Teaching our kids how to view food

Written by Kate Stevens
Published on October 15, 2021

Keto, Whole30, I Quit Sugar, counting macros, intermittent fasting, Trim Healthy Mama, carb cycling, Paleo, various detoxes and cleanses—I think that’s all of them. At least, those are the ones I could think of without too much effort. 

My adult life has been checkered with one diet plan after another. And the majority of these don’t frame themselves as diets, but that’s how I ended up treating each one of them. They all start with me wanting to have a healthy relationship with what I eat. But over the weeks they turn into obsessions over what I put into my body and awaiting the pending results. 

I suppose it is a combination of measuring my value by my image (I’m supposed to write a book about this) and just simply not seeing food as part of my worship. But maybe I should back up—

Behaviorism breeds legalism

I grew up in the 90s and 00s in a Christian school and youth group. So, naturally, if I stayed away from the big 5 then I was counted righteous: cussing, alcohol, smoking, sex, and R-rated movies. It seems as if those were the only items on the vice list constantly flagged. 

In essence, behaviorism. And now the repercussion, legalism. 

It is this very legalism that has joined me and this perception of food in an insanely tight and unhealthy bond.

The fault was never with embarking on one of those food journeys—the problem is the heart. My heart. I am constantly looking at the outward appearance of things, measuring by an ever-changing standard of worth.  

I will testify that the Lord has given me much victory in this area since high school. My daughters couldn’t believe the pictures I showed them from my junior year: hair bleached and straightened with eye makeup that would compete with Cleopatra herself. 

Where there was a push for perfection in beauty in the 00s, has now been replaced by a push for perfection in health.  For me personally, there was a shift from being conscientious about my physical beauty to my physical health and the image that surrounds that—probably when I started having babies. There is a big emphasis in American culture on providing a perfectly organic environment for our children while making it look effortless and maybe even accidental. 

When food = morality

As a result of this, my eating habits have always been different in front of people versus at home. It doesn’t manifest itself as a clinical eating disorder, but it does materialize with self-loathing and boot-strapping— “I’ll do better tomorrow.” Or even labeling days as “good” or “bad” depending on my diet. 

You tack this to the heart of a person who will label their day as “good” and “bad” because of a list of rights/wrongs, then yes absolutely—morality will instantly tie itself to food. And this has been my journey for too long.

I don’t want my daughters to view any food as good or bad because they aren’t categorically separated as such. Food is a tool and has no value outside of how it is wielded. A knife does not chop a pepper—people do. A golf club doesn’t hit a ball—people do. A shovel doesn’t dig a hole—people do. Those are tools without intrinsic value apart from a person picking it up for their intentions. 

Food exists within the exact same concept, only with more intensity and purpose. We can survive without golf clubs—the same is not true for food. Likewise, there are numerous verses in Scripture about food making us glad, strong, and connected with others when we come to the table together. But those are all methodologies of wielding that food—the intention behind the heart.

No one will be counted righteous because she served only foods from the “Clean 15” and perpetually abstained from the “Dirty Dozen.”

Israel’s restriction is our freedom

My point: I want my daughters to delight in the Lord. In reading the Psalms, I try to write my girls’ names in the margins every time I see that word—delight. And in delighting in every part of the Lord and every part of their life he has served them, they should delight in both a brownie and a carrot stick, with grateful hearts, seeing that the Lord provided both.  

They can and should do this because Jesus not only provides but also came to make all food clean. 

In Acts 10 the Lord gives Peter a vision, declaring: “What God has made clean, do not call common.”  He had two purposes here: food and the Gentiles. 

First Timothy 4 talks about the end times and those who will leave the faith because they no longer have consciences. He goes on, “…who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer” (emphasis mine). 

Israel was restricted by food—it had morality in their lives because it was a prime marker for their holiness/set apartness. Just read Exodus, Leviticus, and throw Deuteronomy in there for good measure. 

They were bound by the law until Jesus came to fulfill that law. I am two-thousand years out of that context, yet I still battle with this same legalism when left to my own mind—and appetite. 

The waves of Galatians

My reading plan had me read all of Galatians last week. And it made me weep over my sin and rejoice over my victory in Christ simultaneously. It literally hit me like waves crashing into the shore. 

Galatians:

  • 2:16, “…we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”

CRASH

  • 3:11, “Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’”

CRASH

  • 3:24-25, “So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”

CRASH

  • *4:4-5 “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”*

CRASH

  • 5:1, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

Did you feel that cadence? Like a cleansing wave after wave—or even one of those beautiful church bells announcing the hour. 

Remember the Gospel

I know my legalism comes in different flavors in my life, but the most crippling area has been in how I eat and view food. I see this cropping up in one of my daughters already—along with a gripping sugar addiction.  

It’s so simple for me to slap her hand and teach her about the food pyramid. However, what she needs to be reminded of is the gospel—of her freedom in Christ. She and I can enjoy all foods in his freedom. She and I can walk in self control in his freedom. She and I can sit and pray and recount God’s deeds in his freedom. 

The gospel covers everything in our lives—including how we eat our food. 


Consider a few extra resources:

The Parable of the Little Gardeners

Something Worth Stewing Over

She Walks in Beauty

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Kate Stevens

Kate Stevens is a worshiper, wife, and mom. By vocation, she teaches high school students English, Bible, and debate, and has been doing so for fourteen years.  In addition, she serves as a freelance editor.  You can read more from her as she develops her newly published blog: “HEM-ology: Somewhere between zoology and theology.”

Read more about Kate

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