Playing With Food at “Zisboombah”

by Bettina Elias Siegel on August 26, 2010

I just learned about an interesting new kid-and-food web site called Zisboombah which is designed to “help parents create kid friendly dinners with the help of their children.”

Kids play a game called Pick Chow! to create a dinner they’d like to eat, and this meal is then sent to their parents.   Kids have to pick foods from different categories and a variety of little meters (showing things like fat, fiber, sugar, etc.) give kids instant feedback on the nutritional quality of the meal they’ve chosen.  The object of the game is to select a “five star” meal which then allows the child to also pick a dessert, and to enter his or her meal into a “Meal of the Week” competition on the site.  The team behind Zisboombah promises that the game will end “kid friendly meal battles” in your house by allowing “children to take control of meal time, and pick their own chow!”

I have a few philosophical issues with Zisboombah, starting with how insanely hard it is to create a “five-star” meal.  Here’s one combo I created that I was certain would earn me five stars:  1% milk (I didn’t see skim offered), a small serving of turkey breast, a small serving of sweet potato, broccoli and a plum.  But for some reason, that only earned two stars.  After much trial and error — maybe five or six tries — I finally earned a perfect rating for the rather odd meal of tofu cubes, baked potato, quinoa, cauliflower, sliced apple and 1% milk.   I’m guessing that some kids would get frustrated and give up long before I did, and I also worry about the message the rating system might send:  if my seemingly healthful meal was only worthy of two-stars, children could easily throw up their hands and say, ack, just give me a Big Mac!

The other thing I’m not totally down with is the whole idea of ceding meal planning to your child.  As an Ellyn Satter devotee, I consider that my job, given that I have far more nutritional knowledge than my children.  And the site doesn’t really answer the question of what I’m  supposed to do if my child sends me a one-star meal of chicken nuggets, chocolate milk and mac-n-cheese. (I suppose you can set ground rules that no meal will be served in your home unless it merits a four-star rating, or something like that.)

But these criticisms aside, the site does have a lot to offer.  It’s fun and dynamic and there’s a lot of nutritional information for both parents and kids, along with recipes for parents to help implement the meals their kids choose.  And I do like the idea of involving my children in the meal-planning process, even if I’m not ready to hand over the keys.

Zisboombah would be a great way to get that conversation going.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Viki August 26, 2010 at 11:06 am

I admit I haven’t gone and played on the Zisboombah site yet, but the perfect meal you made is mostly…White! Which I would NOT consider a good meal at all.
We try to incorporate a rainbow of foods into our meals.
I also don’t think “handing the kids the keys” is the best idea either.
While I think children’s input, discussion and participation in preparation of meals is important, giving them too much power on a daily basis is not a great idea.
Although, letting them make some decisions is a good idea.
“Would you like carrots or celery in your salad?”
“What sounds better, chicken or fish for dinner?”
“Do you want an orange or an apple for your snack today?”

Teach them to make choices but make sure what they have to choose from are equally healthy.

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anthony ranieri August 26, 2010 at 11:23 am

i was curious about this and on my first shot i created this meal:
chicken nuggets, sweet potato fries, broccoli, a fruit smoothie and a large glass of whole milk. from my point of view this meal contains a lot of things which are suboptimal–processed food (nuggets, smoothie), too much frying (the nuggets and the potatoes), too much dairy and too much cold (the milk and the smoothie). so i was stunned to see that this meal earned four stars, and that i was in the green for protein, fat, fiber, sugar, saturated fat and sodium, while being in the red on carbs because (if i’m reading it right) there aren’t enough carbs in this meal.

it’s an interesting idea, but people who use this need to be comfortable that the nutritional presumptions behind the scoring system of this site comport with their own understanding of nutrition. they don’t comport with mine.

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Jade August 26, 2010 at 4:22 pm

I think zisboombah.com is a fabulous idea! I went on and played with it and think it’s awesome!

“Handing kids the keys” is teaching them to make their own decisions when it comes to food. We can’t stand by our kids forever and say “do you want celery or carrots.” Parents need to release some of that control- maybe that’s why we have such a huge problem with child obesity and eating disorders…hello?

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bettina elias siegel August 26, 2010 at 7:14 pm

Jade: I think I’d like to respond in a post tomorrow (Friday). Thanks for visiting The Lunch Tray and sharing your thoughts! I love it when I’m provoked by readers. – Bettina

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