You are What You Eat
March 24, 2020
Proper nutrition for teenagers is the key to performing well at school, in sports, and avoiding short and long-term illnesses. Seattle Prep has made a concerted effort to care for student nutrition in both how faculty members include the subject in their teaching, but also in the offerings provided by Chef Kenyetta Carter in the Smith Cafeteria.
The True Benefits of Nutrition
Eating a healthy, nutritious diet is essential for students in high school. Similar to how students do not get adequate amounts of sleep, many students lack nutrition. Without a nourishing diet, students will be unable to flourish in life and education.
Science teacher, Mr. Meza, explained truly how important it is: “I think it is likely more important than we realize or prioritize. It is right up there with sleep, hygiene, and exercise.”
According to a study by the University of Minnesota, 60% of national high school students skip breakfast each morning. Biology teacher, Ms. Vickrey confirmed the importance of proper nourishment for young adults as “ your bodies and brains are developing.”
She continued to say that “there’s been lots of research and studies that show that a balanced diet is very important in overall development.”
Eating healthy is vital to many aspects of life. However, there are some obstacles blocking people from achieving this. Meza stated, “It is so critical to be fully informed but we battle a few things: 1) lack of concise, testable, & reputable information, 2) our evolved response to love all unhealthy foods for their quick feel-good chemicals, & 3) the teenage body can offset poor dietary intake with a faster metabolism so negative impacts of nutrition are somewhat dampened.”
The Harvard School of Public Health conducted a study in 2013, which revealed that consuming a nutritious diet is about $1.50 more expensive per day than eating a diet full of processed foods and refined grains.
Despite this, healthy foods do not have to be pricey. According to an article by WebMD, it is much more important to stop “worrying about those extra labels” such as “gluten-free” or “organic” when consuming a nutritious diet.
The greatest difference between healthy and unhealthy foods are the amount of micronutrients. Fruits and vegetables, meats, and fish have more micronutrients than their junk food counterparts (candy, french fries, burgers). These micronutrients help your body perform its best.
Vickrey agreed that there are many barriers keeping people from consuming a wholesome diet. This is through deceiving information online. “I think we are susceptible to misinformation. It’s a matter of educating yourself.” She affirms that “being able to know where to go for information (outside of school) is important.”
Despite these risks, she believes that the Prep community does a sound job in educating their students on such topics as she thinks, “from science classes at Prep (we) get a good idea of nutrition.”
Overall, a nutritious diet is vital for the well- being of students at Seattle Prep and all over America. Seattle Prep students must be able to recognize the importance of eating healthy. Food helps power students’ brains and therefore increases work productivity. For students to achieve their best ability, it is important for them to eat their fruits and vegetables.
Behind the Scenes at the Smith Cafe
Each school day, about 1/3 of Prep’s student body uses the food services from the Smith Family Café. Food options and the daily menu, including a great variety of cookies, soups, and sandwiches, are served and prepared daily by head chef Ms. Kenyetta Carter and her staff.
The mastermind behind it all, Ms. Carter, has been in the restaurant business for 32 years and was even chef at the famous Kingfish Café on Capitol Hill for fifteen years. Before this, she minored in nutrition and graduated with a BA in food science and production management. She started her work at Prep in the fall of 2014, following the remodel of Adelphia Memorial Hall. Upon arrival, she was tasked with creating a food service program for multiple locations on campus.
“I used my many years of restaurant skills and research to build a program from the ground up,” expressed Ms. Carter. In creating a new food program for the school, it was her goal to move away from more institutionalized style lunches (compartment trays) to something “homier.”
Today, the general rotation of hot entrees served only in the Smith cafeteria include Meatless Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, Sandwich Wednesday, Wild Card Thursday, and Comfort Friday, mostly being pizza or fish. On some Fridays, “I mix it up if there’s a holiday or something I want to showcase,” saidCarter. The daily entrée is posted on the PowerSchool calendar. There is also a salad bar open every day and a weekly rotating pasta and burrito bowl in the cafeteria.
In creating the weekly menu, Carter starts with mostly crowd favorites and says that it will “sprinkle in the more creative items that appeal to more adventurous eaters.” Proper nutrition is also a factor in creating the menu, however, Carter admits that balancing nutrition is quite difficult.
“The healthy options we offer are not always the most popular, but I like that we switch out some of the less healthy options with a more thoughtful option,” she says. These alternatives include wheat pasta in the pasta bar, the spinach or wheat wrap on a burrito, or making their fries, salad dressings and soups to cut down on sugars, salt and processed oils that exist in already processed foods. Carter does claim that “I do sneak in a surprising amount of vegetable, fiber, and fruit to balance everything out.”
“I’m also a believer in moderation, so burgers and fries don’t get sacrificed for nutrition,” she adds.
Carter gets her ingredients from local purveyors that she had developed relationships with for over 20 years. This way, she says, they know her needs quite well. This includes several ingredients from Harbor Foods, whose corporate campus is in Lacey, WA, produce from Charlie’s Produce here in Seattle, and meats from Kirkland butcher Cascioppo Brothers.
“The quality rarely suffers because I have built a reputation and relationship with these companies, they keep me informed of trends or items that would benefit my operations, and with being mostly local they can get things quickly to me,” said Carter.
In the modern Smith Café food program, “I didn’t want to dictate to students. I wanted to have them make choices, so that’s why the sides that come with lunches are available,” relayed Carter. Choices of optional sides include hard-boiled eggs, carrot sticks, tangerines, apples, apple sauce, and many other smaller yet healthy snacks.
Studies have proved that better nutrition will boost a student’s focus and energy. Nutrition is also shown to help students perform better for athletic events, and thus should be important in the Prep community, as 75% of Prep students play at least one sport. And, as a chef for Prep students, Carter believes that food is a great contributor to the overall health and wellness of the human body. “When your stomach is happy, a lot of other things fall into place. If you overeat, you can feel sleepy and unmotivated, too much salt can make you bloated and cause high blood pressure. When you eat well, you can perform better in almost all areas of life,” she says.
“You only get one body, so why not take care of it?”