Nearly 20 percent of all teenagers in the U-S are considered obese.
But learning to enjoy eating well when you're young can have a lasting impact- which is why students at Jackson Milton High School are learning how to replace popular sweets and treats with healthier options.
Health experts say one of the biggest barriers to eating healthy is knowing how to cook. But Sarah Barnes, the Family and Consumer Science teacher at Jackson-Milton is hoping to change that for her students.
Most recently Barnes and her class made a healthy twist on a classic guilty pleasure- carrot fries.
"So they actually learned the six nutrients and they know that when they eat a carrot it helps their eyesight it gives them wonderful nutrients throughout the day, rather than a starch being a quick energy and then they instantly burn it, where this energy is sustainable and lasts hours until they go to lunch," said Barnes.
It's a lesson that's ongoing throughout the class.
"We learn about my plate, the six nutrients, allergen-friendly stuff, other diets, so I usually have a guest speaker come in," Barnes explained.
Barnes says she cooks up the ideas for the food they'll cook by watching everyday food items.
"On social media and on websites they have the 10 30 second videos and I'm like ok, we could switch this out for a healthy alternative, we don't have to do potatoes- we can do carrot, we can do sweet potato and add those little moderations and get those done within the class period too," she said.
That creativity is something that can go a long way when passed on to the students.
"They will definitely know what's out there and if there's any illnesses or diseases that they can prevent along the way for the future that will benefit them now rather than find out years later 'oh I have to change my diet and I don't even know where to start'," she said.
And along the way, Barnes is hoping to bust the myth that eating healthy is difficult.
"It's not at all," Barnes said. "This was about five ingredients and most of the staples of the pepper and the oil are in their cabinets at home, they just have to get the carrots and fresh parsley if needed."
And students are fans of the lessons.
"Listen, I'm a guy who likes eating, I particularly enjoy eating actually- so this gives me a ton of healthy alternatives to things I usually eat," said Junior Brian Royea.
Royea was a little hesitant about the recipe at first but quickly warmed up to the idea.
"When you hear carrot fries you think that sounds disgusting but you know we're trying it over here and it's not bad," said Royea. "And it's a good alternative you know to something you eat every day. And I think that's good."
But the eleventh-grade student says it can be difficult to try new things, which is why he had some words of advice.
"A lot of people are afraid to go out of their comfort zone about all of these healthy alternatives, and a lot of them sound pretty gross if I'm being blunt about it," Royea explained. "But you don't know until you try, and you know, give yourself a chance to try stuff."
If you would like to try the carrot fries a dip that the class made, Barnes' recipe can be found below:
Garlic Parmesan–Baked Carrot Fries
1 tablespoon oil (additionally more if appears too dry)
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon pepper
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped (1 tablespoon dry)
½ teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 400°F/200°C.
Slice the top and bottom off of carrots then slice them in half, slice each half into thirds lengthwise.
In a large bowl, mix ingredients with carrot sticks.
Spread on a baking sheet.
Bake for 15-20 minutes (depending on how crispy you want them).
Allow to cool for 5 minutes.
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon pepper
Mix together ingredients in a small bowl.
Serve with warm carrot fries