Teen nutrition in America has changed drastically since 1946. Some of the things that have caused this change are the initiation of a school lunch program, sedentary lifestyles, and changes in the type of food that people eat. This has resulted in obesity, type II diabetes at an earlier age, and eating disorders. The nation's school lunch program was issued in 1946. It opened in order for schools to "improve the nutritional health of the nation's children" (American Kids: Diet of Danger). It is said that the lunch program feeds about 27 million kids and over 94, 000 schools every year.

Right after the lunch program started, people were eating healthier, but this didn't last long. After about two years, the lunch program began to decline in how healthy it was. Nowadays, schools serve salty snacks and fatty foods. One of the reasons that schools serve these kinds of food is because "schools get high fat foods for free or little amounts of money, but for the less fat foods, they have to pay large amounts of money." "On the average of the school lunches everyday, about 40% of the food is fat" (American Kids: Diet of Danger). Teens really don't eat fruits and veggies at all "except perhaps the iceberg lettuce sandwiched between the slice of tomato and the pickle decorating the hamburger they purchased at the local fast-food restaurant" (Krebs-Smith, 81-86).

In 1960, President Kennedy proposed that all schools in the United States were to exercise everyday. In Kennedy's speech he stated, .".. All of you as individuals and as groups will participate in strengthening the physical well-being of boys and girls... ." Before he gave his speech, people had been eating on a 'meat and potato' diet. They ate fries, burgers, and shakes and didn't care anything about it. President Kennedy saw this and also the fact that children were not exercising as much as they needed to.

After a while the exercising too became a low priority. Although people might think of it as a low priority, it most definitely isn't. The more you exercise, the more calories you burn. Also, exercising daily can reduce the chances of blood clots and heart diseases (American Kids: Diet of Danger). Today, the nutrition of teens has also been affected because the school PE requirements have changed. Some people may ask, "why exercise?" Well, exercising burns off calories and according to a survey in American Averages, some of the more obvious reasons that make sense to teens include "being able to better maintain weight loss, improving balance and coordination, and gaining more control over one's life." ."..

Exercise also helps maintain and improve flexibility, offering such benefits as increased concentration and energy in sports and outdoor activities (Frissell and Harney, 99-100)." The only state that still requires exercise every day is the state of Illinois. Thus, meaning that most students of the United States are not physically fit. Studies show that "about 40% of kids from the age of six to seventeen cannot do a pull up... ." and that "girls about fifteen years ago were able to run a 50 yard dash faster than girls today" (American Kids: Diet of Danger). Other studies show that more than one third of all meals are eaten away from home, with the majority of these meals eaten at fast-food restaurants.

Because of the nutrition levels being so low, people are becoming obese. More and more people are becoming obese because of eating too much, exercising too little, poor eating habits, and heredity. Eating too much does necessarily mean the amount of food that you consume, it means eating too much of the wrong kinds of food. For example, if one were to eat half a salad, vegetable soup, 2 rolls and 3 cookies for dinner, the person would probably not become obese. But on the other hand if one ate 3 slice of pizza, 2 breadsticks, and ice cream, one might become obese over a long period of time.

Exercising too little can also be a cause of obesity. Without moving around and being active your body cannot burn off excess calories that one has gained. "American teenagers spend about twenty-two hours a week watching television and playing video games. Some experts have found that watching lots of television can be connected to obesity. Teens who watch lots of television expend less energy and are less physically fit than teens that watch less television. So, it is no surprise that 21 percent of teens, age twelve to nineteen, are overweight" (Update, 1).

Exercising is also important because it boosts the body's metabolism. Two people can be the same size and eat the same amount of calories, but one is overweight and one isn't. This is because the overweight person does not get exercise and burn off calories and the thinner one either has more muscle or exercises more. Another explanation for the recent upsurge in obesity is the change in eating habits of Americans. More people are eating at fast food restaurants, which are usually extremely high in calories. Also, people are eating on the run and need to eat so one grabs a bag of chips, cookies, or other high fat snacks.

One of the last things that can lead to obesity is heredity. "Scientists in the past five years have discovered an important hormone called "leptin." This natural substance appeared to trigger a slimming process when given to rats. It appeared to boost energy levels so the rats ate less food. As a result, the obese rats became normal weight. Incorrect levels of leptin in the body may be linked to the inheritance of obesity. (Frissell/ Harney, 14)." One effect of obesity is type II diabetes.

Little states in her book that "Excess fat interferes with the work of insulin. Insulin receptors become less sensitive to the hormone's presence. The receptors also become defective and no longer securely bind insulin molecules to the exterior cell walls. Without a secure binding, the insulin cannot effectively draw glucose from the bloodstream and transmit it to the cell's interior. Glucose levels remain high, which triggers the beta cells to produce even more insulin" (47). This means that fat in an obese person's body makes it hard for the body to get the amount of insulin it needs because the fat is building up and blocking the passage that the insulin flows through.

If people started exercising more, and eating healthier foods, there might not be as many obese people and type II diabetics. These days, the society and media of everyday life is bombarding people. Young people today are increasingly overwhelmed by countless "perfect" body images on TV, in the movies, and throughout magazines. Many teenagers compare themselves to these unrealistic standards and lead to the conclusion that they are losers because of how overweight they feel. The feeling that they are losers leads to eating disorders. The three eating disorders are known as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder.

Estimates are that one of every two hundred females' ages ten to thirty years suffers from the serious eating disorder known as anorexia nervosa. Anorexia has appalling drastic results, for instance, the sight of a once-lovely teenager, now skin and bones, looking like a refugee from a concentration camp. Even more shocking is to hear this person insist that she is "too fat" and needs to lose more weight, so he or she starves himself or herself. Another eating disorder is bulimia nervosa.

A teenager with bulimia looks normal, because he or she does not become more emaciated as does an anorexic. This is because the methods to lose weight do not work very well, though the impact on the person's health is very real. Recovering bulimic people have to spend a lot of money on repairs to their teeth from vomiting. The last eating disorder is the binge eating disorder. Experts know the least about binge eating. It is like the other eating disorders because it involves feelings of low self-worth, guilt, shame, and powerlessness.

It is most like bulimia because it involves eating large amounts of food in short amounts of time and using food to soothe or distract himself or herself from painful events or feelings. An expert summarizes it as "If a person can focus on weight, body size or food, she doesn't have to focus on problems that seem unsolvable. She doesn't have to find appropriate problem-solving skills. She has the 'perfect solution' to decrease painful feelings... at least temporarily" (Frissell/ Harney, 30). However, unlike the bulimia, someone with binge-eating disorder does not try to purge the food by vomiting or exercising.

As a result, someone with this disorder may become overweight. In conclusion, teenagers in America are facing such things as obesity, type II diabetes, and eating disorders as a result of changes in lifestyle and eating habits of this country over the past 56 years. Some of the things that have affected these changes are the initiation of a school lunch program, sedentary lifestyles, and changes in the type of food that people eat. Simple changes such as eating healthier foods and being more physically active could improve quality of life and avoid life-threatening diseases.