I like food, but my relationship with food goes so much deeper than that. If I’m being honest, I truly love food. I have my favorite meals, of course, but I always strive to try new food, venture out to new restaurants, experiment with new recipes in the kitchen, and savor each meal I eat. These guidelines gave way to a motto I’ve come to live my life by, “life is too short to eat bad food.”
The average life span in the United States is 78.8 years, rounded to 80 years for convenience sake ( https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/life-expectancy.htm). If you eat three meals a day for 80 years, you will eat 87,360 meals in your lifetime. You may look at that number and become overwhelmed by it’s magnitude. You may become excited about the amount of food you will be able to consume over the course of your life. You may be indifferent toward the impact of one meal in the grand scheme of things, as you will have plenty of chances to eat good meals to make up for bad ones.
I look at that number and see enormous potential. I see over 80,000 opportunities to choose good, nutritious food that will fuel your body and soul.
In my mind, good food (tastes delicious) is synonymous with nutritious food (provides my body with the nutrients it needs to function its best). It’s recommended that Americans form a healthy eating pattern of nutritious food that includes fruits, vegetables, protein, dairy, grains, oils and limits added sugars, sodium, saturated fats, and trans fats. Each meal we eat should be a mixture of these different types of food. When we use this combination method for eating, the synergistic qualities of the distinct food items are activated and our body can more easily absorb the nutrients it needs.
A real life example of this concept would be a meal consisting of chicken, broccoli, and brown rice. Each of these ingredients on their own are good for you as they contain vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and protein, but combined they are even better. When you eat these three together, the elements in the broccoli and rice allow your body to more easily absorb a greater amount of nutrients from the chicken and vice versa.
Increased nutrient absorption is a great reason to adopt a more wholistic diet, but there are several other perks that accompany this lifestyle change. For starters, when you eat a variety of food, you will feel more energized. This energy boost happens because foods typically have different digestion and absorption rates. When you eat an assortment of foods, your body will continue to convert nutrients to energy for an extended period of time, which means you’ll have the energy you need to end the twitter beef between Nikki Minaj and and anyone she’s ever had a twitter beef with.
This boost of energy will help you maintain focus at school or work and get a more restful sleep each night. You may also find that it provides you with motivation to exercise daily. It is recommended that teenagers have an hour of physical activity each day and adults have 30 minutes. If you are lacking energy, exercising for any length of time is a rather difficult task. By making a few changes in your diet, you can increase your energy level and more easily complete an hour of physical activity each day. For example, you may be craving a bag of chips, but a healthier alternative that packs a bit of crunch is salted almonds. If you’re in dire need of something sweet, instead of eating a candybar, grab a piece of fruit. My favorite go-to fruit is an apple with peanut butter, for some added protein.
The choices we make regarding food greatly impact our physical body, but more importantly, they influence our spirituality. We learn in the book of Genesis that we were created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26). We were created out of love, with a purpose. God willed each of us into existence, giving us a unique dignity only found in Him. The Catechism elaborates on this creation by saying, “the unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the ‘form’ of the body” (CCC 365). This changes everything.
We are not just bodies. We are spiritual beings. Our physical bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit, a gift from our heavenly Father that should be treated with respect and love. When we nourish our bodies with good food, we are affirming the dignity we have as children of God and preparing ourselves to carry out the work of God here on Earth.
Each time I make a choice to eat a healthy, each time I turn down a bowl of ice cream and eat a serving of Greek yogurt instead, I am honoring God and the body He gave me. This is not always easy. There are definitely times that all I want is a burger with sweet potato fries followed by a bowl of ice cream. It is in these times though, times that I modify a meal to make it healthier or turn it down all together, that I am glorying God. In those moments I am saying, “my body is a temple and I am actively choosing to fuel it with the best food so I am ready to go out and spread the Gospel.” It’s difficult to have this evangelize anytime, anywhere attitude if we are feeling sluggish, grumpy, or blah because we are not properly fueling our body. Choosing the right foods for your body is choosing the Gospel, choosing to follow Christ, choosing to be a disciple.
This call to a healthy lifestyle is not a mandate to eliminate all guilty pleasures from your diet. The beauty of a healthy lifestyle is that it can be tailored to meet your physical, cultural, and spiritual needs. It’s all about providing your body with the nourishment it needs so we can grow deeper in relationship with God and serve Him to the best of our ability. Try swapping an unhealthy snack, like chips or ice cream, with a piece of fruit for a week and take note of the difference that small change makes in your physical and spiritual life.
Good food is a gift from God. Let’s use all 80,000 meals to bring glory back to Him.