I call it “Carb Café.” Of course, that isn’t the official name, but it’s the most descriptive. Like many larger churches, our church has an area where you can buy boutique coffee, breakfast, lunch, and snacks. Breakfast options include cinnamon buns topped with gooey white frosting, huge cake-like muffins in several flavors (including chocolate), and biscuits (white flour and shortening leavened with baking powder) topped with high-fat white gravy. There are over-sized cookies, sausage breakfast burritos (high in fats and cholesterol), and, for a time, Belgian waffles. A bit more healthy are the recently-added bagels with (full fat) cream cheese, sweetened yogurt, and “breakfast sandwiches.” To be fair, they also have apples, oranges, or bananas for a dollar each.
The snacks are even worse, if that’s possible. Can’t we live for one morning without candy, gum, and pop tarts? The lunch offered is a sandwich served on a croissant—yummy, but made with white flour and laden with fat.
To add yet another temptation, our greeters are equipped with trays of individually wrapped candies, the kind you buy in bulk at a membership warehouse. Getting through the door is just the first challenge. They will come around to where you are sitting talking to friends before the service starts, and offer you a tootsie roll or butterscotch candy. Even avoiding the café, some mornings I have to say “No” to sugar three or four times.
It’s not just Sunday mornings that are full of unhealthy food choices. We recently attended our church’s college/career group, as we are housing two college-age interns for the next ten months. The meeting starts at 7 pm, and many of those attending come straight from work. Thoughtfully, the church provides snacks to help hungry people wait a couple of hours until dinner. Unfortunately, the only choices were quite high in sugar.
Our previous church (in another state) was much smaller, but they too seemed to be fixated on fat and sugar. There was a break between adult Sunday School and the service, a time for fellowship. In this case, “fellowship” meant “donuts.” It was awfully hard to resist those donuts (and I don’t even like donuts all that much!) with my stomach growling and lunch still two hours away.
Now, I have nothing against an occasional treat now and then. Just because I have to avoid all sugars (something to do with insulin resistance and my sky-high triglycerides) doesn’t mean everyone else must. But with our soaring rates of obesity, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes, is this really what we want to offer at church?
There is a disconnect. From the pulpit we hear sermons about running from temptation, and honoring our bodies as the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. We are even told to refrain from things that God made and called good, just so we don’t cause a brother or sister to stumble.
Then the church turns around and floods us with opportunities to consume simple sugars. I can’t be the only one “recovering” from a sugar addiction.
My personal beliefs include a place for reasonable alcohol consumption—not getting drunk, but enjoying a glass of wine or strawberry margarita every now and then. At the same time, I only drink around those I know are of a similar mind. I don’t want to tempt someone who struggles with alcoholism. I’d rather err on the side of caution than cause one person to sin.
An addiction to carbs is not all that different. Many people fight a battle every day to choose healthy foods over those that offer the feel-good, high energy boost that sugar promises. Yes, we know that high will be followed by a crash, as too much insulin pours into our bloodstream—just as the alcoholic knows that one drink will lead to another. That doesn’t always stop us.
I’ve learned methods of coping. I eat a good breakfast before leaving home (which means getting up 30 – 45 minutes earlier than I’d otherwise have to). I bring a healthy snack for emergencies. I make sure that those around me know I can’t have sugar, so they can help me resist when I’m weak.
At the same time, I wonder whether the church can’t set a better example in this. Why not limit the sugary choices and offer healthy alternatives? Why tempt people already struggling? Why don’t we practice what we preach?
What do you think? What kinds of food does your church offer? Is it the responsibility of the church to offer healthy snacks? Or did all this talk about donuts and cinnamon buns send you out the door for some Krispy Kremes?