Are students choosing familiarity and convenience over healthy?

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Lily Connery

Many LFHS students enjoy lunch from the cafeteria, and the newly renovated food service is filled with seemingly endless options. There are plenty of options including sandwiches, salads, and sushi. However, how healthy is the food prepared inside the cafeteria? Yes, there are lots of healthy options within the cafeteria, but students often turn to whatever looks the best in the moment. How could you walk past the pizza to get a salad? Or turn down the ice cream machine? Teenagers are often impulsive, and the cafeteria is a perfect example of where quick decisions are made.

Eating healthy is a difficult thing to do, especially when faced with to choice between choosing healthy options over so many other convenient unhealthy choices. To find out if this statement holds true for students, I sent out a survey inquiring about favorite school lunches. Out of 135 responses, pasta and chicken fingers (or french fries) were solidified the student go-tos. The least favorites were options from the salad bar, paninis, and sushi. This, of course, backed my theory that students do favor the unhealthier options at the cafeteria.

To find out more about the study body as a whole I asked Dan Lambert from the cafeteria staff about what he believes are the most popular and healthiest items respectively. He claims that the pasta with alfredo sauce would be one of the least healthiest items, along with french fries, Gatorade, and some of the potato chip options. Mr. Lambert also said that the veggie packs, the salad salad bar, and the made-to-order sandwich bar would be the healthiest options. Along the lines of popularity, pasta with scout sauce and quesadillas are the top two choices. He is unsure about the most unpopular since all items sell. His perspective on the most popular items correlated with the survey’s results and displayed that unhealthy items are, indeed, more popular.

From these results, one can assume that most of the students are buying unhealthy lunches everyday in the school cafeteria. To possibly better eating habits, students should try to branch out to one of the healthier items at least once a week. Having a sandwich or salad one day a week–instead of pizza–can have a significant impact in the long run. Also, subbing marinara sauce instead of alfredo sauce can cut the calories down by ¾ percent. A side of vegetables or a veggie cup instead of french fries with chicken fingers can also take away a lot of the grease and extra carbohydrates out of student diets. The salad bar and sandwich bar also offer plenty of options for a customized lunch that offers more nutrition than the go-to pizza.

As teenagers, our metabolism works at potentially the highest rate we will experience in our lives. Plus, we get significant amounts of exercise and activity from our extracurricular involvement and overall active lifestyle. That said, as we get older our eating habits that we are used to (that we forge while we’re young) significantly impact our lifestyles and overall health.

Lake Forest High School’s cafeteria offers so many options for students to have a healthy lunch and students need to take more advantage of the options rather than repeating a familiar favorite. With a month left of school, try to branch out to the salad or deli bar!