In order to approach this topic properly, I felt as though we needed to back up a bit from the how and begin with a bit of the why.
We all know that we should feed our children well and teach them how to eat in a way that will keep them healthy. But we tend to need a bit of extra motivation to do something that often feels like just one more thing on a perpetually long list of things that we really ought to do.
Let me offer a few of what I believe should be the most important motivators to us as we seek to provide our children with healthy fare, and prepare them for a lifetime of making positive eating choices.
1) Children are a gift, a blessing from the Lord. They have been given to us to nurture, cherish, nourish, care for, enjoy, and to train up in the ways of the Lord, for His glory. How are we nourishing these precious little bodies, given to us to take care of? Are we ensuring that they are filled with that which will benefit them the most, making them strong, healthy, intelligent? Is it proper stewardship to fill our children on processed and packaged foods, containing little more nutrition than the cardboard box they come in? Are we allowing them to satisfy their tummies on "food" that is sugary, dyed, chock full of preservatives and so lacking in nutrients that they have to be added back in artificially so we can call them "enriched"?
I believe that if we truly wish to glorify God in the way that we provide for our children's needs, then we will take very seriously the issue of the food we offer and allow them, and the habits that we are instilling in them.
2) Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6
One of our primary responsibilities as parents is the careful training and raising of our children. God has chosen to use us, their parents, as authority figures during their early years, and as His method for training them to know and serve God. I believe that one of the areas in which we are to train our children is in their tastes, molding their likes and dislikes, and teaching about what nutritious eating looks like to prepare them for a lifetime of health.
Deuteronomy 6:6,7 admonishes that "these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise."
It's interesting to note that although this passage begins a segment where God teaches his people about their relationship with God, their hearts, avoiding idolatry, worship, etc. it also includes passages about the eating of food, including clean and unclean animals. Not only were parents to ensure that they were continually talking about and modeling spiritual truths and laws, but also the dietary and health-related laws that God had, in His kindness, given to His people. How diligent are we to teach and train our children in these areas?
3) Simply out of love and care for them.
It breaks my heart to see so many obese and sick children these days. And when I go to a local restaurant or walk through the food court in the mall, I know why they are sick and obese. Because their supposedly loving parents cannot bear to say no to them and are allowing their children to eat food that is little better than garbage. In fact, sometimes it's worse than garbage- it is downright harmful and dangerous!
And we may say, "But I'm not like those parents. I make my kids eat some fruits and veggies, and they don't eat McDonald's all the time". Fair enough. But how many times a week do they have a can of pop? Potato chips? Ice cream? French fries? White Wonder bread? Sugar-filled juice drinks? Jello? Lucky charms or Cocoa Puffs? Need I go on?
Childhood obesity and disorders like ADHD are at unprecedented highs, as are learning disabilities, auto-immune disorders, Autism, childhood diabetes, and on and on. Is there a connection? Most definitely! Garbage in, garbage out (in one way or another).
Am I coming across harsh? I truly apologize if I am, and yet I cannot hide how passionate I am to see parents empowered to raise their children on nutritious diets, prepared to live as healthy adults. Children who will not be burdened by excess weight and sickness, by fatigue, by pain and discomfort, but who will have energy, vitality, good health and the ability to focus their energies on the Kingdom and on bringing glory to God.
So what if this is where you are at? What if your children eat boxed cereals in the morning, Kraft Dinner and hot dogs at lunch, and Tater Tots and fish sticks with a side of ketchup for dinner? Is there hope? Can you turn the situation around and learn to raise health eaters?
By God's grace, the answer is a resounding yes! You can learn more about nutrition, and begin to implement it into your home, teaching your children along the way about what you are doing and why. And if your children are young, so much the better! You have so many years to work with them, instilling in them a health respect for their bodies and the foods that God has so lovingly made for us.
From here on out, I promise, no more scoldings (even ones that are done in love, as this one was!). This series will have practical and encouraging information, for both those who need to change what they are doing, and those who already have the desire and some of the tools to raise their children nutritiously. All are welcome in this discussion, and I eagerly anticipate your feedback, questions and ideas!
And as an aside, I have decided to do this series on Tuesdays from now on, because I spend my weekends with my family and just don't have adequate time to write for Mondays. As well, next Tuesday is just before Christmas, so I will postpone this series until the week after. See you then!