Raising healthy eaters- Laying a strong foundation
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!
Thank you for this post. It mimicked exactly what has been running through my mind for weeks now. I was not raised on healthy food by any means, and while I try to do the right thing for my children(all 5 of them), I always fall short due to lack of time or whatever. Well, I have sadly learned a hard lesson. I have had mono twice(most get it once only) this year so far, and now my immune system is shot, I get sick with a sniffle or sneeze. My son was just this month diagnosed with ADD. He has the worst diet of the bunch. I truly believe it is the products we use and the things we are putting into our bodies that is the cause of these things. You can bet I am looking forward to this series and will be here every week. I am slowly switching to organic and healthier things but it is such a slow process of learning! Thank you for taking the time to talk about this!
Thanks so much for your comment, April. I’m so sorry that you are experiencing the negative results of your diet, but I am so thrilled that you are invested in changing things for you and your family! Good for you! I look forward to having you join us in this discussion! Blessings on you this Christmas!
While I agree in theory with some of what you have written, I need to speak up for the parents of children with health issues such as ADHD, autism and the like. It is an oversimplification to state that so many of those disorders are caused by diet–either that of the pregnant mother or the child. For example, researchers now believe that childhood-onset diabetes is caused by a virus. I just hate to see more guilt heaped onto a mother who is doing the best she can to raise this precious burden that God has given to her.
Thanks for your comment, Pieces. I apologize if my post came across as saying that I believe it is the parents fault, or that nutrition (or lack of it) is the cause of these childhood disorders. Although I believe that it very likely contributes (and in some cases may be the cause), I do not believe it is the only cause, nor do I believe that it is necessarily a cause in every case.
I believe that there are many different reasons children get disorders- diet, other environmental factors (both in and out of our control), vaccinations, viruses (as you mentioned), genetics, etc. I certainly do not intend to “heap guilt” onto mothers who are dealing with such difficult circumstances.
I have personally worked with many, many families that have children with disabilities (esp. Autism, as well as Cerebral Palsy, and others) and part of my passion to see parents informed about nutrition is that I have seen firsthand the pain and difficulty these families and children experience, and it breaks my heart. I know that it is not the answer to all of their problems, nor do I wish to add guilt, but I do wish to see them being benefited as much as possible by a proper diet.
Thank you for your kindly worded response, Stephanie. I appreciate the amount of research and effort you are obviously putting into this series and I’m looking forward to your future posts.
excellent post! this is a great counter piece to what i began to write on mmm blog. it is so needed to be written. i cringe when i see the pictures of what some moms buy – boxed junk! oops, did i offend someone? 🙂
love what you’re doing….you and passionate homemaker (lindsay) are my young mom heroes!
Thanks, Pieces. 🙂
Awww, Queenie, you’re so sweet! And Lindsay’s one of my new heroes, too! Guess I better go read your post- hmm, maybe tomorrow (it’s midnight!).
Great stuff! I can’t wait to read more.