Eat Healthy or Bust; improve your diet

Recently I read a Reuters news article about unhealthy school lunches influencing students’ diets negatively. Well, duh. It shouldn’t be necessary to have a news article point out the unhealthy eating habits of today’s kids.

Plans are always being made to improve education, but the foundation for a good education is a healthy mind, and a meal consisting of pizza, fries, candy and soda is not keeping a student healthy. Schools declare their lunches to be balanced and healthy because the food pyramid is evident in the food. On the contrary, what I’ve seen in the cafeteria suggests otherwise. Children in lower grades often throw the veggies away, and high school kids can choose to not take the fruit, veggies, and milk. On the lunch menus, the entrees are usually something in the zone of pizza and burritos. And when the food isn’t greasy, it’s not very good.

Oh, I know I shouldn’t be complaining about the taste when there are people starving, so I’ll complain about the nutritional value. Eating food high in fat, cholesterol and carbs seems almost as bad as starving, because many deaths occur from eating unhealthy food. After all, you are what you eat.

The food pyramid isn’t accurate for today’s children, either. Due to the low amount of exercise among children, the requirement for carbs should be lower. If we all lived on a farm and had to rise at 5 to milk the cows and walked miles to school, then maybe all the noodles, bread and rice would be necessary. But unless a lot of exercising takes place, piling up the carbs is unhealthy because energy that isn’t burned off is stored as fat. Unhealthy meals don’t only contribute to obesity, but to overall health. There are kids, and adults, who can eat anything as much as they want and stay slender, thanks to ultra-fast metabolism. Nonetheless, they are still unhealthy without the veggies, fruits, etc. necessary for optimum health.

Kids are getting a bad start in becoming healthy adults, which is bad, considering the adults we already have aren’t eating properly either. The all-American style of food is unhealthy to begin with. Breakfast is viewed as bacon, sausage and eggs. Lunch is a cheeseburger with fries, or something equally horrific. The salads are unhealthy because dressings are fattening and lettuce lacks nutritional value because it is crunchy water. Finally, dinner is steak and a very rich dessert. Healthy foods like potatoes and green beans lose nutritional value due to sautéing and frying.

In this day and age, we are bombarded with ways to stay healthy, starting with those infomercials at 3 a.m. featuring exercise videos. The frenzy to be healthy and reduce obesity/disease has led to lawsuits. Society is so health-conscious, yet consumers give into the food which restaurants and markets promote to please the taste buds while harming the body.

A busy lifestyle that leaves no time for healthy eating is frequently accused for unhealthy-eating. People are so busy that breakfast is a donut and coffee. (Donuts are so bad for you. Please limit how many you eat.) But there is no valid excuse for unhealthy eating. Healthy food shouldn’t have to take hours to prepare or taste boring, either. Just watching what you buy in the market can improve your diet. Start buying all-organic. It’s okay to indulge once in a while, but try to skip the usual killers, such as ice cream.

I admit that suggested substitutes for fattening foods never taste as good as the original. But be creative. Buy and prepare foods that accommodate your tastes, and I’m sure that everyone can find something healthy and delicious. (For example, instead of French fries, eat a baked potato with margarine and skim-milk cheese.)

Even if people continue to neglect their health, schools must change the lunch menu. A school district in New York (the largest school system in the country) decided to limit intake of sugar, getting rid of soda, donuts and hard-candy from vending machines. All schools should follow suit. A change this big would cost a lot of money, but heck, what doesn’t? Students, at least for the hours spent at school, need to be surrounded by healthy, organic foods. Unfortunately, students can always clog their arteries at home, so ultimately, it comes down to the individual.

So if you must have your donuts, go ahead. I would rather live a short and happy life opposed to a long life full of misery (although I can’t see how being unhealthy can bring happiness).

Sovereigna Jun is a student at Thomas Jefferson High School.

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