Smart-Mouth.org Makes Healthy Eating Fun For Kids


September 19, 2002

Learning about healthy eating can be fun on Smart-Mouth.org, a snazzy new web site where games teach kids (and their parents and teachers) how to eat well—and resist the food industry’s marketing campaigns. Kids can see how their favorite restaurant foods stack up, play “true or false” with a food industry spokesman, and “bite back” by asking food companies and government officials to promote nutrition. The site was launched today by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest—the group best known for lobbying for easy-to-read food labels and for its critiques of restaurant food.

“The food industry puts enormous pressure on kids to eat huge portions of the worst foods, and kids get comparatively little encouragement to eat healthful foods,” CSPI nutrition policy director Margo Wootan said. Smart-Mouth.org makes information about healthy eating accessible and fun for kids.”

By playing kid-friendly (and sometimes just a little gross) games like “Trust Gus,” “Choose Ur Chews,” and “Feed the Face,” kids can discover that:

  • Jolly Rancher Gel Snacks get their fruit taste from chemicals and flavorings, not from fruit—despite the pictures of cherries and watermelons on the package!
  • It would take more than an hour to bicycle away the calories in one 20-ounce Coke. And it would take nearly an hour and a half of gymnastics or volleyball to burn off the calories in one Mrs. Fields’ Chocolate Chip Cookie!
  • Three cups of whole milk provide the artery-clogging fat equal to 15 strips of bacon!
  • M&Ms contain all of these icky artificial colorings: Red 40 lake, yellow 6, yellow 5, blue 2 lake, red 40, blue 1 lake, blue 1, blue 2, yellow 5 lake, and yellow 6 lake!
Smart-Mouth.org is launched as the food industry—and fast-food chains in particular—come under increased scrutiny for their roles in promoting overweight and obesity in children. And parents are pressuring some school systems to restrict junk food from school campuses. Last month, for instance, the Los Angeles school system banned soda sales on school property.

“We’re seeing kids with type-2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and even high blood pressure at incredibly early ages,” Wootan said. “So much of this is directly linked to increased consumption of junk foods, many of which are available right at school. It’s hard for teachers to be taken seriously about nutrition in the classroom when the school is selling junk food in the hallway or the cafeteria.”

Smart-Mouth.org is part of a comprehensive strategy by CSPI to help address childhood obesity and other diet-related health problems. CSPI is also working to get junk food out of schools, strengthen national and state nutrition and physical activity programs, require nutrition information at restaurants, and advocate for transportation policies to help build bike paths and walking trails.

“Children live in a perilous food world where powerful food companies and brilliant advertising people compete for their loyalties,” said Kelly D. Brownell, director of the Center for Eating and Weight Disorders at Yale University. “What is being pushed is not good for children, so there is a real need for them to have information they can trust. This web site will contribute a lot.”

 

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