Did you eat your lunch?

Did you at your lunch? That’s a phrase we’ve all been asked before, isn’t it? Our parents would check our lunchboxes after school, searching for a trace of an uneaten sandwich. They told us eating our lunch and finishing our dinner was key to growing up healthy and strong. But when adults constantly seem to be dieting and restricting what they eat, why do they want us kids to finish off every last bite?

Just a small bit of research tells me that what we eat and drink during our early years can affect our health for many years to come. General eating habits are formed in the first few years of life, so it is important that we eat good, wholesome and nutritious food. Just like a mobile phone needs to be recharged every day, so does the human body. We need to eat food and drink water every day to keep our bodies going. Food gives us the energy to grow, play games, be healthy and learn. This means eating nutritious food, and plenty of it!

The connection between eating well and being ready to face the world makes sense for most of us. From candy bar commercials asserting “you’re not you” when you’re hungry, to the word “hangry” for that bad mood we fall into when we’re hungry. But as we are growing, this is no laughing matter. A lack of nutritious food can leave us at risk for developmental delays, which have serious effects in terms of long-term academic and social development. 

However, eating a healthy diet is far from simple. We make the majority of our food choices based on their enjoyment factor. In fact, eating is such an enjoyable experience that we often choose to eat foods that taste very good, but that don’t make us feel very good afterward. We also enjoy these foods so much that we eat more than our bodies actually need!

It’s a lot of work to eat healthy; it takes discipline and isn’t always fun, so why bother? Well, the health of your body is the determining factor for what kind of lifestyle you can lead in the future. Just like a smoker faces a possible future of lung cancer, if you neglect healthy eating habits you not only face a possible future of being overweight or obese, you also run the risk of depression, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and more. The choices you make each day – from what to eat for breakfast to whether or not to have another slice of cake – affect how you feel and how you perform, which as you may be able to guess, affects everything you do.

A good place to start is to challenge yourself to come up with some new healthy eating habits every day. Instead of trying to cut out all the “bad” foods you eat, like sweets, soda, candy, and other junk food, it’s much easier to start by adding more healthy foods to your diet, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, nuts, and legumes. This way, you will slowly be replacing the bad food with the good food and won’t be left with a huge void where your bad foods once were. This will make it easier to let go of some of your most unhealthy ‘favourite’ foods.

So choose the apple over the brownie, the sandwich over the doughnut, the homemade dinner over the happy meal – the future you will thank you!

Critical Thinking Questions:

  1. What positive implications will eating healthy have on you in the future?
  2. Is it too late to change a bad diet?
  3. What effect does unhealthy food have on the body?

Practical Thinking Questions:

  1. Think of five of your favourite foods, then think of five healthy alternatives. Try and incorporate these into your diet.
  2. Write down the food that you eat in a week – do you need to make some changes or are you doing well? Include how much water you are drinking also.
  3. Challenge a friend or a sibling to make some healthy diet changes with you. They don’t have to be huge changes, just a small alteration that will help you be healthier in the long run.
Hannah Skelton

Hannah Skelton

Hannah is a fourth-year law student at Otago University, with one year to go until she graduates. She works part-time at a bookshop and is a volunteer legal advisor at Community Law. When she isn’t studying or working she enjoys cooking delicious plant-based food, reading lots of books, sleeping in and, of course, enjoying the student lifestyle in Dunedin. She loves that writing for Kiwi Kids News encourages her to think about the ways in which current events and societal issues affect young people uniquely.
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