Throughout our eight years of marriage, we’ve dealt with a few different dietary restrictions. When I was pregnant with both of our kids, I had gestational diabetes and was put on a very low carb diet. After I had Emmy, the doctor put me on a dairy free diet to help with her reflux. Just over a year ago we eliminated artificial dyes, specifically red dye, from our household to help with one of our kids’ behavior issues. And most recently, Joe was diagnosed with Celiac disease and made a permanent change to eating gluten free.
I know so many people with spouse’s who have a dietary restrictions. Whether those restrictions are due to an illness, food allergy, or even just personal preference, it’s so important to be supportive of your spouse! Don’t just stand by and let them figure things out on their own, be by their side through all of it. You don’t have to necessarily take on the same restrictions as a way of supporting them, although some might choose to do that. I hope that these suggestions will help you and your family navigate those restrictions and show your spouse that they are a priority to you and that you’re there for them, no matter what they’re going through!
How to Support a Spouse with Dietary Restrictions
If the dietary restrictions are related to a food allergy, prepare your house
A lot of dietary changes are due to food allergies and require an overhaul of the things in your house. Peanut allergies are a huge one for this because some are severe enough that even being near them can be a problem. When my husband went gluten free, I didn’t remove foods with gluten, because the kids and I still eat them. I separated things in our house so that he has a section of the pantry, a drawer in the fridge and a shelf in the freezer that he knows is gluten free. (Click here for more tips and suggestions for going gluten free.) I also went through and rewashed all of our dishes and things and swapped out things like the sponge that we use to wash dishes (I have a separate one that’s “gluten free”).
The two of you can do this big part of the process together, maybe even make a date out of it and grab dinner afterward. Helping your spouse tackle the most overwhelming part of cutting certain foods out of their diet is a great way to show support and love!
Research alternatives for their favorite foods
The hardest part of going gluten free for Joe was not being able to eat regular hoagie rolls and having to give up Oreos. Since his diagnosis, he’s been more discouraged and unexcited about food, so he hasn’t had much desire to research and find something good. As a way of supporting him, I have taken on doing the research for him! I’ve asked around, joined social media support groups and read reviews online. Every time I find a brand that sounds good or has great reviews, I’ll purchase some and have him try them out. We rate each one on if he’d eat them again and whether he likes it more than the last one he said he enjoyed the most. We’re still on the hunt for some irresistible Oreos, but I’m determined to not give up!
Regardless of what foods your spouse can’t eat anymore, there’s bound to be an alternative out there. Helping them look for a decent and even enjoyable one, even if you aren’t able to find one, shows that you care and understand how rough it is to not be able to eat the things you really love.
Research restaurants with a variety of foods that they can enjoy
When I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, we had been planning a Valentine’s Day date to our favorite pasta restaurant. With my new carb restrictions, I wasn’t going to be able to enjoy anything on their menu, so our plans had to change. Although my dietary restrictions were short lived, having a few restaurants on our list with a variety of dishes I liked and could eat made a lot of difference in the attitude that I had toward those restrictions. Since my husband’s celiac diagnosis, I’ve done a lot of research to find good places we can eat where he’ll like the food and know that there won’t be contamination that could make him sick.
A few searches online will usually produce a detailed nutrition and allergen information sheet for most restaurants. If you aren’t able to find one for a local mom and pop restaurant or smaller chain, I suggest calling them or going in to pick up a to go menu during slower hours so that you can ask someone for the information and make note on the menu. It might take a bit of taste testing, but eventually you’ll find some great places to eat!
Don’t bring foods they love and can’t eat around them
If I have a craving for oreos and milk now, I have to either get my husband a gluten free alternative to enjoy while I eat mine or eat them when he’s not around and hide the package where he doesn’t have to see and be taunted by them. I do the same when there’s a restaurant we used to enjoy that doesn’t have options he can eat. I’ll either grab it for lunch on my work day or plan a girl’s night to one of those places.
I think this is one of the biggest things you can do to show your spouse that you respect them and support their new lifestyle, whether they chose it or not. I think especially when there are food restrictions that they didn’t choose and probably aren’t enjoying, it’s important to show your support by not increasing their temptation.
Adjust your meal plans
When you have a dietary restriction, it can be easy to feel left out at meal times, especially when you’re with a group of people who might not know about your specific eating habits or how to accommodate them. Whether you’re making a meal at home or preparing to go to a gathering, you can show your spouse you care by making sure they have food they can enjoy and not just feel “meh” about. We do our best to make all of our dinners gluten free, or have a very similar option for my husband so he doesn’t feel like he has to eat something completely different than the rest of us.
Any time we go to a party, I make sure at least what I’m bringing is going to be gluten free so there is something he can eat. When I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and we had to cancel or original date plans, Joe went to great lengths to find what would fit my carb limit for a meal and he made a full dinner for the two of us to enjoy. He told me later that he was hungry within a couple of hours and grabbed a snack to fill him up, but I appreciated his efforts immensely!
I remember a couple of weeks into being dairy and tomato product free, I was feeling discouraged and sick of trying to come up with stuff that I could eat that sounded good. My husband sat on the stairs and started searching the internet for meals we could make out of what we had in our house. After realizing that most things we hadn’t eaten recently had one of the two ingredients in them, he gave up as well. Even though he wasn’t able to solve my problem, knowing that he was on my side and felt a bit of my frustration was enough to help me feel supported.
It doesn’t matter if your spouse has dietary restrictions for just a week or for life, not being allowed to eat something you’ve loved and enjoyed and that has been a big part of your diet for years is going to be tough! Knowing that you have someone there to support you and help you find new things to eat can make a big difference!