Have you checked out the new Australian Dietary Guidelines website yet? Eat For Health is not just for nutrition nerds like me, it is full of useful information, nutrition calculators, and even a fun and interactive Food Balance Game for the kids!
The game has been designed to help children aged 4 -13 years, learn about making healthy food choices. The objective of the game is to get Peach or Basil, the two game characters, safely across the tightrope by choosing foods for meals and snacks from the Five Food Groups – and remembering to choose plenty of water too.
To select different foods your child needs to click and drag an image of the food and drop it onto a daily menu planner. Each selection comes with a “Food Fact” relating to the selection, such as which food group the item belongs to and the recommended serving size (this feature can be turned off). Once each selection is made a “Food Group-o-metre” tracks the number of serves from each food group and indicates your child’s progress towards their recommended intake (based on the age and gender you input). Once your child has selected foods for each meal and snack, they are able to watch an animation of their character attempt to cross the tightrope. If the recommended intake for each food group has been achieved then the character will make it safely across the tightrope, but if not, they fall into a pool of water. You are able to then read a report about the selections you made.
Overall I think this game is a great initiative and really has the potential to help children become aware of what a well-balanced diet should look like across the day. Both my 6 year old and my 4 year old really enjoyed it (although they don’t get to play games very often so it was a bit of a novelty experience), although they both had trouble actually selecting foods as it requires pretty good mouse control (I even had difficulty at times). There is also a lot of reading required to get the most out of this game and a comprehension level that was definitely beyond my children’s age. Younger children will need parent or teacher help to play, but exploring the idea of a healthy diet together is definitely going to increase the opportunity for these ideas being put into practice.
It would be great to see the characters Basil and Peach developed further, maybe additional animations and adventures, colouring sheets, even advertising and marketing fruits and vegetables (if we can’t beat ‘Junk’ food ads, let’s try joining them). We know peer role modelling has a significant influence on a child’s food behaviours and these characters have great potential to make a positive impact.
Even though this game is educational and assist to develop computer skills, don’t forget to keep your child’s screen time in check (view the current physical activity recommendations here), and remember, nothing is a good as the real thing so spend time with your children in the kitchen and in the supermarket to help them develop a positive attitude towards beautiful, nutritious food.