As parents, we know that our children are watching us.
So what we’re doing has never mattered more.
Maybe you know your kids can see you scrolling on Instagram and you know you need to stop, but you take that extra few minutes anyway. Or worse, maybe you’re numb to the conviction.
Or maybe you groan, complaining about your long to-do list and the never-ending dishes and laundry when you know you have so much to be thankful for and should be rejoicing.
They’re learning from us and our actions every second, and I could write about soo many different topics surrounding this. But today, I’m talking about food.
Your kids are picking up on your eating choices and relationship to food whether you realize it or not.
Do you skip meals? Or maybe you sneak into the chocolate cupboard and down more than you probably should for comfort.
Maybe you measure out your peanut butter before spreading it. Maybe you’re constantly researching new diets. Or maybe you only serve your children organic whole foods while you consume a steady stream of chicken strips and caffeine.
Whatever your relationship to food, I have one question for you: Is the culture that is currently active in your home surrounding food the culture you want your kids to grow up in?
Whether you have put thought to this or not, some kind of culture surrounding food exists in your home. It’s our job to be intentional with that; but by intentional I by no means mean obsessive. This doesn’t mean you need to create a 10-point list of culture codes surrounding food in your home. It simply means that it’s important to cultivate an awareness of the messages we’re sending our children every day.
WE’RE the parents. Our kids came out of the womb adorable and beautiful and snuggly and squishy, but a) sinful and b) not knowing much of anything. As Scripture teaches, it is our job as our kids’ parents to “train them up in the way they should go” (Proverbs 22:6). If we’re not setting a pace with intention, our kids will learn about food and nutrition from other sources; and from our lack of intentionality. The same goes for literally any other topic.
And guess what? We have the power to teach and model a healthy relationship to food. And eating meals and snacks together as a family is one of the best ways to do that.
The proven benefits are massive, including:
- Better academic performance
- Higher self-esteem
- Greater sense of resilience
- Lower risk of substance abuse
- Lower risk of teen pregnancy
- Lower risk of depression
- Lower likelihood of developing eating disorders
- Lower rates of obesity
- Better cardiovascular health in teens
- Bigger vocabulary in preschoolers
- Healthier eating patterns in young adults
There are also benefits* for adults, including:
- Better nutrition with more fruits and vegetables and less fast food
- Less dieting
- Increased self-esteem
- Lower risk of depression
*The Family Dinner Project, 2023. https://thefamilydinnerproject.org/about-us/benefits-of-family-dinners/
If you’re used to letting dinner be a free-for-all, or sitting in front of the TV, it’s never too late to change that. Or maybe for your family, breakfast is the meal you sit and eat all together. Whenever you can, enjoy the same meal together over good conversation.
Mealtimes are also an incredible opportunity for parents to be intentional about teaching and modelling Scripture to their children. So far we have just one 10-month-old, and we pray with him before each meal and “include” him in our conversations so that as he grows, that is simply the norm.
It’s also our job as parents to set the culture of food in our homes. What is our standard of healthful, nourishing eating in this family? How do we cook, clean, snack, drink, and serve one another?
Some families will buy the cheapest produce at the supermarket as long as a vegetable gets on the table to prioritize financial savings, and that is perfectly great. Others will be convicted to buy mostly local, organic food, and that is also perfectly great. Whatever your convictions, it’s important to allow those to dissipate with no judgement, anxiety, or overthinking when we’re guests in others’ homes.
Personally, I buy organic and local wherever possible and however it fits into our budget, and when we can’t afford it, I just don’t worry about it. It’s also important to me that my kids don’t only have the utmost cleanest and healthiest foods to the point that having cookies at a friend’s house makes them legitimately sick, or that they start to judge others for the ways they eat.
We need to honour others when visiting their homes, respecting their food choices and able to eat whatever they serve with genuine gratitude and zero grumbling. That means there’s no room for picky, judgemental, or critical attitudes in these situations.
But, for my own house, I do believe that if my family is eating enough of the (very delicious) foods that their bodies were actually designed to eat, they will naturally crave those foods and learn to make good choices on their own when it comes to eating (very delicious) less healthful foods like chips, ice cream, and fries. I also believe that buying more healthful versions of these foods as treats in our own home makes them less taboo and less likely to be overindulged on.
Have you thought about your family’s culture surrounding food? How do you make these decisions in your home?
Here are some Scripture verses that have encouraged and convicted me on this topic. I hope they are encouraging for you!
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31
Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Romans 14:1-3
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35
A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. Proverbs 11:25
For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 1 Timothy 6:7-8
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Matthew 6:25