Dear Straight Talk: I am 21, my little brother is 15. We are very close. The problem is he lives with our dad and my dad and his wife aren't food conscious like my mom, who shops organic. They let him eat candy, fast food, and drink Cokes on a daily basis. He has developed psoriasis, intestinal problems, food allergies, and is becoming overweight, all within a couple of years. I am polite when I visit, but I try not to eat there because the food is honestly disgusting, and mostly genetically modified. How can I get through to them, or at least him, not to eat this kind of food? It hurts me to see his health going downhill. -- "Foodie for Life," Sacramento
Leah, 20: You say you are close, so talk to him! Make him aware that his diet is ruining his health and will impact the rest of his life. Avoid the "disgusting" word and tell Dad you appreciate the food he supplies, but that you are following a nutritional program. Give him some options of items you can eat. Tell him your worries about your brother. Suggest small changes first, like switching ranch for vinaigrette. Ask if you can cook a meal so they know healthy can taste good.
Taylor, 15: I'm in the same position. My mom shops consciously while Dad fills his house with junk. I watch my brother consume not only too much food, but also processed and GM foods -- which I think should be outlawed. I'd like to step in, but I'm worried it will go the wrong way. Instead, talk about healthy versus unhealthy food and set a good example.
Brennan, 19: Most young people at college aim to eat healthy. Try the phrase, "Think organic food is expensive? Try paying for cancer." One should always keep future health costs in mind when selecting food.
Kira, 20: I'm with you, junk food is disgusting. I'm learning so much from my nutrition class. Try and get through to your brother. He may not realize that what he's putting in his body is making him overweight. It amazes me how oblivious some people are about food. Regarding genetically modified food, I'm all for labeling laws.
Gregg, 21: Our generation does want higher quality food. I'm on my own financially and still do all my shopping from a natural food store. However, some nights, especially if I'm drinking, I crave really horrible fast food.
Colin, 19: Genetically-modified food is suspected of causing everything from cancer to diabetes, but there is no proof. You don't start eating GM food and kiss your health good-bye. Health fundamentals are the same as they've always been: eat balanced healthy meals and EXERCISE. Fast food, candy, Cokes: not part of this equation.
Ryann, 15: As an athlete, I believe firmly in "healthy diet, healthy exercise, healthy life." While GM food is occasionally OK, an organic diet is best. Point out the high rates of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes that can result from food choices.
Dear Foodie: I've seen parents switch to organic foods based on their kid's healthier preferences, which do often develop in college. You have nothing to lose by expressing your preferences -- except death by food. Cancer, heart disease, and diabetes are humanity's top killers.
Proceed with love. If you've built resentment toward Dad's food scene, this will require an internal shift. Plus, brother sounds like a junior food addict. Extra love needed there. All said, positive peer pressure is your best bet for influencing healthy change, so go for it. -- Lauren
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