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Archive for Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Two appetites, one meal

How to cook for two when you have totally different tastes

April 4, 2007

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It is possible to make meals you'll both love even when you have totally different tastes.

It is possible to make meals you'll both love even when you have totally different tastes.

You hate meat. He won't touch a vegetable. How will you ever share the same meal?

There are some things you can change about your spouse - like when he wears those horrible pleated pants - but eating habits are tougher to tackle. You didn't get married to always eat apart (or cook two meals), and you can't order takeout forever.

Ashley Koff, founder of the healthXchange, a nutrition counseling company in Los Angeles, dishes on some common couples eating divides - and their solutions.

He's a greasy spoon; she has a sensitive tummy

The dilemma: One partner feels sick while the other is building an unhealthy oil slick in his gut. Both need healthful but tasty foods.

The solution: Fake fried food. Toss the deep fryer and make healthier versions of the foods he loves. For example, if he wants fish and chips, pan-sear some cod with a small amount of olive oil, and serve crispy baked-potato wedges mixed with sliced veggies, like zucchini, peppers and yams, that have been roasted in the oven on a baking sheet (sprinkle with a bit of sea salt or a light spice of choice). The greasy eater can add tartar sauce for a real pub flavor, and a squirt of lemon will do for a lighter flavor.

Love burgers? Make them from ground turkey and add healthy fats on top, like slices of avocado and low-fat cheese.

Chili? A vegetarian option can taste just as good. Or prepare it using buffalo meat, which is easier to digest than beef. Have him add his hot-as-hell spices after she's had her more-bland serving.

Basically, you can find middle ground in almost any meal, as long as you think outside the cooking box.

He's a meat lover; she's a vegetarian

The dilemma: He's missing out on greens, while she needs new sources of protein. And frankly, tofu doesn't cut it for people who love pork chops.

The solution: Combine what you can. Don't try to force your preferences on each other, especially if the vegetarian eats that way for ethical reasons. You both have goals here: Meat eaters need to get nutrients from fruits and veggies, and vegetarians need to get protein from sources like brown rice, quinoa and beans. Find the areas where you can agree - pasta, baked beans, vegetables - and make one or two of these shared side dishes every night. Then, if still needed, make separate main courses.

Another great merging-your-meals idea is to focus on the main course. Make a salad, stir-fry or pasta, and dish out separate toppings. Fajitas are also perfect for this fiesta. Agree on the beans, onions, green peppers and tomatoes; diverge on the chicken.

She's trying to lose weight; he's a big snacker

The dilemma: His constant munching is adding more to her waistline than his.

The solution: Small meals. You have more in common than you think: You both need small meals. And while he might already be getting them in the form of junk, they are clearly not healthy enough for either person. The first thing you need to do is throw out the empty-calorie snacks and replace them with healthful options (granola, fruit, hard-boiled eggs, veggies and hummus). If your snack fiend wants his cookies and chips, he'll have to eat them elsewhere. The dieter should reward herself with two small servings of healthy snacks each day, and eat three small, nutritious meals throughout the day. If both people keep their nibbles healthy and work on portion control, there will be lots of smiles in the dining room.

If the junk-food junkie won't give up his Cheetos-Doritos-Tostitos ways, the other person isn't totally out of luck. Just because one person is snacking on junk doesn't mean the other has to join in. We know that's incredibly hard, but we've found that if you ignore it, it will go away. But if you cave and eat just one chip, you'll want 20. To help yourself get through the craving, sip an herbal tea or seltzer with lemon - something to make you feel like you're participating in the moment, without packing on the calories or fat. Or if he's eating salsa and chips, she can eat salsa and jicama strips (or another veggie cut up) - same condiment, healthier dipping food.

He's a picky eater; she's adventurous

The dilemma: The foodie feels like she's living with a 5-year-old who only wants plain pasta. His limited palate is making her bored in the kitchen.

The solution: Back to basics. Start with what your picky eater does like to eat, and build from there. Stick with meals that can be made once, but in two ways. For example, you can also cook separate servings of fish or chicken in a tinfoil packet. Place the plain cutlet on a foil square and add your favorite spices. Let him sprinkle whatever he pleases on his serving. You'll be eating the same meal, but tailored to your individual tastes.

Another option is when you cook steaks, load up your sides with a vegetable you enjoy and a starch that isn't a potato (perhaps polenta). Scoop a spoonful of each on his plate as well. He might just eat it ... and like it.

Going out to eat doesn't have to be an issue either. Try a sushi restaurant knowing that you will always have chicken teriyaki as a backup. There's a chance your picky person has never tried good versions of these foods and just needs some encouragement. Tip: Let your fussy foodie look at the restaurant menu online before making your reservation. This way, he has confidence that there's something he can try and won't feel backed into a corner.

She eats early; he eats late

The dilemma: The early eater ends up eating two meals and feels ill; the late eater gorges and feels ill. Neither is healthy. But if you don't eat together, you miss important "we" time.

The solution: A light 4:30 p.m. snack. No matter if you get out of work early or late, you both need a small boost of protein and energy so you can make a later dinner date with your mate. Early birds: An apple with almond butter or a banana will provide fuel if you want to lounge or work out before your mate gets home. The spouse arriving home late also needs a light snack so he's not starved and won't devour a huge meal (or a bag of pretzels as soon as he walks in the door).

The key to late-night dining is keeping it light. Go for sushi, an egg scramble topped with salsa and served with a small spinach salad, or cooked shredded chicken with crunchy vegetables like jicama, cukes and carrots, wrapped in a big lettuce leaf instead of bread. A heavy steak dinner or anything fried will sit in your stomachs and make you feel lethargic and sick.

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