Life lessons on food and health

15 Jul 2022

When was the last time you stopped to think about food? Where does it come from? What’s in it? Why do you like certain foods and hate others? Is it good for you? What does that even mean?

Let’s start with a few definitions.

Food is anything that you eat or drink that gives nourishment. To nourish means to give what is necessary for life, health and growth. Even though things may look like food, taste like food, if they don’t give you nourishment, they aren’t food.

I wish your body came with a scoreboard. Imagine if it told you after each bite whether you were getting nourishment points. While you don’t have a physical scoreboard, your body does try to tell you this. When you put the right things into your body, you get a whole lot more out of it.

Food is like fuel. For cars, you have to be careful what you put in them. If you put high quality fuel in, the car runs well. The ride is smooth, you can go further on one tank of gas and it doesn’t break down as often. Put bad fuel in and look out. You may be stuck on the side of the road or paying big bills to an auto mechanic.

Like a car, food is fuel for your body. Put the right things in and you are going to get, not only more out of your body, but more out of life.

Here are a few examples:

Energy: when you eat nourishing foods, your body breaks this down into energy. That energy helps you do whatever you love, longer.

Strength: whether you are playing basketball or riding a horse, you need to be strong. The right food helps you build muscle and makes you better at the sports you love.

Attitude: do you remember the last time you were “hangry“? It puts us all in a bad mood. Fill your body with nourishing foods and you can keep this enemy at bay.

Brainpower: when you have a healthy body, you help create a healthy mind. Doing things that need your brain all become easier.

Health: when you get a lot of nourishment, you help your body fight off diseases. That means less time in bed and more time having fun.

Long life: who wouldn’t want to live longer?! Take care of your body and it will take care of you. In the end you get to experience more of this amazing life.

Like life, food is all about choices. You can’t be perfect, that is impossible. You want to limit the things that don’t give you nourishment and try as many things that do. These are the two areas of eating that are hard. The happy place is easy. This is food you love, that is also good for you. Try to add as many foods into this box as you can.

To help you remember, I created the Emoji Food Matrix. It compares food that is good for you or not, with food that you think tastes good or not.

One thing that may not be clear, is why some foods are good for you and others are not. One reason is vitamins. Your body needs 13 different vitamins to function. We get these from our food, or from pills when you aren’t getting enough of certain vitamins from the food you eat.

Vitamins are pretty cool. For example, Vitamin A comes from dark colored fruits and vegetables, as well as things like cheese and yogurt. This one helps your eyes stay strong and healthy. Vitamin B helps create red blood cells and this helps you grow. You can get it from nuts, eggs, potatoes and avocados.

It may seem hard to figure out if foods provide nourishment or if they are fake. The easy way to think about it is to imagine a grocery store. All the good food is around the outside. All the fake food is on shelves in the middle of the store.

Eat more of the stuff on top and less of the stuff on the bottom.

Then there is the question of taste. Did you know that you have 10,000 taste buds on your tongue. They contain tiny hairs that send messages to your brain about how something tastes. Your nose also plays an important part in the process too. The combination of taste and smell tells your brain if something “yay!” or “blah”.

Eating well is hard, but you can do it. Think about the goals you want to set for yourself when it comes to food. How much sugar is too much? Should you have another glass of water or a Sprite? You need to own the decisions and understand the consequences. Keep in mind that good choices, like eating a healthy diet, happen one at a time. A few small changes in the right direction can help improve your life forever.

Remember to stay adventurous. Like traveling, food is an experience. When you do travel, don’t be afraid of the local food. It may look different, it may taste different, but you might just find something new you love.

This post is part of a series of letters to my kids. My goal is to reflect on and capture as many life lessons as possible. Here is the current list I am working from.

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