Clockwise from top:
Jessy Zhou, 17, New Zealand, has lived in Beijing for six years
Rebecca Teleni, 16, Fiji, has lived in Beijing for three years
Tony Fang, 17, China, has lived in Beijing for ten years
Richard Sung, 16, Korea, has lived in Beijing for seven years
What are your favorite junk foods?
Jessy: I like anything sweet. As IB students, we have a lot of stress and need something energizing for the long hours studying at night. For example, if you drink any kind of fizzy drink it keeps you awake so you can finish your essay on time.
Richard: I don’t believe in energy drinks. I tried them before but they didn’t work. Whenever I don’t get enough water during the day, I feel really tired at night, but if I [am hydrated]I’m fully awake.
Tony: I don’t use energy drinks either; I rarely even drink Coke or Pepsi. If I have to eat junk food, I usually get McDonald’s. I know it’s bad for me so I only eat junk food when there’s no other choice or I don’t have much time.
Rebecca: When I’m desperate or can barely keep my eyes open, I mix Red Bull and Coke., Otherwise I just drink Red Bull every day. The downside is that it keeps me awake into the early hours of the morning, so the rest of the day I’m a zombie.
What is junk food from your country like?
Tony: When I think of Chinese junk food I think of the little carts on the street. Those are definitely worse than McDonald’s. You don’t even know what the meat really is. Oil used in a lot of street food is [recycled]from the sewage system. But on the other hand, McDonald’s needs to make a profit and keep its costs low. A few years ago the Sanlitun branch was investigated by CCTV [when]employees were ignoring a policy on the expiration of food.
Rebecca: In Fiji we have a brand called Wishbone; they make fish and chips. I think it’s healthier than other fast food options. They make the food in front of you, so you know can see what they’re putting into it.
What makes you happier: junk food or healthy food?
Jessy: Healthy food [makes me happier]. Obviously after a while it gets boring and you have to change [it up]a bit and snack on junk food. But if you eat junk food for a long time, it will mostly likely result in higher cholesterol and [weight gain].
Richard: Immediately after eating junk food I feel full, but it’s not nutritious. If you eat healthy food, you don’t feel stuffed, but later you feel more energized.
Jessy: After you eat junk food you feel a lot more bloated, lethargic and tired; your brain is numb. If you eat healthy food you can concentrate and have a clearer mind.
What do you think of people who eat a diet that’s extremely high in junk food?
Richard: I worry for them. I saw [a story]about a healthy person eating junk food every single day and [and they]developed serious diseases.
Tony: Last Saturday a couple of friends and I went to a buffet. We were probably the only skinny people in the restaurant; all the other people were fat. No offense, but if they were Western I wouldn’t have been so surprised. But they were Asian, probably locals. There were even [obese]young kids, probably 8 or 9. It was pretty shocking.
Who do you think is responsible for what kids eat?
Rebecca: Parents are responsible. If [they]are firm enough in saying no, then the child has a chance to grow up healthy.
Richard: It’s also society’s responsibility. Research has shown for decades that junk food is bad. There are campaigns, but they’ve never [been successful]. If governments could actually reduce or block the consumption of junk food, there wouldn’t be these [health]problems now.
Tony: Our diet, our lifestyle – it’s all influenced by our parents.
Do you think junk food should be a controlled substance like cigarettes and alcohol?
Jessy: I don’t think an age limit on fast food is enforceable. Kids should be able to make their own choices because they’re going to have to make them as adults.
Richard: I think it should be controlled. There was a time when the tobacco industry was allowed to advertise freely and if you look at any channel now, you’ll see a junk food advertisement. Advertising definitely should be controlled, but I agree with Jessy; I don’t think selling these foods can be blocked. It’d be better if everyone was more aware of the fact that it’s bad.
Do you think there should be a junk food tax to help pay for medical costs associated with a poor diet?
Richard: That’s a very good idea. The tax on tobacco in the UK is so high that even if a smoker’s illness costs thousands of pounds to treat, the taxes they pay means the government can afford [it]. High taxation also reduces the consumption of tobacco products.
Rebecca: One of the main reasons people buy junk food is because it’s cheap and easy to get. By putting tax on it, people would be discouraged from consuming it and it would encourage them to pick a healthier meal.
Do you think that junk food is becoming more or less popular?
Jessy: It just keeps getting more and more popular and I don’t think McDonalds is ever going to disappear.
Tony: If I had to make a prediction I would say people will eat less junk food as they become more aware of the consequences.
Photo by SUI
This article originally appeared on p40-41 of the beijingkids January 2014 issue. Check out the PDF version online at Issuu.com
Check out the PDF version online at Issuu.com