Do You Have a Healthy Diet?

Students in U.S. high schools can get free digital access to The New York Times until Sept. 1, 2021.

What are your favorite foods? Pizza? Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? Potato chips? Ice cream? Are any fruits or vegetables on your list?

Would you say that you have a healthy diet? Do you make an effort to eat healthy foods and avoid or limit unhealthy ones? Has the pandemic made it harder for you to eat healthy?

In “5 Ways Teens Can Get More Fruits and Vegetables Into Their Diets,” Christina Caron writes about how parents can help their children to improve their eating habits:

If you’ve been watching your teenager devour processed foods like potato chips, chicken nuggets or sugary cereals and drinks, you are not alone. Comfort food has been especially alluring during the pandemic, for parents and kids alike.

But according to a report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this has been a problem for teens long before the pandemic: Most teenagers in the United States have not been eating enough fruits and vegetables.

Dietary guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommend that girls 14 to 18 years old should eat at least 1.5 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables each day and boys in the same age range should eat at least 2 cups of fruit and 3 cups of vegetables. But the new report, which presented survey data from more than 13,000 high school students across the country, found that in 2017, only about 7 percent of the students met the daily recommendations for fruit, and just 2 percent met the recommendations for vegetables.

“It’s really insufficient across all groups,” said Samantha J. Lange, a research fellow at the C.D.C. and the lead author of the study.

Those percentages might even be lower, the researchers added, because the students may have overestimated the amount of fruits and vegetables that they actually ate. And of course the findings do not account for the ways eating habits may have changed in the pandemic, when many people have reported weight gain.

Ms. Caron shares five tips from nutrition experts for parents, such as “find fruits and veggies that fit your budget” and “make meal planning a family affair.”

The article concludes with a recommendation to “teach your teen about the many benefits of healthy eating.” Among other tips, she points out that:

Remote learning, the isolation of quarantine and the uncertainty of the pandemic have been especially challenging for teenagers. Research suggests that consuming healthy foods, including fruits and vegetables, can help reduce anxiety and improve mood. Emphasizing this to your teenagers might provide a compelling reason for them to switch up their diet.

Students, read the entire article, then tell us:

  • Do you have a healthy diet? Tell us about your eating habits and preferences. How has the pandemic affected your eating? Do you agree with the author that comfort foods have been “especially alluring” this year?

  • How health conscious are you about the foods you eat? Do you pay attention to the fat, salt and sugar content in the foods that you eat? Do you consider the nutrition value of food when choosing a snack or meal?

  • A new report by the C.D.C. says that only about 7 percent of the students met the daily recommendations for fruit, and just 2 percent met the recommendations for vegetables. Do these findings ring true for your own eating habits? How many fruits and vegetables do you eat on average each day? Did the article persuade you to start eating more produce?

  • Ms. Caron writes that “research suggests that consuming healthy foods, including fruits and vegetables, can help reduce anxiety and improve mood.” Does this resonate with your own experiences? Have you ever noticed how different foods affect your moods or behavior?

  • The article notes several barriers to eating healthy, such as the abundance of inexpensive and unhealthy food options in certain areas. What factors get in the way of you having healthier eating habits? What questions do you still have about healthy diets?

  • What do you think of Ms. Caron’s tips for parents? For example, she writes that when teenagers “feel like they have some ownership over the process, they might be more likely to choose healthier options when deciding what to eat.” Would that work for you? Do you help choose, shop for, or even prepare meals and snacks for you and your family? If not, do you want to start taking on that role? What other kinds of advice would you give to parents to help them improve their children’s healthy eating habits?

  • Would it be challenging for you to shift to eating more healthy foods? Why or why not? What is one way you can improve your diet?

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Students 13 and older in the United States and the United Kingdom, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.

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