Today in the United States, obesity has become a difficult and frequently discussed topic. Heart disease or children with type-two diabetes are often discussed, but how is this dangerous trend affecting our teenagers?
Teenagers are known for their incredible appetite. Rarely are scenes in films depicting teenage life shown without a box of pizza or a lunchroom tray of chocolate pudding. Because of the incredible growth spurts and physical changes during adolescence, appetite increases, however, the kinds of food used to satisfy huger is usually chosen due to advertisements and availability.
Advertisement campaigns frequently focus on teenagers in order to start “cool trends” that will change the purchasing habits of adults via their children. Snack commercials generally depict adolescents doing tricks on skateboards while grabbing a bag of Doritos or a beach volleyball game overcome by a wave a Kool-Aid. Combine with slogans like Lays’s “Betcha can’t just eat one” or Pringles’s “Once You Pop You Can’t Stop,” snacking is encouraged to consist of junk food and to be unquenchable.
In addition to “cool” advertisements, another factor that prohibits teens from making healthy snack choices is their lack of availability. Despite the fact that it is much more desirable to choose a bag of Cheetos over a stick of celery, it is also nearly impossible to find an accessible and affordable stick of celery on the go. Students can visit vending machines and find Mountain Dew and Fritos easily, but healthy alternatives are generally harder to find. And although schools have been making attempts to lower the availability of junk food and increase accessibility to healthy food, convenient stores and other teen hang outs promote junk food while providing expensive healthy alternatives of questionable quality.
The Teenage Obesity Problem
Teen obesity is a problem because it not only affects the physical health of an individual, but the emotional health as well. Students who are overweight have a higher chance of having low self-esteem or being bullied. During teenage years, how students view themselves has a direct correlation with their emotional health. If a student perceives themselves as being “too fat,” they will see themselves as “unacceptable” in the eyes of a thin-obsessed society. Then they may feel further discouragement, as trying to make life changes by eating healthier are difficult as healthier options are utterly unappealing or unavailable. Helping students to create healthy eating habits early will allow them to maintain these habits later in life, and increase their life expectancy/quality of life.
Some healthy alternatives that can assist teens in making the right eating choices may include things like fruits and vegetables, but there are more creative options. It is important to acknowledge that bringing snacks from home is the best way to get a teen to remain consistent with their eating and not make their way to the vending machine. Extreme hunger causes poor choices. Bringing healthy snacks to eat throughout the day, will lower the levels of hunger and make it easier to resist that bag of Cheese-Its. Snacking on a few pecans regularly throughout the day for example, provides proteins that boost energy and stops hunger fast. Eating pecans or other nuts can help stop cravings and kill hunger. Other alternative healthy snacks include: Baked tortilla chips instead of fried potato chips, a seasoned and grilled chicken breast instead of a slice of pizza, or strips of bell peppers. Pre-cut, pre-cooked, and baked/grilled foods are fast options that can be grabbed out of the fridge and tossed into a lunch bag. Many stores sell these options pre-made/sliced so they are extremely convenient.
Providing healthy alternatives for teenagers creates better eating habits, lowers the chances of teenage obesity, and therefore increases a teen’s chances a better self-image.
Linda White is a freelance blogger and writer and an at-home mother of two who enjoys writing and hiking in her spare time.