The University of Arizona

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Improving Lives, Communities and the Economy

Teens Choose Healthy Eating

Two male teenagers cooking.

Teens Choose Healthy Eating

  • Obesity has tripled in the U.S. in one generation
    • 17% of children and adolescents in the US are obese
  • Obese children and adolescents have a greater risk of diabetes & other health problems
  • CHAT education helps students live healthier lives and take what they learn back to their families.



Teens Tout Healthy Eating

Good nutrition is downright tasty.

That’s the lesson learned by teen nutrition advocates in Pinal County who are taking their knowledge – and fabulous new cooking skills – into classrooms and community events.

Choose Health Action Teen – CHAT – started in 2012 as a pilot program of the University of Arizona, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cooperative Extension in Pinal County.  This program is also available in Pima and Cochise counties.

Twenty-eight teen volunteers received nutrition lessons that included replacing sweetened drinks, the realities of fast food and the benefits of eating whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

They learned to make tasty treats, including black bean quesadillas, whole grain pancakes, hummus and smoothies. Armed with healthy foods and blenders, the teens spread their knowledge to younger children and the community.

The program, aimed at reducing obesity and funded by national 4-H and United Healthcare, was such a hit, it is being expanded in Pinal County.

“As teenagers we are teaching a healthy lifestyle and it catches everyone’s attention,” said CHAT advocate Ashley Flores, 18.

Thanks to the program, taught by nutrition educator Esmeralda Castillo, the teen advocates improved their own health. Azeddine Bourta, 17, changed his lifestyle and lost 15 lbs.

Mario Castillo, 17, said he is more energized after improving his eating habits. “Seeing how much sugar is in a soda and how much fat is in a cheeseburger was eye-opening. I drink less soda now. I eat less fast food. I read all of the labels.”

Shannon McCormick, 15, upped her activity level.

The four advocates from Santa Cruz Valley Union High School Jobs for Arizona Graduates (JAG) program in Eloy enjoy taking the message to younger kids and the community. They demonstrate the 17 teaspoons of sugar in a 20 ounce soda and the scoop of shortening on a bun that represents the fat in a cheeseburger.

They believe the education will help students live healthier lives, and that they will take what they learn back to their families.

Cathy Martinez, family, consumer and health sciences Cooperative Extension agent in Pinal County, said “For young people to make healthy eating changes now positively impacts their lives down the road.”

Impact Stories

These stories provide examples of how University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Cooperative Extension (CALS-CE) translates research-based information to help people solve real, everyday problems and improve the quality of life. They highlight the impact CALS-CE has had on Arizonans.

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