Teenagers and unhealthiness: A match made in fast food restaurants

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Teenagers and unhealthiness: A match made in fast food restaurants

Senior Andres Reyes consumes McDonald's fries while Senior Alan Cuevas eats an apple to maintain his healthy habits

Senior Andres Reyes consumes McDonald's fries while Senior Alan Cuevas eats an apple to maintain his healthy habits

Franco Chavez

Senior Andres Reyes consumes McDonald's fries while Senior Alan Cuevas eats an apple to maintain his healthy habits

Franco Chavez

Franco Chavez

Senior Andres Reyes consumes McDonald's fries while Senior Alan Cuevas eats an apple to maintain his healthy habits

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You’ve heard it everywhere: “Make sure you eat healthy and exercise.” But how hard is it as a teenager to actually do that? 

As high school students, the main priority is education. This often leads to students sacrificing their health in order to do good in school. From eating unhealthy food to lack of exercise, being a healthy teenager seems like a challenge. 

At Middle College High School, students have a unique form of schooling. Students can have up to 12 hour school days and end up leaving campus very late. This doesn’t leave them with any time to go home and eat something healthy. The alternative is to eat at some local fast food place. Surrounding our campus is McDonald’s, Carl’s Jr., In-N-Out, Jack in the Box, Taco Bell, and several other fast food restaurants. Considering how late students stay at school, it’s easy to go and grab something cheap and local to eat.

Franco Chavez
A combined total of 80.7% of MCHS students eat fast food 1-4 times a week. Considering the lack of athletic activities offered at our school, this makes it harder for students to balance these meals with exercise.

According to a school wide survey that yielded 140 responses, many MCHS students stated they struggle with balancing school and their health. One student claimed, “We have so much homework and classes, so we have limited free time. Taking classes after school limits the time we have. We also have to dedicate time to get enough sleep. I also need time to relax. This leaves little to no time to exercise.”

Franco Chavez
Over 60% of MCHS students claim school limits their ability to exercise.

Apart from the common trend of lack of time, there is also a trend of being on a budget. Healthy food tends to be more expensive, which leads to students eating cheaper, unhealthier options. Another student claimed, “[Being healthy] is just not something you worry about too much. As you get older and see the effects of bad eating habits, then people cut down. Also, unless you have money to buy healthy options, you rely on what your parents buy/make you, which is usually the cheaper stuff, hence the more unhealthy choices.”

Although unhealthy foods surround our school, one surveyed student wants to have healthier options at MCHS. “I think it would be a good idea if the school added a 10-15 minute nutrition period because many students get hungry when they are in their first three classes and have to wait until lunch starts to eat. I also think it would be a good idea to use the leftover fruits and veggies from lunch and put them in the Wellness Center so that students can go get a fruit or veggie anytime they need a snack instead of going to the student store to buy junk food.” 

Don Express, one of our student stores, is very pricey, especially for students on a budget. Sandwiches can cost $5 while a Pop-Tart costs only $1. For students on a budget, the obvious choice would be the Pop-Tart. Even though students may want to be healthy, there are limited by variables out of their control. These variables, such as lack of money, time, and healthy foods, make it complicated for students to be healthy. By implementing the idea of having fruits and veggies at the Wellness Center, it will allow students to have a free healthy snack on the way to class instead of spending money on junk food.

So, is it hard to be a healthy teenager? That answer is subjective. While some students may focus more on exercise and sports, others may focus on education. Some students may have more time and money than others, which gives them a better chance to be healthier. However, teenagers at MCHS believe it’s a struggle to be healthy.

Franco Chavez
The majority of MCHS students believe it’s hard to be a healthy teenager.

But what about former students? Do they feel the same way about this subject? Cesar Ledesma, MCHS graduate of 2014, shared his thoughts on the topic: “It’s easy to get fast food. It’s accessible. It’s faster, but you gotta have a constant mind of getting healthy meals as well. Currently, I only eat [fast food] twice a month. I’m trying to stay healthy now. At Middle College, it would be like twice a week. It was extremely hard for me to keep a diet at Middle College due to my friends bringing fast food and things that smelled good. When you’re there it’s like ‘man, now I want something.’ Now, it’s not that hard to keep a diet. Once you keep that consistency going, once you set that mindset, you can resist.”