Inside look on students’ current diets and how they have changed in the past year

Elise Kaylor

Staff Writer

     It has been a year since shelter-in-place was declared. No longer at school, we are spending our days at home. This has affected our academic life, but what about our diets? School lunches include one piece of fruit, an optional salad bar, and the main meal. For those who ate breakfast and lunch at school, the variety and offerings there may differ from what they have access to at home. While talking to several students, some have eaten better at home and some have struggled with meals.

     For example, students like Lauren Cervantes (11) may have the inclination to opt for a more tasty and easy lunch rather than a healthy choice. 

     “I do feel like quarantine has definitely made my diet worse just because I am always in the house and any type of food is always accessible to me,” Cervantes admits. “In a typical day, I would say that probably eating chips and microwaveable foods have made my diet worse.”

     However, everybody’s diet is not the same, for example, Cynthia Hsu (12) explains how being home has actually helped improve her eating habits.

     “Quarantine has definitely helped my diet become healthier just because I get to eat breakfast and lunch now without feeling like I’m super rushed. With having lunch during quarantine, I’ve had the chance to explore new foods and make my own lunches which is completely different from pre-quarantine,” she notes. “I’ve also been able to finish my lunches since we no longer have to walk to our lunch spots. It definitely saves some time.”

 Here is an example of one of Cynthia Hsu’s choices for lunch. Now that she has time on her hand, she enjoys exploring different and healthier food choices.

     However, Kalia Rentar (12) points out that having access to so much food has not been a plus.  

     “I definitely feel like quarantine has made my diet a lot worse. I eat a lot more because I can eat whenever I want and I don’t have to wait until lunchtime or brunch to eat. The foods I’ve been eating have not got worse, I just have been snacking more.”

     In order to maintain a healthy diet, people need to have motivation. Hsu advises taking advantage of being in quarantine, as it has helped her in the long run.

     “I think others should have more motivation to eat better and make meals that they actually enjoy eating now. Since there’s more time to eat, many of my friends have been learning new recipes or overall enjoying their meals more. And since it’s actually filling up our stomachs, it seems that we have more energy to power through the last two hours of school.”

     Without this motivation, it is easy for students to eat whatever they please. Cervantes points out that being quarantined for so long as impacted her mental state.

     “I think being at home can definitely lead to being demotivated in anything you do. I wouldn’t be surprised if people were also less motivated to eat healthier. It is so easy to just sit around and do nothing. I think a lot of people get the misconception that eating healthy takes a lot of work so I think that’s also why people are less motivated to eat healthily.”

Kalia Rentar (12) is one of many students who feel like quarantine has worsened her diet, “Everyone is different so I can’t really speak for others, but I definitely think quarantine has changed everyone in one way or another.”

     With the worsening motivation to eat healthily and having poor diets, that raises the question: when returning to in-person learning, should the school implement new ways to improve diets? Or should it remain the same?

     Hsu suggests, “I always see students that purchase school lunch usually don’t want the fruits and veggies, so they always put it in the donation basket, which is why you’ll usually only see fruits and veggies in the basket and nothing else. Knowing this, I think the main course of school lunches should be healthier. Rather than just giving students these non-nutritious foods as the main item and adding fruit on the side as lunch, I think it would be better if the whole menu changed.” 

      This past year has been difficult, challenging, and stressful. Eating habits are influenced by how someone feels and their mental state; many have noticed shifts in their diet this past year.  As things start to open up again, vaccines rolled out, and the likelihood of gathering in-person seems more likely and closer, sharing a meal together will feel even sweeter. 

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