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How can you convince teenagers to go healthy?

July 11, 2011

As I’ve been planning my nutrition classes for IMPRINT I can’t stop thinking how I can actually make the students believe that food matters. To begin with, they are all at middle school and you would expect that at their age they will be at least somewhat aware of what to eat and how to properly spend money on food.
The first time I met one of the boys he came to classes with a huge McDonald’s meal (his second for the day at 12:30PM as far as I remember) and since this kept happening later on I realized that this is the food he would eat almost all the time. This past week his mother started packing lunch for him, which again consists of a sandwich or two and some cookies. I didn’t see any fruits or veggies, maybe because he is a picky eater… However, to me it seems that the reason is maybe because he is allowed to be a picky eater….
What urged me to focus on nutrition and healthy eating were the trips to McDonald’s and Rita’s we all had recently. So these 14-15 years old kids were genuinely excited to get their fries, fraps, fats..etc. For people who have been to these places multiple times I didn’t expect this to be of a big deal. Yet they had so much fun and were so happy! In comparison with having educational lessons for which I am in charge this summer (each lesson discusses a different topic and is accompanied by videos, pictures, handouts, etc.) and the 3 mile scavenger hunt across the battlefields, these two particular experiences were a dream come true for the kids…!
So, I spend the past couple of days putting together powerpoints and activities and as I am finalizing everything for the week this morning I have started brainstorming how to actually be convincing enough. Just because I know that as soon as they see the McDonald’s sign they will forget about my lesson. Here is the big dilemma…how do you change a teenager’s mindset? How do you change your meals at home when your parents will most probably buy you this McDonald’s meal multiple times each week?
I felt the urge to blog before I go to the school since I am looking at my slides and can’t help thinking how appealing the healthy meals pictures on the slides are. After all “you are what you eat”… and yet I don’t know if my students will trust me or keep thinking that I am this college student who first came to IMPRINT to make them have lessons and give quizzes during the summer and now on top of that wants to tell them that what they like to eat is so wrong and what tastes so good for them is bad for their health. However, isn’t this exactly what I am supposed to do for this internship…challenge people and challenge myself! I am bound to try at least!!!
Aleks

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