Our Scholarship Winner
Healthy eating and getting a good education are two life principles our family has always lived by. These might seem disparate concepts, but from our perspective, developing healthy eating habits and getting a good education can significantly change the trajectory of your life. To encourage these principles Something New For Dinner sponsored a college scholarship. Our essay question was "How should we encourage smarter eating?"
We received many great essays, with a wide variety of ideas on how to promote heathy eating. The scholarship winner is Rikesh Raichura, who will be studying Neuroscience and Mental Health at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. Rikesh is interested in disease prevention and working with patients that are likely to develop particular diseases such as Alzheimer's. He is interested in studying how diet can make a difference in these illnesses.
Rikesh wrote a thoughtful essay that described how individuals, government and industry could all do their part to improve the modern diet. Below is a short interview with Rikesh, as well as his winning essay.
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Interview with Rikesh
What is your professional interest in healthy eating?
I am really interested in disease prevention and would like to work with patients who are likely to develop diseases such as Alzheimer's and see if diets can make a difference.
Students attending university for the first time often find it challenging to eat well at college, with many falling victim to the "freshman 15." Have you given any thought as to how you will continue your healthy eating habits in college?
I find it easy to stay on track if I have healthy foods at home, ready to grab and go. I also like to have protein with breakfast so I don't get too hungry or tired during the day. I plan to continue to stay active, which will help with weight maintenance.
What is your favorite dish?
I like all sorts of foods, but especially steak and sushi.
Do you cook? And if so, can you share one of your favorite recipes with us?
Yes, I have been helping my mom in the kitchen since I was little. One of my favorite recipes is Black Bean Soup. Click here to see Rikesh's recipe.
Here is Rikesh's essay:
Promoting Healthy Eating
In today's modern society, healthy eating has become something that is overlooked by many people. There are several reasons for this. Some of these reasons include a lack of time, a lack of knowledge, and a belief that eating healthy is more expensive and difficult. This has led to an epidemic of obesity that needs to change. I believe a multifaceted approach is necessary for solving this problem.
1. Promoting healthy eating from a young age
Children learn their eating habits from their parents, and this sets the stage for how they will eat throughout their lives. As such, parents need to model healthy eating. In addition, parents are responsible for providing access to a wide variety of healthy foods. Young children mostly have access to the foods available in their home so it is imperative that parents provide access to healthy snacks. Because my brother has multiple allergies, my mother made most of our foods from scratch. We never had a lot of processed foods growing up, and it's just become how I eat and what I like.
Schools also need to partner with parents in promoting healthy eating. Vending machines and cafeterias should serve healthy foods in high school. If children come into high school having been exposed to healthy eating habits from a young age, they will not miss having the low nutrition, processed foods normally served in high school cafeterias.
In my elementary school, starting in Grade Four, there were health classes, in which proper eating was an important topic. Our cafeteria also served only healthy, nutritious meals to us. By growing up eating and learning about health food, I am better able to make proper decisions when it comes to my own meals, showing the effectiveness of teaching things like this at a young age.
Finally, children need to feel involved and have choices. Parents should get their kids involved in making the meals, and deciding what to eat. Since I was 8, my mother allowed us to "make" our snacks for our lunches. We would have to pick two healthy items and one treat - however, the treat was usually home made and therefore made out of healthy, whole ingredients.
If a child grows up eating healthy foods, it is unlikely that he/she will change his/her preferences dramatically upon reaching adulthood.
2. Making healthy food more cost effective
Something that prevents a lot of people from eating healthy is the cost of food that is better for you. For many, a meal at McDonalds better fits into their budget than preparing a plate of organic fruits and vegetables. This is something that could stop a lot of people, who may want to eat healthy, from doing so.
A possible solution for this could be a tax adjustment regarding different types of food. Fast food and other various forms of junk food could have a greater tax placed on them, while healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, and fresh meat, will have a reduced tax placed on them. A drastic change like this would influence many people into making the more healthy choice, as it is now, now only the one that is better for them, but that is better for their wallet.
3. Remove influence of lobbyists on any health related recommendations by the government
A lot of what we believe about health is based on research studies or recommendations by Health Canada and other government organizations. A lot of these recommendations are influenced by lobbyists and special interests groups. They provide funding to politicians and programs in exchange for supporting their industry, be it, dairy, agricultural farming, etc. Interestingly, the milk lobby has been spending millions to encourage people to drink more and more milk, despite increasing evidence that it is not necessary for humans to drink the milk of another mammal. The recent proposed changes to the U.S. food guide is recommending a more plant based diet, and lobbyists for meat farmers are spending astronomical funds to have the report revised. It makes it difficult to know who to believe.
I think a government's first priority is to ensure the safety of its people and ensuring our health is a part of that. As such, any recommendations should be based on research that is not funded by any special interest groups whose livelihood will be impacted by the outcome.
By implementing some of the changes which I have just stated, I believe a foreseeable decrease in public obesity and food-related illness would be incredibly feasible. Making nutritious foods more easily available compared to fast food, as well as teaching the importance of healthy eating at a young age were two of the key points which I think should be encouraged. By doing this, many will make the choice of eating healthier, as it would be the more logical choice to them, as well as something that more would be able to do. Finally, if the influence of lobbyists is removed, then the only influence that people would be getting regarding their food choices would be that of scientific proof. They would be making choices based on actual data, which will actually be beneficial to their health, rather than beneficial to any third parties.
We appreciate your well-written and thoughtful essay and wish you the best of luck in your college education and future profession. We love the idea that you are interested in bringing nutrition to the field of health. Good luck on your journey!