March is National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating. It is also the time of year when the Academy celebrates expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists as the food and nutrition experts.
Want your tech-savvy kids to be more interested in nutrition? There's an app for that! Using a variety of app formats, from games to basic learning tools, kids can learn about food groups, nutrition facts, the digestive system and cooking skills.
Because many families already have access to mobile devices and kids are excited to use them, it's an ideal platform for learning. Plus, many schools use tablets in the classroom, explains app developer Catherine Federico, RDN. "Kids expect that technology," she says.
With a plethora of apps on the market, finding the best ones can be daunting. Here are a few to start.
Easy Eater 2
In Easy Eater, kids are responsible for naming and keeping a pet healthy and happy by feeding it the same foods they eat. Set in a magical forest, Easy Eater boasts a motley cast of characters that teach food groups and encourage food recognition. Kids learn that shrimp, tofu and nuts are proteins and that avocados are fruits, for example. Healthy choices earn "grub bucks" to buy app accessories and real world prizes.
Eat and Move-O-Matic
This app helps kids to understand the relationship between food and exercise. The app compares the calories they eat with the time it takes to burn them off with activities that range from doing homework to dancing. With a colorful and engaging design that feels like a video game, Eat and Move-O-Matic offers ideas and tips for healthy alternatives to high-calorie foods like burgers and fries.
Healthy Heroes 1 & 2: Nutrition for Kids
As the Healthy Heroes in this game, kids are charged with saving the city of Yogopolis from Hungry Monsters. Through 36 levels of game play, kids fend off the Hungry Monsters with healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. Junk foods anger the monsters and prevent advancement. Kids learn to recognize healthy foods and eating habits throughout the game.
Perfect Picnic teaches food safety skills with a goal to create the safest picnic operation in the park. The game encourages players to wash hands, use a food thermometer to measure internal food temperatures, keep perishable foods at safe temperatures and keep preparation surfaces clean.
Smash Your Food
This popular app let's you smash food to see its actual sugar, salt and oil content by the numbers compared to what's recommended. Kids will enjoy smashing real images of a burger, imploding a can of cola and pounding a pizza to greasy smithereens. App masters can unlock or buy new food fridges to keep the learning going.
Veggie Circus Farm
Veggie Circus Farm helps children as young as two years old recognize vegetables. Led by Brianna the butterfly or Brian the bee, the app provides animated vegetable performances that teach kids how to pronounce the names of vegetables and basic nutrition benefits without the need to read.
There's a world of options available. Before sharing an app with your child, test it. Is the content accurate? Are there advertisements? If so, are they acceptable? In little or no time you'll find apps that not only entertain but also educate your child on health and nutrition.