I’m hard pressed anymore to find a classroom of high school kids who don’t absolutely adore Chipotle’s menu options. They all have a favorite, and they own it as THEIR burrito. (I like Chipotle in particular because as a vegan, I can get a delicious meal, as can any non-vegan meal companion.)
I came across this article from Vox claiming Chipotle’s menu calorie disclosures were inaccurate. I’m going to give Chipotle the benefit of the doubt here because their website contains a very detailed nutrition calculator which allows you to determine the number of calories for your customized burrito.
The article references a study from the Journal of Public Health Nutrition which reviews a study in which customers are asked to estimate the calorie content of their meal. Some groups were given no information at all. Some groups were given a range of calories in which burritos in general fell. Last, additional groups were given example burritos containing the low and high values in the calorie spread.
I had a randomly selected student create a burrito. Each class was obviously something different which made it kind of fun.
First, I had them estimate the number of calories in the chosen student’s burrito.
Second, I gave them the calorie range of 410-1185 claimed in which Chipotle’s burritos are claimed to land. I had them adjust their estimate and give reasoning for their adjustment based on the additional information.
I then showed them the calorie range with an example from the Journal article’s study:
Third, I wanted them to use the examples above to adjust their estimate once more.
We then talked about how the range of our estimates changed and why. We also had a discussion about ‘averaging bias’ and how healthy ingredients make us assume that certain food are lower in calories than they actually are.
We were able to discuss the surveying methods done for the study and the demographics of participants, which led to a nice discussion about sampling. (Evidently high school 9th graders find it odd and quite a bit creepy that participants in the survey were given a “flavored ice pop” in exchange for 5 minutes of their time.)
As long as I had their attention with food, I asked them to estimate whether the student’s burrito had more or less calories than my vegan burrito. I’ll let you decide:
Student’s Burrito: chicken, white rice, pinto beans, tomato salsa, cheese, and lettuce
My Burrito: brown rice, fajita vegetables, black beans, tomato salsa, corn salsa, guacamole, and lettuce.
This is cool! I am thinking that a nice project would be for students to essentially re-create the survey. Choose three random samples in the school, ask participants to estimate calories given one of the three kinds of information, and then summarize the data collected, compare differences, decide whether the differences are meaningful. Probably more an upperclass stats project than something you’d do with 9th graders, but it would be fun.
One of the project extensions for “New-tritional Info” at Mathalicious is the same sort of idea — the two surveyed groups order off 2 different menus — one that displays the calories of the food items, and one that displays how many minutes of exercise it would take to burn the items off. (link: http://mathalicious.com/lessons/newtritional-info)
Thanks for the comment and info on the Mathalicious lesson. I teach advanced prob and stats next year and I’d really like to recreate the survey.
Question: Does knowing the caloric content change eating habits? Several movies ago, I went to the theater and discovered that one of my favorite movie indulgences actually consisted of an entire day’s worth of calories, a fact that I did not know even though I would have estimated the number of calories to be much lower. I have not eaten it since. An example of how knowing and understanding the numbers can alter behavior.
I’m not sure what the research says, but I’m often baffled at what we “know” about food but choose to not really acknowledge and change our dietary decisions.
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