Women play a vital role in a man’s eating habits. When not consulted about diet changes, married African-American men were more likely to binge on unhealthy food outside of the home instead of causing a rift at home.

For married couples, discussing changes in dinner or other meals to more healthy options can affect what a man eats. While a man may eat what the healthy option at home they are may not be happy about it and may often binge on unhealthy food outside of the home. Discussing the changes and adapting for preference can help ease the healthy diet blues for some men.

The study, led by Derek Griffith, PhD, from the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health, involved focus groups consisting of 83 African-American men. Researchers discussed changes in diet at home and whether or not their partners consulted them about the changes or included their preferences for the healthy meals.

According to the study, the majority of the men were not consulted about the healthy changes that were made for household meals. For the men, they believed that women had more control of what they ate at home when compared to eating out. According to researchers, for men it was their wives and not their food preference that played a role in what the men ate at home. This imbalance in the decision making led men to seek solace in unhealthy food outside of the home and away from their wives.

The men in the study were happy with household roles both partners adopted in the home, which included their wives being in control of food preparation as well as decision making but were not so happy about the changes their wives made when switching to a healthy diet. For some of the men, this dietary change was recommended by a doctor but the lack of consultation by their wife caused them to feel frustrated about the changes.

The men liked the fact that their wives cared about them and were looking out for their health. Rather than cause a conflict, the men chose to appease their wives and ate the healthier options without complaint at home. Outside of the house, it was a different story, where unhealthy choices trumped healthier choices.

Dr. Griffith believes that for African-Americans, food intervention programs, such as doctor-recommended changes need to include a man’s preference in diet as well as his desire to appease his wife and keep the marriage happy rather than his own feelings about the diet. Future studies could expand the research to include different racial groups.

The study was published in Health Psychology.