Nutrition and Math Lesson

Now that summer is here, it is time to keep using your math skills in a practical way — with nutrition. See the fun activity below that is great for kids and families or anyone who wants to realize what is in their beverages. But first you have to learn how to use a new tool by Google which displays nutrient information on the search results page.

Google now has the ability to find and display calories and other nutrients in foods from the USDA database. Take a look at our apple query:

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How do you find these displays?

Go to and type in the word “calories” followed by a food or beverage name that you want to see. For example you can type in “calories cookies” and you will see a cookie and a drop down box on the left (red rectangle) with many kinds of cookies. You can also ask, “how many grams of protein in a banana” or “how much saturated fat in butter.” The data shown comes from the USDA database with a description feed from Wikipedia. This feature also works with Google Voice. It is currently only available in English.

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Many browsers like Firefox, Safari, Chrome and Internet Explorer have a Google plugin so you can search with Google in the top of your browser.

And here are four tips for success using the Google Calorie Search Tool:

  1. Brand names are not usually found. For example if you type “calories Oreos” you won’t find a Google calorie display for that item. But you can usually find the nutrition data in most brand name foods by going to the manufacturer’s website or by using, a grocer in the NE section of the US who has most nutrient information for items that they carry.
  2. Generic searches yield more results. You won’t find chicken wings but if you type “calories chicken” you will find a bunch of choices. You won’t find your favorite brand of soda like “Coke” or “Sprite” but you will find soda.
  3. Use the boxes on the left to narrow description and size. You can view the drop down box on the left to see the specifics of the generic search. For example, the chicken search will show many chicken choices and you can adjust the sizes using the boxes on the left.
  4. Research further for restaurant or brand items. Always compare specific store or restaurant foods by manufacturer’s data versus the USDA database. We have found through many of our searches (we use the USDA database for our recipes) that a generic “stuffing” from USDA will not always be the same as a brand name box of stuffing on the store shelf which often has more sodium. And restaurant food can be higher in sodium.

And here is a little Nutrition and Math experiment for you:

  • How many cups (8 ounces) of soda are in a can? Or a bottle? (this is available from searching on Google)
  • How many cups of soda are in a large soda at your favorite fast food place? (visit or to see large serving sizes)
  • How many grams of sugar are in a large soda at your favorite restaurant? (view nutrition information for each beverage on the fast food site)
  • Divide the number of grams of sugar by 4 and that is how many teaspoons of sugar are in that soda. Is it different for sweetened tea found on
  • What is the difference in fiber between an apple and apple juice? (use the Google tool)
  • Now, tell us, what do you think about what you just found? Do the restaurants and convenience stores make a “large cup” appear normal? Some large drinks have 15 teaspoons of sugar!!

Can you come up with some non-calorie drinks to enjoy? Of course water is the top choice but what if you added some lemon circles to your water? Or if you turned it red with a little cranberry juice?

Here is an interesting tidbit: 1 kilo calorie (1000 calories) represents the energy needed to raise 1 gram of water by 1 degree.

Update – thank you to Chef Jasun Zakro, MBA, CDM, SNS, who wrote to us to recommend this app:

You can use it online (search box top left) and type in all the ingredients for a recipe at once and it allows you to specify each one and it shows you the analysis. I have never seen a recipe analysis work THAT fast. Although I will have to play with it for a while to see how it does with all of our ingredients.

That app is available through any browser or for a smart phone.

Thanks, Jasun!

Here is a shot of the Grilled Potato Salad I made on the grill for dinner:

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I was able to specify the golden potatoes AND the exact brand of mayonnaise. That would be a great way for kids to develop a recipe and then see what they eat!

(That is a great potato salad by the way – the potatoes were crispy golden on the outside and tender on the inside and the mayonnaise just melted over them and so I used a lot less. The fresh chives from the garden were all you needed for a light onion flavor.)