Health classes give fast food a makeover

No Hoku staff

It is nearly impossible to watch anything on TV these days without seeing a fast food commercial trying to tempt you to indulge in the new burger, pizza, or plate lunch offering.  

Health teacher Erik Estabilio’s classes recently attempted to turn that practice on its head.

“Normally when we do the diet and nutrition unit, the students make a food safety brochure, but I was getting tired of that and wanted to do something different,” Estabilio said.

He researched other ways for students to learn about the importance of healthy eating and developed his own unit.  As the culminating project, Estabilio’s students worked in groups to create a healthier meal option from an assigned fast food restaurant and then advertise it. Their meal needed to include an entree, side dish and drink, and have fewer than 25-30 grams of fat, fewer than 700 calories, and fewer than 300 mg of cholesterol. 

By comparison, a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder With Cheese Meal has 1,050 calories, 41 grams of fat and 95 mg of cholesterol.

To meet these requirements, they could change cooking methods of the ingredients, introduce new ingredients that aren’t currently offered, or change portion sizes. 

He did not want his student to create an infomercial, but instead create a video that was instructive and engaging. To do this the class studied the marketing techniques in fast food commercials. 

“I wanted them to see how the companies market from a business standpoint first,” Estabilio said, and then after reformulating the meal, have the students “find a way to make their food appealing so that people would buy it.” 

Junior Gento Kaname and his two freshmen colleagues Aizaiah Tipoai and Matthew Cortes selected Five Guys Burgers from a random drawing of fast food places.  Kaname said they had about two weeks to work on the project.

“It was somewhat hard at first because Five Guys doesn’t advertise, so we didn’t have an [existing] commercial to work with,” Kaname said. “So we had to imagine what [a commercial from the restaurant] could look like, and then go from there.”

Kaname said students had to really think about how to make the food healthier. For example, students had to grill their chicken instead of fry it to be crispy or change the type of french fry, he explained.

“We took a Five Guys burger and studied it to see how to make it healthier,” Kaname said. “We found out we had to take out the bun for the carbs and to change the side dishes.” There was also math involved to calculate the nutritional value.

“It went great,” Estabilio said of the student projects. “I was very pleased with how they turned out.”

“I learned a lot about how to take simple ingredients and make a lot of food healthier,” Kaname said.