Good Nutrition in a Nutshell

Sometimes it helps to break up larger concepts or projects into something a bit smaller. More concise. Simple to remember.

Though it might seem a bit simplistic, I like to do that when I teach about nutrition, by using 3 "rules" (principles, guidelines, what have you) of good nutrition.

Although my ideas have changed somewhat over the years, my definitions of what are good and bad foods have shifted, and my cooking looks a lot different than it used to, I am still functioning within these 3 rules that I adopted about 6 years ago. They've served me well. I trust that they will help to solidify in your mind exactly what good nutrition is all about, and help you when you are making decisions or judgments about particular foods, diets, recipes, etc.

Inspired by the book What the Bible Says About Healthy Living (I only wish that I had come up with them myself!), here are the principles that I claim as my nutritional foundation:

1. Eat only those things that were created for food.

This may seem somewhat self-explanatory, but let me unpack this statement a little. First of all, this means that we avoid man-made chemicals, such as dyes, preservatives, chemical enhancers (like MSG), artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, splenda, all of them!), etc. Anything that is created or greatly altered by men was likely not intended by our loving Creator to nourish and sustain our bodies. This is the most basic level of this guideline, and in and of itself, it is a very good principle to keep in mind!

Secondly, I have realized over the past few years that this expands into not only things that were created for food, but also into the area of whether foods are grown/raised as they were intended to be. For me, this means humanely-raised animal products (all meat, poultry, eggs, dairy) from animals that graze on grass and are free of antibiotics, hormones and the like. It means fruits and vegetables and grains that are not genetically modified, and if possible, free of chemical pesticides and herbicides, and so on.

2. Eat foods as close to the way they were created as possible.

This follows right on the tails of Rule #1. We eat foods that are raised or grown as they should be, and then, we eat them in the manner that is as close as possible to their natural, original state. Allow me to give you a few examples from a post out of my Raising Healthy Eaters series:

"…baked potatoes vs. french fries, fresh lemon juice vs. powdered
lemonade mix, honey sweetened baking vs. white-sugary donuts with an
infinite shelf life, wholesome bacteria-based yogurt vs. it's
gelatin-filled, sweetened and artificially flavored distant cousin,
baked salmon vs. Highliner fish sticks. You get the point."

3. Do not let any food become your idol. 

Even among those practicing overall "good" nutrition, it is possible to allow a very good and nourishing food or a particular style of eating to become a source of idolatry in our lives. This can happen when we become fanatical about a particular diet, or even about eating certain "superfoods", to the exclusion of other foods, or to the detriment of our relationships with others, our finances, the use of our time and energy, etc.

Conversely, we can allow negative food choices to become idols as well, and I'm sure that this is what most of you imagined when you read Rule #3. Addictions to soda (or diet soda), to fast food, to refined sugars, to candy, to coffee or other forms of caffeine… all are examples of putting our desires and cravings for a particular food above our desire to use self-control and honor God with the way that we eat. I have also noticed in my life times when I allowed my "need" for something (a comfort food or a caffeine fix) to override my need to go before God and receive His strength and mercy instead. This is another less obvious, but equally serious, example of idolatry in our lives.

I find that I go back to these 3 rules over and over again, as I learn new things and am trying to sift through a lot of information and ideas. Considering these basic guidelines often brings so much clarity for me, and has been useful for me both in the early years of improving our nutrition, and still today as I look into more detailed and specific applications of it.

Do you find these simple rules as helpful as I do? Is there one that jumped out at you in particular?

About Stephanie Langford

Stephanie Langford has a passion for sharing ideas and information for homemakers who want to make healthy changes in their homes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke and with simple meal planning. She is the creator of Keeper of the Home.

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Comments

  1. Stephanie, do you have a standard/ suggested grocery list that you use? I am new to the idea of “eating clean” but I don’t even know where to start. For example, do you eat any foods that are in a box (i.e. Cheese-It’s, or those 100 calorie packs, or popcorn, etc.)? I want to eat clean but I need some direction because right now I’m thinking it’s going to be just me and the vegetable aisle forever :)

  2. Mmmm… I’ve been pondering the “idolatry” aspect of food for some time now. God opened my eyes to how my craving for coffee and the way I would stumble to it first thing in the morning and almost “worship” it in my need and desire for it, and how I needed more and more and was really dependent on it. I ditched it cold turkey. Now I drink it in moderation. Never first thing, never before my quiet time, and always with usually decaf unless a friend offers me caffeinated, I am not rigid about it, but as
    much as is up to me, since, I recognized this as an addiction, I choose to forego. I am trying very hard to cut out refined foods and to eat whole and natural. I feel like a baby taking first steps, but I can see that it is not that complicated. Especially since we already raise most of our own meat and I have a 47 row garden =).

  3. La Leche League’s philosophy on healthy eating is “to eat a wide variety of foods in as close to their natural state as possible”. Thats definitely something I try to stick by and your post makes sense along with that.

  4. Yes, all of them! That’s why I wrote the companion cookbook to Dr. Russell’s book (the “What the Bible Says about Healthy Living Cookbook,” which he endorsed). His book and 3 principles were indeed life changing to me.

