The Fast Food Makeover Project

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The idea for the Fast Food Makeover Project came to me when I realized that there was nothing I could do to prevent my students from eating fast food—but at the very least, I could help them make better fast food choices. It also seemed like the perfect avenue for kicking my eighth grade students’ food label skills up a notch.

The Fast Food Makeover Project is just what it sounds like: Students are tasked with giving their favorite fast food meals a makeover to make them lower in calories, saturated fat, and sodium.

My students were surprised by how easy it is to eat a day's worth of sodium or saturated fat with fast food. Visuals, such as the pictures in this piece from the New York Times, can help them understand this point, too.

Where you choose to take the assignment based on your classroom circumstances (objectives, time frame, age of students, etc.) is up to you. The following steps can serve as a guide. 

1. Using nutrition facts from fast food restaurant websites, have students put together fast food meals they would usually eat. Students should record the total amount of calories, saturated fat, and sodium in each meal.

2. Next, have students develop healthier meals from those same restaurants. These meals should be contain fewer calories, and less saturated fat and sodium than the first meals. It’s a bonus if students can have this meal be higher in fiber, too.

3. Select a National Health Education Standard.

  • Do you want to focus on the validity of fast food restaurants’ claims that their meals are healthy? NHES 3: Analyzing Influences.
  • Want to revamp this project so that it's more "test like" in order to assess how well students can use nutrition labels and math to enhance their health? NHES 7: Health-Enhancing Behaviors.
  • Do you want your students to take what they learned and create a publicity campaign throughout your school? NHES: Advocacy.
  • Do you want students to know where to look to retrieve valid and reliable nutrition information? NHES 2: Accessing Information.

Just choose an angle, and go for it!