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.