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Daniel 1:1-21, Four Israelites at the Babylonian Court

Monday, December 4

Clean Eating

Narrative Lectionary Daily Devotions written by Kace Leetch from Clergy Stuff.

When King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon conquered Jerusalem, he plundered not only the city, and the treasures from God's house, he also took some of Israel's finest men to be educated and to serve in the king's palace. Among these were Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They accepted their fate as conquered servants of the king. But Daniel didn't want to defile himself by eating the royal food. As a servant of God first and foremost, he wanted to continue to keep his body clean and pure by eating veggies and refraining from the indulgent foods and wines offered by the palace.

The guard responsible for them was reluctant to withhold their food for fear of the king's wrath if these men became undernourished and unable to perform their assigned duties. But Daniel knew he would fare better if he stuck to his ways of eating and proposed a test. Let them eat their veggies for ten days, and if they became undernourished, they would eat the palace food. If not, they would continue to eat as they were accustomed. After ten days, they were stronger and bigger than the rest, so they were allowed to continue to eat their veggies and clean foods.

Every religion and culture has specific traditions around food. Muslims eat only halal foods (pork, for example, is off the menu); Catholic Christians don't eat meat on Fridays in Lent (except fish, which is why McDonalds' Filet-o-Fish is advertised heavily during Lent); Jews eat only kosher foods. Maybe it's because faith traditions know instinctively what science is just beginning to uncover, that what we eat has a profound effect on our physical and mental health, which trickles down to our ability to work, our relationships, our social well-being, and so much more. Daniel knew thousands of years ago that he would perform better on veggies than on fatty meat and wine.

I grew up in the era of nuking TV dinners, Spaghettios, and Hamburger Helper. If it was quick and easy, it was on the menu. But my generation has paid the price for that. Obesity rates have skyrocketed, as have physical and mental health problems. Younger generations have figured it out, at least a bit. Now it's much easier to eat "clean." Where once you have to seek out the organic and healthier food options in the back corner of the grocery store, now these products are sprinkled throughout the entire store, sometimes dominating the shelf in their category. Now that clean eating is more accessible, there's never been a better time to start making shifts to improving your health.

So how do you eat clean? Here's are some beginner tips.

Cook your own food. Sound hard? It's not at all, really.

  • Find an app or website that offers great recipes for cooks of all experience levels. My go-to recipe app is AllRecipes.com. You can find thousands of recipes that will help you cook your own foods. You can even use the Dinner Spinner to choose for you.
  • Beef up your spice rack. You can do a lot with a great variety of spices. Here are some recommendations:
    • Italian: garlic, oregano, parsley, bay leaves, basil, sage, rosemary, thyme
    • Mexican: chili powder, red pepper (cayenne) cumin, garlic, oregano, coriander, cilantro, garlic, white pepper
    • Indian: black cardamom, clove, cumin, coriander, turmeric, saffron, curry, fennel seed
    • Asian: garlic, ginger, basil, cassia (cinnamon), cilantro, coriander, chiles, cloves, cumin, lemongrass, star anise, turmeric
    • Greek: garlic, basil, oregano, cinnamon, black pepper, parsley, rosemary, dill, marjoram, thyme, nutmeg
    • African: cumin, cassia (cinnamon), sweet & spicy paprika, berbere (ginger, garlic, fenugreek, chilies, black pepper, cloves, coriander, cardamom), cayenne pepper

Avoid processed foods.

Generally, if it's in a box or a can, it's been processed. But not all processed foods are equal. Here are some to avoid for healthy living.

  • Bacon (Don't hate me -- I love bacon, too. Just... moderate.)
  • Granola bars
  • Ramen
  • Dried fruits
  • Flavored nuts
  • Fruit snacks
  • Margarine
  • Microwave popcorn
  • Ketchup (one of the four foods groups, I know)
  • TV dinners
  • Anything with high fructose corn syrup (it's like sugar crack)
  • Dessert cereals
  • Soda (do as I say, not as I do)
  • Salad dressing
  • Canned soup
  • Yogurt

Eat more often, smaller portions.

Grazing can actually be good for you if you are choosing nourishing foods and observing your portions. If you don't let yourself get too hungry, you're less likely to grab the first thing out of the vending machine.

Everything in moderation, you know. As Daniel found out, eating clean actually made him feel great, look great, and perform great. We can greatly improve our physical and mental health by making even small changes. So go get some fruits, nuts, berries, eggs, meat, veggies, seafood, grains, and healthy fats. Your body and your emojis will thank you.

Narrative Lectionary Text: Daniel 1:1-21

In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. The Lord let King Jehoiakim of Judah fall into his power, as well as some of the vessels of the house of God. These he brought to the land of Shinar, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his gods. Then the king commanded his palace master Ashpenaz to bring some of the Israelites of the royal family and of the nobility, young men without physical defect and handsome, versed in every branch of wisdom, endowed with knowledge and insight, and competent to serve in the king’s palace; they were to be taught the literature and language of the Chaldeans. The king assigned them a daily portion of the royal rations of food and wine. They were to be educated for three years, so that at the end of that time they could be stationed in the king’s court. Among them were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, from the tribe of Judah. The palace master gave them other names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego.

But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the royal rations of food and wine; so he asked the palace master to allow him not to defile himself. Now God allowed Daniel to receive favor and compassion from the palace master. The palace master said to Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king; he has appointed your food and your drink. If he should see you in poorer condition than the other young men of your own age, you would endanger my head with the king.” Then Daniel asked the guard whom the palace master had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: “Please test your servants for ten days. Let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. You can then compare our appearance with the appearance of the young men who eat the royal rations, and deal with your servants according to what you observe.” So he agreed to this proposal and tested them for ten days. At the end of ten days it was observed that they appeared better and fatter than all the young men who had been eating the royal rations. So the guard continued to withdraw their royal rations and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.

To these four young men God gave knowledge and skill in every aspect of literature and wisdom; Daniel also had insight into all visions and dreams. At the end of the time that the king had set for them to be brought in, the palace master brought them into the presence of Nebuchadnezzar, and the king spoke with them. And among them all, no one was found to compare with Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they were stationed in the king’s court. In every matter of wisdom and understanding concerning which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom. And Daniel continued there until the first year of King Cyrus.