Teenagers should stop ‘lovin it’ and lay off the unhealthy fast food

December 15, 2008 — by Kevin Mu and Anna Shen

America is notorious for many things, but perhaps best known for its leading status as the most obese nation in the world. With over 13,000 McDonalds franchises, the United States is a bastion of unhealthy eating.

Today, some health-conscious teens are aware of the dangers of fast food and do their best to avoid it. Others are utterly oblivious of the consequences of eating fatty and greasy foods.

In fact, according to the CDC’s website www.cdc.gov, 16 percent of American children and adolescents ages 2-19 are obese. The risks and consequences that come with being overweight include hypertension and Type 2 diabetes, which has seen a whopping 90 percent increase in the past decade, according to webmd.com.

Meanwhile, a recent New York Times article stated that “the thickness of artery walls of children and teenagers who are obese or have high cholesterol [resembles] the thickness of artery walls of an average 45-year-old.”

For those who do gain weight and develop other health problems, the effects are not just physical, but emotional as well. Many teenagers, especially girls, are unhappy with their weight, leading to low self-esteem and comfort eating—a vicious cycle. And it’s not only teens. The problem of poor eating habits and obesity in the United States has reached astronomical proportions. According to the New York Times, an astonishing two-thirds of Americans is overweight.

Although some teens have a fast metabolism that results in a lack of weight gain after heavy consumption of fattening foods, they are not free from the many adverse effects upon the body such as high cholesterol.

These realities should serve as a powerful signal to students—they need to be careful with their eating habits. At the lunch line, most students choose Papa John’s pizza rather than greens or sandwiches, an unhealthy choice driven by ignorance.

Other students drive off campus to buy “better” food at restaurants such as Chipotle; however, according to www.chipotlefan.com, an ordinary wrap with rice, tomato, corn, cheese, sour cream, lettuce and carnitas has nearly 1,000 calories—more than a day’s worth of sodium and saturated fat! The unfortunate truth of this is that off-campus lunches from most restaurants are often unhealthier than those from school.

Some schools are tackling the issue head on. Berkeley High School in East Bay decided that they could curb the eating problem by improving the quality of food served in their cafeteria. Deemed as one of the best-fed high schools in America, Berkeley has offered a menu that consists of everything from organic salads and whole grain breads to grass-fed hamburgers and hot dogs. But according to the “San Francisco Chronicle,” the high school is planning to drop this program because students continue to go off campus to fast-food restaurants, and too few are buying the organic food. Despite the ambitious attempts by Berkeley, the actual problem cannot be solved until teenagers recognize the dangers of unhealthy eating.

Change cannot come if teenagers don’t take what they have learned to heart. Those who don’t know or don’t care right now are going to pay the consequences in the future; they will have to ask themselves one question: Were all those unhealthy meals worth it?

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