Analyzing fast food data with Excel

Being the parent of two young adults, I know first hand how teenagers grab fast food without much thought to nutrition or how what they are eating affects our landfills.

burgerWanting to create more awareness of their eating habits and to use some authentic data in Excel, I created a Google Form and asked my high school students to add nutritional data about some of their favorite food items, ie, item, restaurant, calories, fats, carbs, and amount of waste produced (wrappers, straws, containers, etc.)

Students searched for the nutritional content of their favorite foods on the Internet. Many of the students were surprised about the fat & calorie content of burgers, fries and smoothies.

After everyone entered their data, I exported the Google spreadsheet into Excel and each student opened their own copy. We practiced sorting the data alphabetically, by calories, etc and used the filter to analyze the data.

Students selected items from the class data to create their own spreadsheet of healthy vs. unhealthy lunches. The students wrote Excel formulas to calculate totals, averages and percents. They selected specific data to graph.  Many had to change the values on the x axis to make the graphs comparable. The visual representation of the graphs clearly showed the differentiation between the two meals. Several students focused on lunches that produced less plastic/paper waste instead of nutrition.

Sample Excel graph of unhealthy lunch from Fast Food project

Using data that is relevant and meaningful made all the difference in this assignment. As a technology teacher I wanted them to see the power of Excel for data comparison but also wanted the assignment to be interesting and make a difference.

I overheard one student comment about how she thought having smoothies was a healthy snack but now has realized the one she was ordering had the same calorie content of a burger.

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Tech Tip Tuesday – Google Forms and Spreadsheets

Collecting data from multiples users has always been quite the challenge.  But now thanks to Google shared spreadsheets and forms – it’s a snap!

Just like Google Docs, spreadsheets can be shared with anyone.  This makes collecting information easier than ever.  Here are some examples of how I have used Google spreadsheets:

  • Collect names, addresses and emails of group members
  • Create a survey for opinions. votes, or preferences
  • Collaborate with others for data collection (ie, fast food nutritional information, State facts, Historical data)
  • Financial Planning or Budgets
  • Project planning
  • Student information

Here’s how:

  1. Before you start, decide how you want users to enter the data on a spreadsheet.
    • Access a Google spreadsheet and add the data directly on the spreadsheet.  Note:  All other data will be visible.
    • Email a form and users submit the data right from their email program.
    • Link to the published form from a URL.
    • Embed a form into a webpage and users submit the data from the embedded form
  2. You can create a new spreadsheet at by going to New / Spreadsheet. This will open a blank spreadsheet which you should name and save.  Enter your titles, data, or formulas and then click on the SHARE button to enter the email addresses of those you want to collaborate.  They will receive an email with a link to be able to access the spreadsheet.
  3. Another option is to upload an existing Excel spreadsheet.  Now you can access this data from any computer.
  4. If you would rather have the users enter the data into a FORM – go to New / Form and you will see the beginnings of a web form.  Add your questions and choose the type of answer:  text, paragraph, check boxes, multiple choice, choose from a list or Scale (1-n). When done, save and then choose to “publish” the form (it provides a long URL), “Email this form”, or from “More Actions”, get the embed code to embed the form into a webpage, wiki or blog.
  5. When users enter the data into the form and press submit, all of the data will be dropped into ONE spreadsheet.  This is an excellent way to gather data from multiple users.



Tech Tip Tuesday is written and published weekly by MaryFran Lynch and Colette Cassinelli.  The archive of all tips are located at: