Editor's note: This is the first in an occasional series on the life choices teens face, and the consequences that come with them.
What am I going to eat? It's a question we ask as we pack or buy lunch or choose an afternoon snack.
For many of us, it's a decision that doesn't get enough thought. Habits, time constraints and the lure of cheap packaged and-or fast-food meals often get in the way of making healthy food choices.
We should take time to realize what exactly is entering our stomachs.
In 2004, 7.5 billion pounds of french fries were eaten by Americans, according to the "Encyclopedia of Junk Food and Fast Food."
Since then, not much has changed.
Obesity is one of the biggest problems in U.S. history. It can contribute to breathing difficulties, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, heart attacks, stroke and arthritis.
An individual's healthy weight can be determined by various factors, such as body structure and level of activity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend the use of the body mass index to screen for obesity in children and teens.
There are many reasons people especially teens make unhealthy food choices.
Lots of times, kids listen to their appetite their desire for food based on emotional factors rather than hunger a natural response the body gives off when lacking nutrients. Teens eat when they are bored, stressed and when they are around others who are eating. Many times, teens eat regardless of a food's nutritional value, because they are uneducated on healthy eating. Lots of teens don't even glance at the food labels of their favorite snacks.
The home life of teens may be the largest contributing factor. In today's economy, many families are struggling to pay bills while keeping a healthy diet. In response, many parents have been forced to switch to cheaper, less healthy foods. Why buy ingredients for a nice family dinner when you can easily drive up to a fast-food restaurant and order a cheap, tasty meal to go?
The problem is that convenience is beating the need to be healthy, creating a major health concern for U.S. teens.
The benefits of unhealthy eating include cheap meals and appealing taste. On the other hand, healthy eating helps you get the appropriate nutrients, gives you plenty of energy, eases health concerns, can help mood and self-esteem, and can boost your immune system and lower cholesterol.
Many times, teens know they need to eat healthy but don't know their options. Healthy snacks can include apples, cheese, nuts, yogurt, and so much more.
Breads especially ones made with whole grains can decrease your hunger for long periods of time, but should not be eaten in excess.
Eating right during these formative years is crucial. This is when we decide how we are going to live our lives. We may not know it, but what we eat now will determine our views of food as adults.
So take some time to read the food label on that bag of potato chips and discover what you're really eating. Then, instead, reach for a fresh, healthy apple.
Mark Borges is a freshman at Hughson High School and a member of The Bee's Teens in the Newsroom Program.