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Student food consumption commonly overlooked factor influencing overall health

Mark Anbinder, opinion editor

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It’s no surprise that most teens’ overall food selections aren’t healthy, but it’s important to note that ample nutritional planning can be just as important as dieting itself.  Quite a lot of attention has been brought to the types of foods teens should eat and what should be avoided. However, many students don’t realize that eating a sufficient amount of food also influences nutrition greatly. And avoiding eating all together can be dangerous to a developing body.

One downfall is to not eat enough, another is eating too much food during a meal. After fasting during the day kids may eat a lot for dinner or lunch. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, skipping daily meals depletes the glucose in your blood, causing after-meal tiredness that many of us are used to once a large meal is consumed.

Having this feeling frequently or for too long is a sign that your glucose levels are low, which is a poor sign for health and can lead to greater risk in conditions such as Hypoglycemia, a medical term for low blood sugar that is generally associated with diabetes.

“I usually don’t eat breakfast, but if I do I’ll eat some cereal if I wake up early,” sophomore Steve Dheftos said. “I’d say I eat breakfast on average about three times a week at maybe 7:30 on a school day.”  

Often unthought of schedules contribute to the skipping of meals, but students must plan ahead and make sure they are eating enough to fit their daily needs and keep energy levels up especially in the mornings, as it is our only meal before the long day starts.

“It’s important that everyone looks at their schedule to best fit their dietary needs,”  dance teacher Jamie Domaracki said. “If you lift a lot, you’ll obviously need hydration, complex carbohydrates, and protein among other things, what you are eating should depend on your daily routine.”

No two diets should be alike, whether you eat small meals/snacks constantly throughout the day, or sit down to eat a few large meals each at a specific time. A student’s focus should be on making sure he/she has enough nutrition to get through the day according to his/her daily routine, a mindset many students lack but should definitely start to pay attention to considering how crucial proper nutrition is to brain and body function.

While the majority of students do seem to have an awareness on the types of food they should be eating, they are less aware of how often they should be eating and how many calories they should be taking in each and every day.

“I care about 100% of what I eat,” junior Zack Green said. “I have certain things I eat daily as well as things I just eat as a meal or a snack throughout the day, like a protein shake in the morning and nuts as a snack during the day.”

According to eatright.org, teenage boys need 3,000 to 4,000 calories a day, while girls need 2,200 to 3,000 calories. Students need to become aware of how many calories are necessary to fit their lifestyle. This can especially become hard when trying to cut weight for a sport or lose weight in general as the immoral belief of fasting and starvation has become increasingly popular to lose weight. However, that isn’t the case as this method only decreases the nutritional value of a diet and can cause further disorder in the dietary sufficiency.

 “I eat enough protein to gain muscles when I work out, but I should eat more vegetables and fruit,” Green said. “I feel like I make up for it with vitamins, though”

Ignoring hunger and thirst could be potentially dangerous, especially if working out or participating in a sport later in the day. Tiredness, fatigue and a general lack of energy are all signs of a lack in nutrition. Hydration is just as important, as dizziness, headaches and inability to properly think are common symptoms to dehydration. Although reports are still being evaluated, The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that an adequate daily fluid intake is about 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids for men and about 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women, so think about carrying a water bottle with you daily and drink up.

“Everyone should know what they need but it’s hard sometimes to listen to your body,” Domaracki said. “Fluids are important, a lot of people don’t even realize they are dehydrated.”  

Overall, skipping meals is simply unhealthy.  According to fitday.com skipping meals diminishes energy, lowers nutrition, and is a gateway to unsound dietary practices in general. Proper eating habits take much planning however, it’s important to be mindful of not only what food you eat, but also if it’s keeping you healthy.

“If you constantly feel fatigued during the day, think about your diet, you may need to evaluate what you need,” Domaracki said. “Be mindful of the choices you make and what you put into your body.”

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Student food consumption commonly overlooked factor influencing overall health