Your next ‘A’ may come from your next parfait

Brandon Giel, Staff Writer

Between work and school, it can be difficult to find time to eat a balanced and nutritious meal. Because studies have shown a link connecting school performance to good nutrition, many students have opted to plan their meals for the week by making them ahead of time. 

Healthy nutrition is a vital part of many people’s overall health, but when we live in a world where the average teen takes in 28 teaspoons of sugar (six teaspoons is the RDA) and 26 grams of fat (20 grams is the RDA), it is very hard to remain healthy with all the projects, tests, and homework students have. The line between what we should be eating and what we are eating is a hurdle however since school performance and diet go hand-in-hand. 

According to the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care (JFMPC), “Our study confirms that the regular consumption of breakfast and frequent intake of fruits, vegetables, and milk contributed to high levels of school performance to varying degrees. Having fruits and vegetables was associated with excellent performance among 77.7 percent of the students compared to 69.7 percent of those who did not. ” But, when students are having cinnamon buns and Pop-Tarts for breakfast, which is what the school mostly offers, they are not reaching their potential as if they had had a good nutritious breakfast. 

Students who eat lunch at school are prompted to choose unhealthy snacks and meals, such as pizza, burgers, pulled pork, Philly cheesesteaks, and Stromboli, because it is what is available and is part of the free lunch program. As a result, when students struggle to get the right nutrients they tend to struggle with concentration, memory, and other cognitive skills, which can lead to poor academic performance. 

These unhealthy options are the main reason why many students have opted to meal prep. Being able to cook or make your own food cannot only eliminate the non-nutritious food from your lunch and allow yourself to eat your favorite healthy meals, but it can also help you in many different ways such as reducing stress and saving money. On average, planning your meal ahead of time can save you about $100 a month, and who doesn’t like a little extra money in their bank account?

“Every Sunday night I prepare meals for the week because I have to be able to maintain weight while putting healthy foods in my body,” explained sophomore Bryan Hall, an MMA competitor.

“I can’t really eat the school food because it’s either not nutritious or it just doesn’t fit my diet.” 

Sophomore Richard Oneil echoes Hall’s sentiment. “It is very hard to stick to my diet at school, so I try to prepare meals for school as  much as I possibly can.”    

Students planning out their meals can also greatly affect their mental health for the better. According to Sutter Health, a national healthcare organization, explained, “ Healthy eating has been linked to improved mood and mental health, which can help students maintain a positive attitude and avoid negative behaviors that can affect their school performance.” When students are in a great positive mood they are more likely to be more focused, engaged, and motivated in their studies. Even if they face adversity or stress they are better able to handle the challenges or obstacles that they may face. Better mental health, overall, helps students stay motivated and committed to their education, even when things get tough. 

According to Grace Chen, an educator and researcher, “French fries, sugary desserts, cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets, and other cafeteria staples are filling kids with food that actually lowers their brain power before sending them back to class.”

If you insist on eating at Central’s cafeteria, there are a few healthy options such as a yogurt parfait with granola, fresh fruit or a fruit cup, salads, apple sauce, and corn and bean salsa.  Students can also check the nutritional content of food served in the cafeteria by going to the Palm Beach County District website.