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Food Chemistry Infographic (5 Favorites)

PROJECT in Introduction, Interdisciplinary, Dimensional Analysis, Experimental Design. Last updated December 3, 2020.


Summary

In this project, students will research the chemical content and nutritional value of their favorite holiday foods, presenting their findings in an infographic. They will also include a recipe, which they will convert to metric units to practice dimensional analysis. As an extension to explore experimental design, they could alter one aspect of the recipe and observe how that change affects the final product.

Grade Level

High School

NGSS Alignment

This project will help prepare your students to meet the following scientific and engineering practices:

  • Scientific and Engineering Practices:
    • Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

Objectives

By the end of this project, students should be able to:

  • Research the nutritional content and history of their favorite foods
  • Create an infographic presenting their research
  • Convert recipes into metric units

Chemistry Topics

This project supports students’ understanding of:

  • Food chemistry and nutrition
  • Dimensional analysis
  • Experimental design

Time

Teacher Preparation: 10 minutes
Lesson: 45-90 minutes of in-class work, finish for homework

Materials

  • Device with internet access for students to do research and create an infographic
  • Infographic creator program – free versions of Canva, Piktochart, Venngage, etc.

Safety

  • No specific safety precautions need to be observed for this project.

Teacher Notes

  • This project could be used at any time of year, but would be especially appropriate around food-centered holidays, such as Thanksgiving.
  • You should approve of the students’ dishes before they start researching. Try to encourage them to select something that is a prepared dish, that requires a recipe to create and that would involve a bit more effort to research (i.e. baking an apple pie instead of cutting/eating a raw apple).
  • Students should include information about the nutritional content of their food, as well as the ingredients, recipe, and preparation.
    • Nutritional content should include amounts of macronutrients (fats, carbohydrates, proteins) and their general chemical structures. It might be hard to find very specific information on which compounds (ex: which specific proteins) are present, depending on the food/dish they are researching, so general structures of those categories of nutrients might be all they can find. Students should also include chemical structures and amounts of any significant vitamins (vitamin A, B, C, etc.) or minerals (calcium, iron, zinc, etc.).
    • You may also want students to include the %DV in a serving of their dish for those substances, as well as the role each substance plays in human health. (Ex: Why you need vitamin A, why you need fats but shouldn’t eat too much, etc.)
    • Depending on the dish, they may or may not need to research the ingredients separately to account for all of the nutritional content. (Ex: mashed potatoes would need to account for the potatoes, salt, butter, milk, etc.)
    • A recipe should be part of the infographic, or if it is going to take up too much space, could be submitted separately.
  • As always, students should make sure they use reliable sources and cite those sources appropriately (either on the infographic somewhere or on a separate page). The USDA nutrition page “What’s in Food” might be a good place to start.
  • If you or your students need some guidance on what makes a good infographic, this article is a good place to start.
  • There are many free infographic creator programs – Canva, Piktochart, and Venngage are among the most popular, but there are plenty of others. These types of programs generally require you to sign up with an email address and create an account, but many of them have free options. Also, they often post how-to videos on YouTube that could be helpful guides for students if they aren’t sure where or how to get started.
  • Students could be given the opportunity to view each other’s infographics or share a little bit about their family traditions – a great way to build a community and keep students engaged during those last hours before holiday breaks!
  • If you allow students to bring in samples of their dishes to share with the class, please consult with the students and the school nurse about any allergies that would need to be considered before bringing food into the classroom.

For the Student

Lesson

Background

Whether you are consciously aware of it or not, you depend on chemistry each and every day, as your body is essentially a biochemical machine fueled by the food you eat. In this project, you will research the chemistry and history behind one of your favorite foods and present your findings in an infographic.

Directions

  1. Think about your favorite holiday or festive meal. Pick one of your favorite prepared dishes from that meal to research for this project and get your teacher’s approval of your choice.
  2. Research this dish and its ingredients. In your infographic, you will need to include the following information:
    1. Amounts and percent daily value (per serving) of macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats), along with the general chemical structures of those molecules and the role they play in human health and development
    2. Amounts, percent daily value, and chemical structures of significant vitamins and minerals present in the dish. Also include the role these vitamins and minerals play in human health and development
    3. Any relevant historical/cultural context for the dish (ex: when/where the dish was developed, if the dish is associated with a particular place or group of people, if it’s traditionally served at a specific holiday, weddings, etc., if there was any historical reason for the development or popularization of the recipe)
    4. Pictures of the prepared dish
    5. Why you love it!
    6. A recipe – be sure to include how many servings the recipe makes
    7. A list of references used
  • If the reference list will take up too much space on the infographic itself, it can be submitted separately from the infographic
  1. Create an infographic presenting your research.
    1. Some options for infographic creators include Canva, Piktochart, and Venngage. These programs often have video tutorials if you need help getting started.
    2. Be sure your infographic has a good balance between “info” (text) and “graphics” (pictures/images). Some good guidelines for infographics are laid out here: https://neilpatel.com/blog/12-infographic-tips/
  2. View your classmates’ infographics!

Questions

  1. You submitted a recipe as part of this project. It is not uncommon for there to be variations on a popular dish depending on the region and available ingredients. How does your recipe differ from other recipes for the same dish?
  2. Research at least one way you could make your dish healthier – changing how you prepare it, substituting an ingredient, etc. – and explain how it will make it healthier (such as by decreasing fat content, increasing vitamins, etc.)
  3. You want to share your recipe with a partner school in the UK, but they need the measurements in metric. Using dimensional analysis, show your conversions into metric for each ingredient, as well as any temperature measurements. Note that:
    • Measurements of volume for liquids (teaspoons, tablespoons, fluid ounces, cups, etc.) should be converted to mL or L.
    • Measurements for solid ingredients, such as butter, flour, and sugar, should be converted to grams. (Note: volume to mass conversions for solids, such as cups to grams, will vary depending on the density of the substance, as you can see in the table below with cups of butter, flour, and sugar.) The table provides some of the conversion factors you may need, but you may need to look up others. These values are rounded to whole numbers.

American
Metric
Liquids (volume)
1 tsp
5 mL
1 tbsp
15 mL
1 fl. oz
30 mL
1 cup
237 mL
Solids (mass)
1 oz
28 g
1 lb
454 g
1 tbsp butter
14 g
1 stick butter
113 g
1 cup butter
225 g
1 cup flour*
~125 g
1 cup sugar*
~200 g
Temperature
*Differences in the type of flour or sugar used (all-purpose flour vs. whole wheat flour, or granulated sugar vs. brown sugar), as well as how tightly packed the measuring cup is, can affect the mass of one cup of that material
  1. After viewing your classmates’ infographics, which dish are you most interested in trying and why?

Extension

Be a scientist in the kitchen! As a scientist, you are interested in determining if you can improve on your recipe. Make a batch of the normal recipe, as well as a small batch where you choose one ingredient to change. You can add a new ingredient, remove an ingredient, or change the amount of an ingredient. Repeat with as many batches as you want! (But, like a good scientist, you should start by only changing one ingredient per batch! And just in case it isn’t an improvement on the original recipe, you may want to start your experimental batch at 25% the original recipe so as to not waste your supplies.) Be sure to record what you changed and your observations for each alteration of the recipe – any changes from the original recipe in texture, color, smell, taste, etc. Do a taste test with your family! Do you have a new winning recipe? *Be safe in the kitchen, and make sure you have parental permission/supervision!*