How to Nudge a Reluctant Partner into Better Eating Habits (Without a Family Feud)
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Replace nutrition nagging with nutrition nudging

Better Eating Habits for Partner

While there is no exact definition for nutrition nudging, you experience “nudging” every day from a wide range of marketers and advertisers in just about any type of business you can think of. The sales tactic of nudging involves making an item look appealing or easy to grab. The key with nudging is to walk the fine line of not being so subtle the cue to make a decision is lost and not being too forceful that the cue to make a decision repels.

If you are the health leader of the family and have struggled to sell the benefit of a healthy diet to your significant other or kids, you may have been met with resistance and limited success. Instead of trying to nag or coax them to eat healthy, try the gentler and likely more effective approach of nutrition nudging.

Watch the Facebook LIVE on this topic here:

Pleasure path

One of the reasons change is hard is because we are wired to seek pleasure and repel pain. This concept, known as the pleasure principle, makes it hard to change a habit.

Expecting an unmotivated family member to take the time to chop up raw veggies for lunch or wake up earlier to eat a healthy breakfast is destined for failure. You may not like the fact that you need to chop extra veggies and prepare an extra breakfast, but you have removed one barrier in creating the path of less resistance.

The same goes for family members who adore junk food. It is very difficult to come into the kitchen and choose between fruit hidden in the fridge drawer or cookies in a jar on the counter. If you want them to eat the oranges or watermelon, then the cookies need to be out of sight and the watermelon and oranges need to be sliced and ready to eat.

Being wired to take the path of least resistance also means that one of the best ways you can support a family member with hard to manage sweet or savory foods that are frequently overindulged is simply buying smaller portions less often. This may sound like common sense, but I am often surprised how often someone who does not struggle with overeating will become frustrated when a family member can’t display the same level of willpower as they do.

As a chocoholic, married to a potato-chip-aholic, as a family we do best not stocking our pantries full of chocolate and chips. We also don’t choose to restrict these foods but instead buy these in package sizes that are designed to be eaten all at once (after all most of us eat packages not portions). Stockpiling family-size, two-for-one bulk packages would be grounds for frequent eating frenzies, that would be eaten more than necessary to satisfy a craving.

Variety triggers

Keep in mind we are all subject to what researchers call sensory specific satiety, which means our senses (taste, smell and sight) get overwhelmed and numbed when we experience the same repetitive stimulus. This means that although it may be cheaper to buy a ten-pound bag of apples this week, it may limit the amount of fruit your family wants to eat this week. It may be more effective to spend a bit more on six different types of fruit at the grocery store to encourage your family to eat more fruit.

Our eyes are much more in charge of what we eat than our stomach. The more variety, often the more we eat. One of the reasons people commonly overeat at a buffet, for example, is due to the fact we love to sample a variety of things.

If you want your son or daughter to eat more vegetables at supper then be sure to offer two different types.  More vegetables overall will be consumed if you offer cucumber slices and steamed peas with carrots than if you just offered steamed peas alone.

On the other hand, if you have a family member that needs to reduce the portion size of their supersized meat serving at dinner, lecturing them to eat less as they are dishing up will likely be doomed for failure. If instead you intentionally cooked and served a few ounces less (or cut off oversized portions and left these on the counter for lunch tomorrow instead of the dinner table) you may be far more successful achieving change.

fruit tray

While nutrition nudging does create more work and planning, it can be far more effective than nutrition nagging.

Looking for nutrition and meal planning advice for your family? We’re here to help!

As Registered Dietitians that specialize in meal planning, weight concerns, emotional eating, eating disorders, digestive health, heart health, diabetes, pediatric nutrition and sports nutrition we can see you in our local Calgary Nutritionist office or as an Online Dietitian by phone or video conferencing for virtual nutrition counseling. Find out more about our Registered Dietitian Nutrition Counseling Programs here.

Don’t forget to check your health insurance! Many insurance plans cover Dietitian services.

Take a peek at some of the other related blog posts on our site!

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"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
“The Dieticians at Health Stand Nutrition help you to take action on the science behind eating well by making it practical, understandable, and fun. Their office is cozy and not at all clinical or intimidating. I felt like I was sitting down with a really smart, caring friend who wanted to help me make the best choices for my lifestyle and food preferences. They really are the best in the business.”
Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“I spent 3 hours when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I learned more from my Dietitian about food in those 3 hours than I had learned in all the years of my life. I also love the newsletter, there is always something to learn.”
Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

Event Planner for Laboratory Diagnostic Imaging Annual Event

I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Excellent teaching and motivation. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
Lorri Lawrence, Pursuit of Healthiness online course participant

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