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?