Explanation of the activity:

The object of this game is to demonstrate that energy is taken into the body by eating foods, and that different foods provide different amounts of energy. Energy is either used up or stored. We want to stress the fact that storing food is not necessarily a bad thing. Although the energy unit values assigned to the different foods are loosely based on their caloric values, this fact should not be mentioned to the students. We want to ensure that the students do not get the message that they need to count calories and then expend the amount of calories they consume. Rather, we want them to realize that food contains energy which is used by the body to perform physical activities. Energy that is not used by physical activity is stored in the body.


You will need: 1 roll of tape per group (or per student, if playing individually), 1 ruler per group (or per student, if playing individually), scratch paper and pencils for the groups (or student), and 1 stack of Food Cards per group (or per student, if playing individually).

Prepare the “field” by marking the width of one end of the room or hallway with a long piece of tape. This is the starting line, so label it as such with a marker. Measure 8 feet (96 inches) from the starting line and mark the finish line, or “Energy Zone,” with another long piece of tape the width of the field. Label it as the “Energy Zone” with marker. Every 2 feet from the starting line to the energy zone, make a long mark the width of the field with tape, in order to give the students a better sense of the length of the field.

Scenario 1

Mark on the tape the number of inches from the energy zone that it is. For instance, the first line of tape from the starting line will say “72 inches,” the second line will say “48 inches,” and the third line will say “24 inches.” This will allow the students to get a better sense of how many inches they still need to go to reach the Energy Zone.


  1. Tell the students to imagine that they are going to play a game of touch football with their friends that evening. Playing a game of touch football for about 25 minutes uses up a measure of 100 units of energy from their body.
  2. Explain that these energy units (EUs) get into the body through foods they eat, and different foods contain more or less EUs than other foods.
  3. Explain that the game they are going to play right now is kind of like football, and they are going to all start on one end of the “field” and try to get to the other end, the end zone—or in this case, the “Energy Zone,” without going too far beyond it.
  4. They will be given a stack of cards with different foods on them, and over the course of the game they must pick 6 different foods to “eat.” They will move across the field according to the EU value assigned to each food that they choose to “eat,” where 1 EU = 1 inch.
  5. Once again, stress that they want to get to the energy zone without going too far beyond it, so they want to choose foods that will get them there, but without going beyond it, if possible.
  6. Since they must pick 6 foods, they have 6 “downs” to get into the energy zone (similar to the 4 downs needed for a first down in football).

Scenario 1

The students know the EU values assigned to each food because the value is written on the backside of the food cards. They will try to plan mathematically which foods to “eat” by combining 6 different foods with EU values equaling 100, or nearly 100.

Scenario 2

The students do not know the corresponding EU values assigned to the foods they choose to “eat.” The teacher has a list of the foods and their EU values. Once the groups decide which food they want to “eat” at at a particular down, the teacher tells them how many EUs the food contains and the students move the corresponding number of inches.

  1. Have the groups line up at the starting line. Hand each group their own stack of food cards (40 per stack).
  2. 1st Down -- give them a few minutes to pick their first food to “eat.”
  3. Depending on which scenario you are using, allow the students to use their rulers to measure the distance their food’s EUs will take them.
  4. Have the students place a small piece of tape on the floor to mark how far that food took them, so they know where to measure from for their next food choice.
  5. 2nd Down – give the students a few minutes to pick the next food they want to “eat,” stressing that they cannot choose the same food, and they want to try to get to the energy zone without going far beyond it.
  6. Repeat until the 6th Down.
  7. Allow students to move beyond the energy zone (as far as the space you are working in will allow), which will occur if they consistently choose foods with high EU values.
  8. The students who get closest to the energy zone tape, with or without going beyond it, are the winners.

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