Childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions: Some 4.7 million youths between 6 and 17 years of age are overweight or obese. The number of over-weight youths (11%) has more than doubled over the past 30 years. Type 2 diabetes, a disease linked to obesity and once found primarily in adults, is now present in all United States adolescent populations. Developing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are essential for the prevention of obesity as well as the long-term health of children. Many schools in the nation have taken efforts to provide the environment needed for students to develop such a healthy style, such as offering healthy lunch meals and healthy snacks in vending machines. However, knowledge, attitudes and healthy eating practices of students play a key role in the success of the school efforts.
What does healthy eating mean to high school students? How much do students know about healthy and nutritional foods? Why do students like "unhealthy fast food" and hate "healthy fruits and vegetables"? Would they buy the "healthier" but less tasty lunch or snacks if schools offered them? What would they do if the school replaced snacks of high fat and sugar with low-fat, low-sugar snacks? What would they do if the school replaced soda with water or healthier fruit juices? Would they buy the healthy snacks or water from the vending machines or bring their own unhealthy snacks or soda from home?