If you glanced in my family’s pantry while I was growing up, you might have found sprouted amaranth cereal and dried apricots nestled next to bags of matcha tea. The freezer was stocked to the brim with every type of frozen fruit imaginable alongside chicken breasts and grass-fed beef—all organic, of course. We had hardly any sweets in the house aside from leftovers or whatever I would bake in my spare time (so believe me, I baked as much as I was allowed to). As a result, every day at school I would fill myself to the brim with the graham crackers served at snack and chocolate pudding at lunch, and when I would go to a friends house I could have died happily at the sight of Danimals, lemonade, or dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets.
When I lived at home, I had a well balanced diet that included all of the prerequisite food groups, and even dessert, if you count the snacks I devoured while out of the house. However, when I enrolled at Andover and began my first few months of living away from home, I found myself overwhelmed by the endless sugary snacks continuously available in Susie’s. I learned the Den’s baked-goods schedule by heart almost immediately, to the point where monkey bread on Thursdays was something to look forward to.
Soon, like most Juniors, my atrocious eating habits began to catch up to me and I started gaining weight and feeling lethargic all the time. I was lazier than ever and I felt like a car running on chocolate milk. However, because I had never learned moderation or that I did not have to immediately consume any junk food as soon as it was made available, I did not understand that I needed to eat healthy in order to maximize my physical and mental operation.
During the school year thus far, Paresky Commons has been furthering its push towards healthier meal options. Examples of these efforts include serving quinoa, adding options to the salad bar, removing the ice-cream machine, and adding in sweet potato pie as a dessert option. While I believe that it is absolutely vital for children and young adults to be nutritiously conscious, I am also a strong proponent for providing healthy food alongside treats like ice cream and bread pudding. In essence, Andover must find a balance that makes us as students feel our best and perform our strongest physically and mentally.
According to an article published on the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health website, parents’ micromanagement, restriction, or pressure towards their children to eat in specific ways all have negative effects on children’s food acceptance and can later lead to unhealthy eating and lifestyle habits. While the same article also acknowledges that many of children’s nutritional habits stem from the example their parents set, informed parents can set that example while still allowing their children to develop eating habits that work best for them. A different article on the same website described an experiment conducted by the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Pennsylvania State University. The results detailed that restricting access to certain foods refocuses children onto those foods, increasing their desire to consume these foods. It proved that restricting children’s access to these foods is not an effective mode of promoting moderate consumption and will encourage their consumption of these foods in the long run.
Therefore, the best way to educate children and young adults on nutrition is to educate them and allow them to make informed choices regarding their meals while still providing them with the opportunity to indulge their sweet tooth when they feel the need.
During my time at Andover, though I have learned a lot about nutrition and feeding myself with the fuel I need to perform my best, I am also still in the process of finding the balance in my life between nutrition and soul-food. I know that protein, carbohydrates, and vegetables are vital for performing as I should, but Thursdays are still my favorite day of the week.