Teenage Education on Dietary Needs

 In July 2015, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advocated for sugar to be included in the percent daily value on nutrition labels.

 This recommendation was based off of a study from the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), which indicated sugar should not be more than 10 percent of a person’s diet.

 “(The) FDA considered the evidence that the DGAC used,” said, Lauren Kotwicki, press officer for the FDA, said, “which showed that it is difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie requirements if one exceeds 10 percent of total calories from added sugar.”

Including a recommendation for the Dietary Reference Value (DRV) of sugar was first suggested in March 2014. Considering the given information at that point, the FDA decided it could not label a quantitative value to sugar intake.

However, according to Kotwicki, the reports from March 2014 “supported the establishment of a DRV for added sugars and suggested that the mandatory declaration of a percent DV on the label is needed to assist consumers in putting the amount of added sugars in a serving of food in the context of (their) total daily diet.”

Overconsumption of sugar is linked to an increased risk of obesity and diabetes. Eating large amounts of sugar also lowers HDL (good) cholesterol levels, which can lead up to heart disease.   

According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2005-2010, about 16 percent of the diet of an American child or adolescent consists of added sugars.

“Teenagers and Americans in general consume way too much sugar,” junior Kendall Smith said. “There is sugar in every processed thing we eat.”

As stated in the MyPlate recommendations, the average 14-18 year-old boy should consume two cups fruit, three cups vegetables, eight ounce equivalents grain, six and a half ounce equivalents protein, three cups dairy and six teaspoons oils. A 14-18 year-old girl should consume one and a half cups fruit, two and a half cups vegetables, six ounce equivalents grain, five ounce equivalents protein, three cups dairy and five teaspoons oils.

“The average caloric intake for Americans,”  health teacher Kathie Sinor said, “is about 2000 calories.”      

This is the number that percent daily values are based upon.

Tracking dietary habits has become an increasing trend. While some physically write out the foods they are eating, others maintain digital records to determine and regulate their nutritional needs.

Each term, Sinor assigns her students to a nutrition project in which the students log their meals and snacks over a period of three days onto Supertracker, a website that calculates nutritional deficiencies.

After reviewing her students’ results, Sinor said “teenagers are typically getting enough protein in their diet, but they’re lacking overall on calories.”

These conclusions, Sinor said, usually surprise her students. Most expect they are overeating or consuming just the right amount. But with a high emphasis on sports at Granite Bay High School, many students work off their intake of calories.

 “15 percent of our population probably doesn’t have any breakfast whatsoever,” Sinor said. “So if they have second lunch, their brain has not had any nourishment since the night before and that can be upwards of 16, 17 hours without food. So their brains are lacking the proper nourishment.”

In addition to not consuming enough, teenagers are exposed to unhealthy food. In between class periods and during lunch, students are able to purchase snacks such as Pop Tarts, muffins, Chex Mix, chips and Powerade from vending machines.

While some teachers allow snacks within their classroom, others prohibit food and drinks. Others are particular about the types of food allowed in the classroom. Sinor, wanting to encourage hearty diets, only permits fresh fruits and vegetables.

Though the processed foods found in vending machines consist of processed sugars which lack the vitamins and minerals that are essential for maintaining a healthy diet, not all sugars are detrimental to the body.

Complex sugars, including sucrose and lactose, break down into simple sugars, such as glucose. Without the need to be broken down further,  simple sugars are processed in the body much  faster.

“I use the analogy of having a good quality fuel versus a cheap fuel,” Sinor said. “You want to have good quality fuel in your system to where your body can break it down for a steady period of time and that’s going to be through the complex carbohydrates, which are the starches.”

Despite GBHS’s requirement to take a health class freshman year, many students lose interest in their nutritional needs.   

“Teenagers know what’s healthy,” Smith said. “They’re just too lazy to do anything about it.”

Published on Thursday, December 17, 2015

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