    Want to trade e-books? I think we’re total kindred spirits! :)

  5. We’re slowly working on this and really, I’m amazed at the positive changes we’ve made in the past year while cutting about $50/mos off the grocery budget. I appreciate your focus on trusting God for wisdom & discretion as we seek to grow in these areas.

  6. you are becoming my new best friend from afar. i love all the information i get from you. i purchased your on sale ebook and just downloaded it a few days ago. i cannot wait to print it and have it in my hands to take it here and there and read it. thank you so much for your research. and that you so much for sharing it with us. hope you’re feeling well tonight.

  7. Thanks for the great comments, gals!

    I love to hear others agreeing that it’s not about doing food or nutrition perfectly, but rather about placing our hope ultimately in Christ! Yes, yes, yes! We do these things as conscientious stewards but they are NOT the be all, end all. He is!

    And Jess, thanks for the comment about the ludicrously expensive superfoods. We can’t do it either, and I’m with you… say no to the pressure! And yep, I’m an oddball, hippie, health-freak (among various other things) for wanting to eat real food, too. :) I’m beginning to actually find it more entertaining than anything, but yes, it’s so sad, too.

  8. Jessica says:

    This is great, Steph – thanks! I find the first two very sad, because they should be soooooo obvious, but I often get called a “hippie” for adhering to those (which is fine by me! Call me what you want, I ain’t eating that KD or those anemic cows!). I find #3 to be an encouraging reminder – especially the bit about not sacrificing our budgets to get certain superfoods. So often people insist we try these superfoods for merely $150/month… and I feel bad that I can’t make that happen for us. Time to let that pressure go!

  9. Thanks for the great post. We constantly struggle to explain to people why we do what we do, especially when it comes to how we feed our children. These 3 rules are simple and easy to remember, and they pretty much sum up exactly how we feel.
    So nice to have a sister who is so like-minded! And somehow, it’s even better that you live so close by (compared with other internet folks!).

  10. I think the first part of #3 is so important. We should do healthy things as good stwards, not because our hope is in them. Sometimes being healthy and having life easy is not what’s best for us in the long run. Sin can affect us physically too and can also bring poor health. There are a lot of parts to good health or poor health. But in the end we need God as our support, our life, not ANYTHING else.

  11. #3 is a big struggle for me, because is plays into my tendency towards legalism.
    I don’t want to get caught in the trap of putting my faith in *systems* rather than in Christ.
    It’s all too easy for me to believe that if I do XYZ, (homeschool, eat 100% organic all natural food, become a perfect wife and mother, etc.) then life will be blessed and God will be happy with me.
    But, these things are just works).
    It’s great to strive for the best for myself and my family, but they don’t buy me righteousness or a good standing with God, peace and prosperity, guaranteed well adjusted children or anything else I may attribute to them.
    So, it’s definitely not just junk food that can become an idol, but even *good* things that I do (like healthy eating) can become idols, when I lose my focus on Christ.

  12. Great post, I so agree. I’m not a ‘purist’ at all, but we generally eat according to Jordan Rubin’s book. I find that once you’re used to it it’s not a problem at all, other than eating out. When I feed my family something that’s not healthy, it’s always because of my own lack of planning, not cravings. I don’t crave ‘bad’ foods any more and that is very freeing!

  13. Very wise words and good reminders for all of us! I love your place and am subscribing to your feed. Blessings, Angie

  14. I read Rex Russell’s book 10 years ago and it changed my life! Now, years down the road I find his 3 simple rules are freeing and easy to live by. Let me encourage your readers that making all the changes at once is unrealistic if you have a family. I changed a couple of things at a time in order to let my family adjust to the new foods. By doing so, they didn’t “rebel” as much and eventually bought into the idea along with me as I continually educated them on why we were eating this instead of that.

    My last stronghold was the coffee and chocolate. They fell under rule #3 for me because I thought I had to have them. God showed me otherwise. I developed an acid reflux issue that was aggravated by the exact foods that were my idols. Now, I can only have them in very small amounts once a week.

  15. Yes, yes, YES!

    I love it! You’ve totally simplified my whole outlook on food, thank you! :o)

  16. i thoroughly enjoy all of the tips and “baby steps” you suggest in moving towards a more natural way of living and eating. i LOVED your ebook–it came right at a time when i was starting to feel overwhelmed with all the changes i wanted to make and didn’t know exactly where i should start. you make it sound so much easier and i appreciate the effort you put forth in sharing your advice with the rest of us!

  17. #3 is the one that got me the most too. I often cave to the lies of mommy stress and convince myself that I “deserve” something after all I’m doing. I clicked on your link and read the entire entry on substituting things for spending time with God, and it’s definitely given me something to chew (and act) on. Thanks.

  18. I must admit, I have the most trouble with #3. It’s funny that I just read this post today, because this morning, before I got out of bed, that was exactly what was going through my mind. I want to renew my desire for God and His fellowship above food. Job 23:12b

  19. Great post – love the simplification! Thank you!

  20. I need to work on all of them. However being overweight I definitely have a problem with number three. I do put fast food over God, and my family because I am so addicted to it, I eat it too much, I sacrifice my family by eating it, by suppling it and not making more wholesome food at home. This is something I need to really work on and pray for strength. I don’t think I rely on God well for the strength to do something to help me. I dont trust well not even in God and I need to learn to do better.

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