Food Circles and Nutrient Density

2.9 based on 9 ratings

Updated on Feb 05, 2012

Grade Level: 5th - 8th; Type: Food Science


Determine which foods pack more nutrients into less calories.

The purpose of this experiment is to learn about the foods that you eat and to learn which ones are healthier choices.

  • What are some common foods that you and your friends eat?
  • What types of foods are considered to be healthy choices?
  • How many calories do you use every day?
  • What is the average amount of calories that people eat that are considered to be empty (such as those from candy or soda)?
  • How many calories does a person need to survive?
  • How many calories does the United States Food and Drug Administration suggest that a person eat in a day?
  • Why is there a discrepancy between the amount of calories a person needs and the amount that the US suggests a person eat?

Many of the foods we eat are packed full of the vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates and essential oils that we need to survive. A food is considered to be nutrient rich if the amount of these things is high relative to the amount of calories in the food. Eating nutrient dense foods is beneficial to health because it helps us to get all of the nutrients we need while limiting the number of calories in our diets. Many other foods that come prepackaged do not contain a high amount of nutrients relative to the number of calories. An understanding of which foods are nutrient dense and which have empty calories can also help us make healthy eating choices.

  • Various packaged foods with labels. You can use packaged foods that you find at home or you can conduct your research at a grocery store, just be sure to put everything back where you found it.
  • Nutritional information about fruits and vegetables (you can find this information on the internet).
  • A piece of poster board
  • Markers

  1. Collect data about various types of foods using a chart such as the one below.
  2. Compare the foods you have collected data on.
  3. On a piece of poster board, draw three circles, one inside the other.
  4. Place foods that are low in calories and high in nutrients towards the inside of the circle. You may draw pictures or use words on the chart.
  5. Place foods that have a medium amount of calories and a medium amount of nutrients in the middle circle.
  6. Place foods that have a high amount of calories and a low amount of nutrients in the outside circle.
  7. Foods that are healthier choices are located on the inside and foods that are less healthy choices are on the outside.



Carbs not from sugars



Various vitamins

Various minerals


rice (1 cup)

candy bar


peanut butter and jelly sandwich

Terms/Concepts: Nutrient; Calorie; Density; Nutrient dense


Writer and educator Crystal Beran is rarely seen without a pen. Her adventures have brought her to four continents and her quest for answers has led her to discover more questions than she could fill all the pages with. She currently resides in Northern California, where she can be found sipping tea and writing books.

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