We Are What We Eat: What Are You Feeding Your Kids?

We were driving down the interstate the other day, listening to the radio, when a song called “Fear Is A Liar” by Zach Williams came on.

From the back row of the minivan, my five year old’s ears perked up, and he asked me, “Isn’t calling someone a liar a mean thing?”

It was a great teaching moment as I explained that sometimes, our fear causes us to believe things that aren’t true. It lies to us and can hold us back. We aren’t “name calling” by saying fear is a liar.

It got my son thinking big picture of fear and how it affects us. It felt encouraging to speak truth into his little mind and shape the way he sees one more aspect of this world and his place in it.

And then it got me thinking…. I’m so happy we were listening to a wholesome radio station then. A song that fed us the truth. Lyrics that provided our hearts and minds with a message that was both uplifting and thought-provoking. Which spurned yet another thought…

“We are what we eat.”

We’ve all heard that before, right? The food you put into your body has a profound impact on the way it functions. You could choose a donut, bacon, eggs, or an apple for breakfast.

All of these foods might initially fill you, but how they break down inside you impacts how you feel and the choices you make later in the day.

A donut might spike your blood sugar, and you’ll be hungrier sooner because of the empty nutritional content. Bacon and eggs might keep you fuller longer but don’t give you the same initial burst of energy as a bowl of carbs. An apple might seem the least desirable at the moment, but how it breaks down in your body benefits you the most long term since it’s both energizing and satiating.

And isn’t the same true for the intangible things we consume? I’m talking about social media, movies, and songs we listen to. Some things might seem more desirable than others at the moment, but they produce very different outcomes in us.

The world’s current population has the highest anxiety and depression levels possibly ever. We know that while some of this is chemical, what we consume also plays a huge part.

Just today, I read a study that shows that the earlier kids get a smartphone, the worse their mental health is as adults.

We worry about feeding our kids enough fruits and vegetables. We care about what they are consuming nutritionally. But do we share that same concern for what they consume elsewhere? Are we concerned enough about what they consume emotionally, mentally, and spiritually?

I think most of us would agree that giving a child unfettered access to a candy store would be a bad idea, especially on a daily basis. To say, “Consume whatever you want here, with no limit.” Or even “You get one hour of unlimited consumption.”

This would produce disastrous results for them nutritionally. It would undoubtedly affect their behavior as their bodies tried to process the heaping amounts of sugars and dyes.

Do we see other forms of consumption in the same light?

What our kids watch on TV, the words they hear, the songs they listen to, the things they are told are important by influencers, and the amount of skin and sexuality they’re exposed to…. What goes in will come back out.

Someday our kids will be grown and out of the house. If they want to drop $500 at a candy store and put themselves into a sugar coma, they’ll be able to do so. And yet I don’t think most of us would say, “We may as well let them do it now because they’ll be able to do it someday.”

Most of us put sunscreen on our kids if we know they’ll be in the sun all day. Or perhaps we bring an umbrella to shield them from the rays.

We don’t say, “Well, the sun will touch them no matter what, so they may as well let the burn be worse.”

But this is a common argument for allowing kids to be exposed to things their minds aren’t ready for, whether that’s unfettered access to YouTube, TV shows, and video games with heaping amounts of violence, books with explicit sexual depictions, or songs with lyrics about sex and drugs.

I’m sure some reading this are starting to think, “Wow, I bet her kids are sheltered.” Maybe they are.

But I think providing shelter is kind of one of the main components of this parenthood gig.

Don’t get me wrong; my kids get plenty of screen time. It seems unavoidable most days. But my thinking is that all screen time is not created equal. There’s a difference between kids listening to rhymes about their ABCs and kids playing video games where a character named “Huggy Wuggy” chases you to try and hug you to death.

There’s a difference between kids learning problem-solving skills and learning problem-creating skills.

We need to be vigilant as parents. To fight for their protection and, yes, their shelter. It’s easy to get so burnt out that the allure of alone time trumps the instinct to check what the kids are watching on TV or looking at on their phones. Or even to hand them these distractions so we can just have some peace and quiet (guilty as charged).

It takes so much time and energy to fight the barrage of *crap* that’s streamed straight into our homes that it can feel like a lost cause. But the time and energy we expend now to shield them is important.

We put seat belts on every time we get in the car. Not just sometimes. And I think this is something that is different from the generation before us. Let the US be the generation that recognizes the danger of social media and puts some sort of restriction on it (both for our kids and ourselves).

Be careful, little eyes, what you see.

I want to guard their hearts and minds for as long as I can, within reason, while still doing my best to prepare them for the evils of this world. Their dad and I always walk that fine line between protecting and preparing them, giving them shelter, and letting them experience a healthy amount of exposure. That line may look a little different for each of us— it may even look different for the same parents from kid to kid.

But I think many of our society has forgotten that “we are what we eat.” Especially our kids.

Our kids are what they consume. Someday they will be on their own in the real world, where real problems await them. My prayer is that they’ve left my house with a minimal amount of trauma from social media, social situations, and even the shortcomings of their parents.

I hope they understand the difference between reaching for a donut and an apple and that they’ve experienced the health benefits of the apple so much that it continues to appeal to them when the world tells them that apples are uncool.

We are what we eat.

If I have to cover my kids’ eyes and ears when they walk into the room while I’m watching a TV show, maybe I shouldn’t be watching it either.

My mom used to say, “Garbage in, garbage out.” And as our world seems as full to the brim with garbage as it’s ever been, I hope there are other parents out there filling their kids up with good. Who is trying to keep their kids from consuming things that will destroy them from the inside out? Parents who do not wince when society speaks of “shelter” like it’s a bad thing.

If your kids are eating all their veggies, I applaud you! Good nutrition will benefit them for years to come. But don’t forget to feed their emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being as well. We are what we eat.

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