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Drive-Thru Nutrition


  • Health


  • 9-12

Brief Description

Students use online resources and a spreadsheet program to compare the fat and calorie content of various food items at 12 popular fast-food restaurants. Then, they create a day’s worth of healthful menus using food from those restaurants.


Students will

  • learn the importance of limiting fats (especially saturated) and "empty" calories in their diets.
  • compare various food items in terms of fat and caloric content.
  • synthesize what they've learned by creating one day's menu of healthful meals available at fast-food restaurants.


diet, nutrition, fat, calories, health

Materials Needed

  • Student access to the Internet and to a spreadsheet program (such as Excel or AppleWorks). Students also can use the National Center for Educational Statistic's Create a Graph spreadsheet tool (free and online).
  • Pen and paper or a word processing program.

Lesson Plan

Students should begin this lesson with a basic understanding of the dangers of a diet high in calories and fat. In addition to classroom materials, you might consider using How to Understand and Use the Nutritional Facts Label, although it might require classroom discussion before moving to the activity itself.

Begin the lesson by asking students to raise their hands if they have eaten fast food in the last month. Then ask them to raise their hands if they've eaten fast food in the last week. Then ask them to raise their hands if they've eaten fast food in the last 24 hours. Explain that Americans, just like the students in your classroom, eat regularly at fast-food restaurants. Point out that, although there are many unhealthy choices at those restaurants, healthful choices are available as well.

Explain that in this activity, each student will look up five foods he or she might eat as an entree or main dish at each of five different fast-food restaurants. Students then will use a spreadsheet to compare the fat and caloric content of these choices. They will then do a similar analysis on a complete meal (dessert, side items, and a main item) they may eat at one fast-food restaurant. Finally, they will then try to create a healthful and hopefully tasty menu for a full day of eating at fast-food restaurants.

Have students -- working individually or in small groups -- complete the following steps:

  1. Go to Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center's Drive-Thru Diet.
  2. At the top of the page, click the logo of one fast food restaurant. (Pick a restaurant you like to eat at.)
  3. Find one main item (hamburger, taco, etc.) at that restaurant and click the item's name. Notice that a small window opens showing nutritional information for that item.
  4. Open Excel (or another spreadsheet program). In cell A2, type the name of the restaurant and the menu item (such as, Wendy's: Jr. Cheeseburger). In cell B1, type the words "Fat grams." In cell B2, type the actual fat grams in that item. In cell C1, type the words "Total Calories." In cell C2, type the actual calories in that item. In cell D1, type the words "RDA" (Recommended Daily Allowance). Look at the 2,000-calorie allowance percentages. In cell D2, type the percentage of recommended daily fat contained in that item.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for four different main items sold by four different restaurants. Enter that information in rows 3, 4, 5, and 6 of your spreadsheet.
  6. Choose your favorite restaurant from among those listed and select a complete meal from the menu. Include all main items side items, and desserts that you might eat at one sitting.
  7. Click cell A9 of the spreadsheet (skipping several rows!) and type the words "My Typical Meal." In cells A10, A11, A12, type the menu items. In cells B10, C10, and so on, enter fat content, calories, and recommended daily allowance of fat.
  8. Compare the fat and calorie information for your favorite meal items in steps 1-5 with your favorite meal from steps 6-7. Are you eating a healthful diet?
  9. Save and print this worksheet.
  10. Open a new spreadsheet. Using the information at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center's Drive-Thru Diet, create a healthful menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the restaurants listed. The food should be items you'll eat, but the total should not exceed 2,000 calories or the daily recommended allowance for fat. Be sure to list any nutritional information that you think proves you've made healthful choices. Save and print your spreadsheet. (Note: This step might be a good enrichment, homework, or extension activity.)

Collect both worksheets. You might choose to share some of the better menus as good examples of healthful choices.


Students are assessed on the

  • understanding of the impact fat and calories have on health.
  • comprehension of nutritional facts on food items consumed at fast food restaurants.
  • synthesis of nutritional facts as shown by the daily menus they create.
  • time management and basic computer skills.

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

Submitted By

Lorrie Jackson

National Standards

GRADES 9 - 12

NPH-H.9-12.2 Health Information, Products and Services
NPH-H.9-12.3 Reducing Health Risks
NPH-H.9-12.4 Health Influences
NPH-H.9-12.5 Using Communication Skills to Promote Health