Pinckney
Healing Heart Foundation
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