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DECEMBER 17, 2010

Food Attitude

DECEMBER 17, 2010

Healthy, Quick Breakfast Options

By Lily Sieradzki

Chattering students fill the WJ student commons. They munch on a variety of foods, everything from a huge tuna salad sandwich to a bag of chips to a serving of greasy cafeteria fries. Amidst this is senior Brady Gradowski, who reveals his eating habits: no breakfast or lunch, a huge dinner and constant refills of soda throughout the day. While Gradowski readily admits that his food choices are somewhat out of the ordinary, it cannot be denied that teenagers’ eating habits are unique, sometimes in a good way and sometimes not. The bodies of teenagers, because of their rapid growth, have special needs that must be addressed. School rules when and what teens eat, both in terms of what kinds of food are available and when they are eaten. Particularly at WJ, the open lunch policy has a huge effect on student diets.

acts and f igures

Eating Out but Eating Right According to both Gradowski and Family and Consumer Sciences teacher Connie Pokress, the open lunch policy allows for a healthy degree of independence in making good food decisions. Many options are available on both ends of the nutrition scale. The problem is that many teens don’t know how to make the right choice or that they choose not to. Georgetown Square restaurants mostly allow for enough choices to satisfy both cravings and nutrition in one swoop. Pokress consistently notices students bringing back food on the healthier side from G-Square. In contrast, sophomore Marguerite Bandeian sees students making unhealthy choices at open lunch. “I see people carrying around baguettes, I see people carrying around bags of chips [and] I see people carrying around huge bottles of soda,” she said. It isn’t hard to eat out and eat healthily at the same time. According to the Nemours TeensHealth website, there are three simple ways: look for a balance of proteins, fruits and vegetables and whole-grains (a chicken sandwich on whole wheat with lettuce and tomato versus a hamburger on a white bun), keep portion sizes in check, and drink water or milk to cut out soda or juices’ empty calories. Price is also a huge factor when it comes to food. Students end up finding it easier and cheaper to buy food that is less healthy. How can students eat well from what’s available and what’s affordable? Another healthy option apart from those offered in Georgetown Square lies in bringing food from home, or simply eating at home instead of eating out, giving more control to guarantee healthful eating. Erratic Eating Patterns Eating schedules also matter. According to local nutritionist Faye Berger Mitchell, teenagers tend to eat erratically because of ove r - loaded schedules. The combined time restraints of extracurricular activities, homework and of course, an active social life, lead to increased snacking and more eating away from home. Teens often choose the faster, but less healthy option. Teens often skip breakfast, which can have a powerful effect on the body throughout the entire day. A 2008 study in Pediatrics Magazine showed that the more often teens eat breakfast, the less likely they are to be overweight. According to a 2005 study by the American Dietetic Association, breakfast consumption is linked to improvement in school attendance, memory and test scores. It can also make you feel full in the morning, preventing snacking on junk food or eating overly large meals later in the day. “When kids skip breakfast, they really have a hard time focusing in their morning classes,” said Berger Mitchell. “Eating breakfast helps [ensure that] grades are better, thinking is clearer [and] judgment is better.”

How To Eat Right!

6 oz. per day

Food For Thought: Stress and Balance Stress from school can also make an impact on what or how teens eat. Stress can cause a decrease in eating and loss of appetite, or inversely, an increase in eating, both unhealthy. A deprivation of sleep, which causes and is a result of stress, also has been shown to prompt people to eat more high-carb, high calorie foods, according to Medscape. “I generally don’t eat when I’m stressed out,” said Bandeian. “I get tired and hungry and eat a lot [when I’m sleep-deprived].” Eating a balanced diet can include a small quantity of treats, as long as they are infrequent. Teens can and eat what they want once in a while without terrible consequences. The teenage years are the time when the body needs the most nutrition to grow and change. We establish and solidify our eating habits for the rest of our lives. Making healthy decisions is not only beneficial now, but continuing these habits will improve the quality of life for years to come. By valuing what goes into our bodies, we invest in our future.

Fruits Vegetables

2.5 cups per day

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2 cups per day

Meat + Beans Milk

3 cups per day

5.5 oz. per day

Photos taken by Stefany Carty, Rosie Hammack and Lily Sieradzki

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48% of adolescents take ten to 30 minutes to fall asleep on school nights


of teens watch television before doing homework every night

of teens who get between 8.5 and 9.25 hours of sleep every night report getting As and Bs on their report cards


