About 80 percent of U.S. teens follow an unhealthy diet, according to National Health and Nutrition Examination.
Many teens think that eating healthy costs more money and tastes better, especially in Long Beach where many cheap fast food joints are placed directly across the street from schools. But there are easy ways to eat healthier and it doesn’t have to be difficult, expensive or bland.
For instance, adding more tomatoes to your burger or having a fruit cup after your meal are simple and affordable ways to enhance the healthiness of your meal. Putting thinner slices of bread on your burger is much healthier than having a full bun or even just asking if the meat you are about to eat has been fried is a good way to eat healthy.
Aside from adding nutritious pieces to your meal, eating in moderation is also always important to remember when trying to stay healthy.
“Teens understand nutrition a lot more now and more aware of it than when I was a kid,” said Chef Paul Buchanan, Long Beach restaurant consultant and caterer. “I’m not saying don’t eat fries but don’t have fries every day.”
VoiceWaves youth reporters came up with a list of five local healthy and affordable restaurants in Long Beach where you and your family can eat out without having to worry about calories and the money.
Lola’s Mexican Restaurant
Mexican food has seemed to earn an unfavorable reputation as food that is consistently unhealthy. That’s how Long Beach teen Sarah Rice talked about Mexican food before she went on to recommend Lola’s as a restaurant that tastes good and is healthy.
While she says she doesn’t go there often, when she does she “doesn’t feel bad about having eaten there.” It is a cozy restaurant located down 4th Street and it is sure to satisfy. It provides Mexican food that is made with organic ingredients and is affordable for any teen looking to enjoy a nice authentic Mexican meal without worrying about eating unhealthy.
Recommendation: A meal that she strongly recommended is their Lola’s Green Salad. It is healthy and affordable at $5.95. It comes with organic greens, slices of orange and jicama and homemade citrus vinaigrette on the side. If you want chicken added to the salad it is just $2 extra, making it still affordable for any teen that is looking to eat healthy and not spend a fortune.
Who doesn’t enjoy a good burger from a local restaurant? The burgers from Louis’ Burgers have what Long Beach teen Jose Lopez describes as “fantastic.” Although he doesn’t always get to go out and enjoy a burger, when he does decide to go out Louis’ Burgers is his go-to burger spot.
“The burgers at Louis’ just have a taste that burgers at McDonald’s don’t have,” Jose said. Jose also explained his decision to eat at Louis’ by saying that compared to all other fast food restaurants where he could get a burger and fries Louis’ Burgers seemed to him the “healthiest.”
It’s interesting to see a local restaurant providing salads in their dinner meals seeing as many people don’t usually go for the healthy approach to eating. The inclusion of the salad must serve as a reminder of healthy eating even in places that are presumed to be specifically fast food places.
Recommendation: While burgers are good, a burger at Louis’ isn’t cheap. What is more affordable and healthier is their Chicken Strip Dinner. Chicken is healthier for your heart and has less cholesterol than beef. “It’s a lot of food but for a small amount of money,” Jose said. “It’s a good deal.” The chicken dinner goes for just $7.19.
To make it a little healthier, one can order a drink like horchata instead of ordering a soda. Horchata is a delicious drink made from rice and cinnamon.
Sophy’s Fine Thai & Cambodian Cuisine
If you’ve never tasted the high-spiced and flavorful Cambodian dishes that Long Beach has to offer, we suggest trying some. There are so many great Cambodia restaurants in Long Beach, so it’s hard for us to just pick one. But Sophy’s has a great variety of healthy foods, a great staff and even people who eat there are friendly. Their food is always hot and fast, so if you ever in a hurry for lunch, Sophy’s is your place to eat.
Recommendation: We all struggle to eat healthy sometimes, especially when we go out with family or friends. We often never want to think of ordering a salad, because in the back of our minds we know it’s going to taste plain. This is not the case at Sophy’s.
“Their Beef Plea Salad is very tasty and healthy,” according to Diana Al-Shammari, a senior at Wilson High School. “It’s very tasty and its filling, if you ever want to share a meal with a friend this is what you should order. It’s great, it’s filling, and it’s enough for two.”
Most of the dishes are $10 and under, so it’s affordable to anybody that likes to go out to eat. Their beef skewers and papaya salad are also must-haves.
Pho Hong Phat Vietnamese Restaurant
Who would have thought soup was cool? Vietnamese soup, or “pho,” is probably the most popular and famous dish from Vietnam. And it’s all the rage these days with silly restaurants all over named “Simply Pho You” and “Pho-tastic.” Here in Long Beach we have Pho Hong Phat. Their delicious soups are not only comforting in cold weather, they’re good anytime. The ambiance is great too– there’s a TV inside if your one of those people who like to eat and watch TV. It’s a cozy place to eat at with family and friends.
Recommendation: “Their rare beef pho is very delicious and it’s definitely a must,” said 18-year old Long Beach resident Mirna Gad. “If you’re trying to eat just a little healthier, try their chicken pho ga with sprouts & leaves. It’s light and perfect for lunch.”
If possible, ask for low-sodium broth and extra sprouts and greens to make it even more beneficial to your health.
Portfolio Coffeehouse is one of those places you enter and you will feel at home from all the warmth it has. Located in the East Village Arts District, it is a beacon for the local art and music community. But when there isn’t an open mic night or art exhibition happening at Portfolio’s, it is also a great place to study.
“I love this place,” said Emma Salazar, a junior at Wilson High. “It’s absolutely the best place to spend your afternoon at, especially during summer. Because you can do some work there or study and no one would distract you.”
Recommendations: The Caprese Panini (mozzarella with tomato) with Raspberry Vinaigrette Salad for $7.50. This sandwich and salad combo is great because it’s healthy and it still fills you up. Plus, it tastes delicious. Another good meal is the vegetarian breakfast croissant: egg, avocado, tomato and cheese. With the double protein from the avocado and egg, it is definitely the breakfast of champions. If you have a few extra bucks, they also sell fresh juice mixes made locally for $7.
For more information about healthy eating for teens, click on this online guide produced by the National Institute of Health.