Cooking as a Couple with Different Nutrition Goals

How can you make changes to your nutrition if your partner doesn’t want to follow along?

First, let me be clear that if you are trying to make lifestyle changes, it’s vital to have support from your close family and friends. This article is not about how to navigate an unhealthy relationship where one person is trying to improve their life and the other is holding them back through negativity and lack of support. This article is about finding ways to achieve two different goals as a couple in a loving way.

My husband and I love cooking dinner together. He loves flavor. I eat for function. He is not trying to make major changes to his weight. I’m actively working on a lean, muscle popping body composition.

Even though I weigh and track my food, we still manage to cook and eat together.

The biggest challenge is controlling the amount of fat.

Another clarification (because nutrition information has become so convoluted). Fat isn’t bad for you. It’s great for you! It’s very energy dense meaning a small amount packs a lot of calories.

For reference, a moderately active woman should be eating about 4-6 servings of fat per day. A serving of fat is one tablespoon of olive oil or one tablespoon of peanut butter. What does that look like? About the size of your thumb. Not a lot!

This means we have to find recipes that are modular, customizable and work well with adding in additional fat (aka flavor) for one side of the table.

One of our standard dinner nights is pasta and sauce, most often spaghetti Bolognese. Here’s how it goes at Casa Lyons.

  • For the pan, we use an oil spray or one tablespoon of oil. It’s easy to add 400 calories to a dish with a heavy-handed pour of olive oil. If there is one thing worth measuring, it’s your fat sources.
  • We make one sauce using lean ground meat. We fluctuate between 93/7, 90/10 and 85/15 depending on who does the shopping and discounts available. If we’re on the less lean side of the spectrum, I advocate for straining the fat out after we brown the meat. Some days I win, some days I lose.
  • The rest of the sauce is canned whole tomatoes, garlic, onions, spices, etc. Not much to worry about there.
  • For the pasta, I will use a spaghetti squash and my husband will make actual pasta. While I will eat pasta, I prefer the vegetable version because I can make a huge bowl. One cup (about 100 grams) of spaghetti squash has 31 calories consisting of 7 carbohydrates and less than one gram of fat and protein. One serving of pasta (56 grams dry) has 200 calories consisting of 42 carbohydrates, 1 fat and 7 protein. I can eat 5-6 cups of spaghetti squash or 1 serving of pasta which is significantly smaller than you think. Or, I can eat 2 cups of spaghetti squash and a thin slice of whole grain bread and I’m still not exceeding the calories in one serving of pasta. If the notion of spaghetti squash makes you want to bounce right off this page, eat the pasta! But take a moment to understand what a true serving size of pasta looks like.
  • For toppings, this is where my husband will add some cheese and olive oil back on top. Depending on the leanness of the meat, I will also throw on some cheese, but again, I’ll measure out a true serving of cheese (28 grams).

The results: my version is roughly 414 calories; 41C, 16F, 25P. My husband’s version is 760 calories; 68C, 35F, 41P.

We have found ways to cook as a couple, but eat differently with everything from tacos, tostadas and enchiladas to shepherd's pie and even lasagne.

Sometimes you want to change, but your partner doesn’t need or want to follow the same path. When it comes to changing your nutrition, having a supportive environment is essential. The great news is that you can collaborate in the kitchen so that each person meets their needs while enjoying the moment together.

Evy Lyons

I treat life like a professional sport and train like an athlete so I can stay in the game as long as possible and hopefully inspire more women to join the fun.