of adolescents get less than eight hours of sleep on school nights

According to Emsellem, though adolescents should ideally get between 8.5 and 9.25 hours of sleep every night, the average American high school senior actually clocks in around 6.7 hours. And the effects of this statistic do not go undetected throughout the school day. Acquard finds that sleep deprivation often translates into students’ schoolwork, especially during certain times throughout the marking period when students have many more academic demands placed on them. “They are not focusing, they are making silly mistakes in class and they are not able to perform at their best in the classroom,” she said. Health teacher Kathleen Carey has also noticed the correlation; obviously sleepy students just don’t tend to perform well in school. And not only does sleep deprivation negatively affect productivity levels, but junior Alexine Buchanan has found that pressure placed from the school negatively affects her own ability to fall asleep. She describes MCPS’s bus and school schedule as “rigid,” “tiring” and “stressful,” and adds that the issue of sleep deprivation does not get enough attention from the school system. Carey disagrees with Buchanan’s implication that MCPS places unrealistic demands upon its students. “There are many, many students that do extremely well,” she said. “Most of those students are very good at organizing their time. Sometimes [students] just need to reevaluate and plan things out a bit more.” Though she admits that there are many pressures placed on students by the school system, Acquard feels that students are also presented with enough academic support to be able to juggle the various demands. The jury is still out on whether students’ sleep habits are more affected by outward or inward pressures. Whatever the cause, the fact remains that, on average, students aren’t getting enough sleep to function properly throughout the day. In many cases, this lack of sleep is compounded by America’s number one sleep disorder: insomnia. To combat insomnia, Acquard suggests that students eat well during the day and talk to parents or teachers when they begin to feel overwhelmed. Both Acquard and Emsellem also stress the importance of establishing a sleep routine and trying not to why teens need to catch their z’s deviate from that routine over weekends and breaks. “Be sure not to watch [television] to fall asleep,” said EmBy Rosie Hammack sellem. “[Television] programming is designed to keep you engaged [and] light is a drug that promotes wakefulness - avoid it in the evePicture this:You’re up at six.You trudge through all seven hours of school, running.” ning on low fuel.You fritter away the five hours immediately following the school Buchanan recommends drinking non-caffeinated tea and admits to having day with socializing, television and Facebook. You sneak in a nap before six. Dinoccasionally resorted to taking non-prescription antihistamines. ner passes before you’re even ready to think about schoolwork, and by the time “I’ve taken Benadryl, because I don’t want to get hooked on sleeping meds,” you’ve finished your homework, it’s well after 12 a.m. Sound familiar? For most she said. teenagers, this is no foreign routine. It’s a daily struggle. Emsellem also suggests that students who have issues falling or staying Sophomore Ted Borenstein finds this routine troublingly familiar. Describing his asleep should direct themselves first to their primary care provider difficulty falling asleep as “agonizing” and “frustrating,” and admitting to chroniand next to a sleep specialist. cally falling asleep in class, Borenstein paints a picture of a phenomenon In a highly stimulated world dominated by electronics common amongst American teens today: sleep deprivation. and academic pressures, the fact is that it is not difficult Insufficient sleep is both physically and mentally draining, acto let sleep health fall to the wayside. cording to psychology teacher Geri Acquard and Dr. Helene Em“There’s so much going on, you want to do so sellem, medical director at the Center for Sleep and Wake Disormuch, and there are only so many hours in a day,” ders located in Chevy Chase, Md. Along with the close link between said Carey. “The world is so open to you, and with sleep deprivation and increased appetite and weight gain, Emsellem all the other demands, it’s wonderful – but at the lists a higher risk of mood disorders and chronic infections among same time it takes away from people taking care of the negative side effects of insufficient sleep. Other symptoms include themselves.” depression, dulled creativity, poor relationship skills and an inability to communicate clearly.

Eat, Sleep and Be Healthy

Gradowski skips breakfast for time’s sake –school starts early and he wants to get in as much sleep as possible. Eating in the morning is absolutely essential. “It’s been eight or 10 hours since you’ve last eaten a meal, so your body is going into a fasting mode, which means that your blood sugar is down,” Pokress said. “Your brain needs blood sugar in order to function well.” Bandeian recognizes the importance of breakfast for her body. “I can’t go without eating breakfast, or else I can’t function,” she said.


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An apple is the perfect quick grab to stick in your backpack before heading out the door. It’s high in dietary fiber and carbs to maintain your energy.

Low fat yogurt packs a protein punch that will keep you focused till lunch. Mix it with granola or fresh berries for a delicious and healthy parfait.

the amounts suggested are for a 2,000-calorie diet


Stash a box of granola bars in your locker so you’ll have constant and easy access to breakfast or snacks whenever you need to refuel.

Fill plastic baggies with whole grain and fiber-rich cereal that’s easy to grab and eat between and during class. Make some trail mix by adding peanuts and raisins.


counting s heep: f


Infographic by Lily Sieradzki


infographic by Lily Sieradzki

When and how teens eat

Photo and information courtesy of United States Department of Agriculture.








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