Cheese on my salad?

By Amanda Anthonsen

Being from a host family who comes together over the dinner table, enjoys an occasional calorie-loaded meal of McDonalds in front of the TV, and eats cake batter straight from the bowl, it continues to amaze me — a Danish high school exchange student — how easy it is to eat unhealthily in America.

From sitting with girls at lunch — whose daily fuel consists of a pop tart and a can of Pepsi — to going to the supermarket and being continuously overwhelmed by the extravagant selection of sweets and pastries, I still haven’t gotten used to how easy it is to get a hold of some calorie-loaded lushness.

I overheard the lunch table girls’ conversation about why one of them always ate so unhealthy. ”Well, you can just always grab a bag of chips and bring it to school. It’s easier than making your own lunch!”

And well, that’s true. But I think it is those little things, the bag of chips you eat in a hurry while watching TV and the chocolate covered granola bar you eat for breakfast, that can count when it comes to having an unhealthy eating routine.

I am used to a lifestyle that consists of a little more structure in one’s daily diet. In Denmark, we eat rye bread instead of toast, have salad instead of mashed potatoes with gravy, and don’t eat out as much. It’s easy to eat a lot of fast food when you’re dining outside of the house, but in Denmark the bill would be around $50 for four meals at McDonald’s, where it’s about $20 over here.

But the thing that stands out to me the most is many Americans’ tendency to top healthy with unhealthy. When I went to Olive Garden a couple of weeks ago with my host-family, we had the infamous salad and bread sticks. When the waitress brought the food in, she held out a slice of cheese, ready to sprinkle it on the salad. I was a little bit shocked, surprised by the fact that something as calorie-loaded as cheese was to be mixed with the salad, something that should be healthy.

After that incident, I have become more conscious to observe the daily eating habits of Americans. I asked my host family what three common things would be in a typical American family’s fridge or pantry and their response was: ”Definitely cheese. And a lot of chips! And always a lot of different pop!”.

If the people in America were to switch some of their unhealthy favorites out with healthier alternatives, like removing the cheese from the salad, or just switching to a kind with less fat, drinking water instead of pop, and grabbing an apple instead of a pop tart, the amount of overweight teens and adults would be reduced in no time. Remember, it’s the little things that make the biggest difference.


Amanda Anthonsen is a senior at Watertown-Mayer High School and a foreign exchange student from Denmark. She has agreed to share some of her observations and experiences with the Carver County News as she adjusts to life in the United States.