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This topic takes on average 55 minutes to read.

Topic last updated: 25 Oct 2021
    • Biologybiology Biology
    • Ico Human Biology Human biology
    • Ico Physical Education Physical education
    • Ico Citizenship Studies PSHE / Citizenship studies
    • Ico Science Applied Science (applied)
    • 11-14
    • 55

Energy challenge

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Energy challenge activity

Learn about the energy different foods provide, through considering how far someone could run fuelled by that food.

How far could you run on 10 g of apple?
Could you run further on 10 g of banana?
Does chocolate or cheese provide more energy?

Explore the links between the food we eat and the energy it gives through this interactive activity. If you want to learn more how the food we eat is broken down inside the body to give us energy, then take a look at our resource on diet and digestion.



Although the activities cover the energy content of 15 different types of food there is no implication intended to suggest these are all "healthy" options for a balanced diet. The activities will highlight the fact that some foods, which are rich in sugars or carbohydrates, contribute significantly to a day's energy requirements but does not aim to ensure that a good balance is maintained.


Teacher information

The concept of energy in food is developed across four activities, each developing on the information gained from the previous.

The 'Testing Track' allows children to estimate how much energy is provided by equal amounts of different types of food. The amount chosen is 10 g and these amounts are shown as pictures to allow children to get some understanding of what 10 g of each of the food types looks like. The markers displaying the different food types may be moved up or down using the 'mouse' to click and hold. Where the markers overlap, clicking the rear marker brings it forward.

The word 'estimate' is not used although this is what the children are being encouraged to do. They are asked to try to work out, initially by trial and error, how far a runner can move for the types of food that they select. As their estimation skills develop, they will become more accurate with their attempts.

They should be able to get some understanding of which foods contain a lot of energy and which contain little energy. Feedback is provided for all attempts and a marker shows the distance travelled for each food selected. Having completed all the food items the children will have a complete display indicating the relative energy content of all the food items.

A simplistic approach has been adopted which, although introducing the concepts of homeostasis and metabolism, assumes that energy input is directly related to energy output in the form of movement.

In the 'Distance Challenge' the screen displays two runners each of whom are supplied with a different type of food. Children compare the energy content of the two foods displayed by choosing which runner will be able to run the furthest. Children can check their prediction by letting the runners run and see how far they travel.

For the 'Get to the Finish' activity children develop the concept of energy from food by choosing not only the food type but also the quantity. They are required to estimate (or work out) how much of the chosen food item will take the runner to the end of the track - but no further.

The final stage is 'Energy Combinations'. Here the energy in food concept is developed with a mathematical content. The challenges here are given as questions with three possible answers, only one of which is correct. The questions increase in difficulty as they progress.

The small red marker below the runner indicates the registration point at which the distance is calculated.