Featured in PASCO’s College Environmental Science Instructor Guide

College Environmental Science Instructor Guide


College Instructor edition with experiments covering introductory and general environmental science topics.

Energy Content of Food

Lab Summary

Use a fast response temperature sensor to investigate and compare the energy content of four different food items: marshmallow, popcorn, peanut, and cashew.


Students investigate and compare the energy content of energy-rich substances (foods) to determine:

  • How much energy is stored in some common food items.
  • What type of food contains the most concentrated amounts of energy.


Students measure the energy released from different types of foods by oxidative combustion (burning) through energy transfer into water in a closed container (calorimeter). From this they:

  • Calculate the amount of heat released from the food item based on the change in temperature of the water in the calorimeter.
  • Calculate the total amount of energy stored in each piece of food.

Materials Used:

Aluminum pie pan 4
Aluminum soda can 4
Cardboard box, large 1
Electronic balance - 1 per class
Food samples: marshmallow, popcorn, peanuts, cashew - 1 each
Graduated cylinder, 100 mL 
Large base and support rod 
Marking pen 
One-hole rubber stopper, ~1 1/2"
top diameter - 4
Paperclip, large - 5
Plastic straw 
Rod and clamp 
Tape - 1 roll
Water - 200 mL
Wooden matches (or starter wand) - Several

The Associated Bundle:

College Environmental Science Sensor Bundle


Contains the probeware needed to perform all 26 experiments in the College Environmental Science instructor guide.

Interface Required

This experiment may require software and an interface for data collection.