Making a Game of Healthy Eating: Apps for Action

July 15, 2010

he USDA has plenty of information for healthy eating, but it's seldom accessed by the average American.

The USDA has plenty of information for healthy eating, but it's seldom accessed by the average American. The Apps for Healthy Kids competition, part of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! Campaign, takes aim at getting this volume of data into the hands of American youth via fun software tools and games.

Wednesday at noon, eligible apps went live on and are now open for public voting until Aug. 14 at 12:00PM ET. Supermarket Guru applauds the effort; tools and games such as these should continue to be developed by the public and private sector alike to keep consumers focused on the right choices for food and daily activities.
The guideline for the Let's Move! contest required tools and games be built using the USDA nutrition dataset, which provides information on total calories, calories from "extras" (solid fats and added sugars), and MyPyramid food groups for over 1,000 commonly eaten foods. The goal was to create innovative tools marketed toward children, especially "tweens" (ages 9-12) - directly or through their parents - that drive children to eat better and be more physically active.
The results are impressive. Given five categories - Calorie Content, Menu Planner, MyPyramid, Nutrition Facts, and Physical Activity - under which to enter, 91 apps made the grade.
Calorie Content contestant Aaron C. from San Diego created Food Buster, the game show that asks you to carefully stack food items that don't break our scale. For each round you'll try to find foods with the fewest calories, least added sugar, and least amount of saturated fat. Kris B., of New York City developed Foodguts is an ingredient database that provides nutritional information for ingredients alongside recipes, cooking instructions, wikipedia information, other ingredients that go with that ingredient, etc. A response to the call for Menu Planning options, this website makes it easy for kids and adults to learn how to cook tasty and nutritious food.
Then there is the Earn the Stars app, which Peter M. of  Los Angeles, CA created as a merit-based tool for educating, motivating, recognizing and rewarding children to make good choices about nutrition and participating in physical activities. The resources available through these programs are inspiring. For example, the Habit Changer is a response to nutritional information demands. It's a system that helps make users more aware and guides them through change. By providing experiences through email, web, or text, Feeding Your Kids is a 42-day program shows users how to make small changes every day to get children to choose healthier foods on their own, gaining healthy eating habits that last a lifetime.
The physical activity area of the challenge is also packed with innovation. Some programs track exercise with web cams, others use game consoles to get the job done. Aaah! Condiments!, developed for the iPad, calls on players to capture foods by defeating them in a shake-out battle fest. The foods each have their own difficulty level based on their calorie content. To play, the player holds their iPad and moves their body around to "defeat" 10 different common foods. Players must shake left & right, pull their arms in and out, and jump up and down. Every once in a while, the player will get a brief rest to take a breather. And when the evil condiments appear- ketchup, butter, & sugar- the player must scream loudly to scare the condiment away.
That's one way shake up the obesity issue.