Everywhere you turn, there is a Checkers, a McDonalds or a Burger King fast food restaurant; get in, get out, get to where you’re going. Today’s teen is always on the move, from school to various sports and after school functions or jobs.
The idea of food on the move is a wonderful concept, but often teens don’t understand what they are eating.
Eighteen-year-old Eddie Jones is a senior at Butler High School and a member of the step team. Before practice, he chooses to go to Checkers because it’s quick and close. If time and distance were not an issue, Eddie says that he would eat from Subway because it’s healthier.
“It’s not that I would rather eat a Checkers burger,” Eddie explained. “But with the time we are given it’s the only option.”
Eddie also said money was a factor in deciding what he would eat. “It feels like all the healthy food is expensive and the fast unhealthy food is cheaper. I don’t have a job so I'm always conscious of how much I'm spending.”
Jessica Baye is the chief clinical dietitian at the Medical College of Georgia and she agrees with Eddie in that fast food is cheaper than healthier food.
“With the two dollars you spend on a burger and large drink at McDonald's, you could maybe buy an apple at the grocery store. This is one of the main reasons fast food is so appealing to teens.”
When Eddie was told that there are 420 Calories in a box of medium Checkers fries, he was shocked.
“Wow,” he said. “I knew it was high but not that high. Maybe I should lay off for a while.”
Baye said she’s seen an impact of fast food on teen health. She has seen more teens and young adults with traditional adult diseases like heart disease, high blood pressure and juvenile diabetes, she said.
Timothy Gunter is a Butler High School senior and four-year veteran of the marching and concert band. Before a football game or a performance, he has noticed that very few members of the band go home to make a healthy meal, instead he watches as most of the students disperse to fast food joints some even carpool to a Chinese restaurant up the street.
“People get the wrong idea when they see commercials and advertisements,” Timothy said. “Fast food places try to pull you in with their dollar menus. I guess people think that a snack wrap is healthy, the food looks good on the television, but when you buy it there is a lot less lettuce and a lot more fat grease.”
Baye said fast food can be eaten in moderation maybe twice a month.
“It’s the exception, not the rule. It would be better to eat the grilled chicken sandwich over the fried chicken sandwich, or the small fries instead of the half pound of potatoes."
She also said to stay away from the secret sauce, which is usually just salt and grease.
Seventeen-year-old Lorenzo Streetman, also a Butler student, believes that fast food is not such a bad thing, if it is eaten in moderation. He says the problem is not the food, it is the people.
“We have no self control any more, we are not a disciplined people. Sure it’s okay to have a burger and milkshake to treat yourself, but have that maybe twice a month.”
When he was asked about the fact that healthy food more than unhealthy food, he responded by saying: “we can’t worry about saving money you can be rich and dead or middle class and healthy you choose.”
When asked if there was any link between obesity and socioeconomic class, Baye answered by saying “sadly there is a link fast food is cheaper and healthier food is very overpriced, so the lower class family is more inclined to eat fast less than the higher class family who can afford to eat at a health food store.”
Finally Baye said that it is all about education: “teach people about what they are eating like, staying away grease salt and sugar, and maybe we can save this generation.”
Teen Board Member Aaron M. H. Anderson is a senior at Butler High School