Governments are always trying to help kids make healthy choices about what they eat by creating food pyramids and colour-coded guides. I’m not saying they aren’t useful—they are—but they are also extremely challenging for most kids to remember.
(I’m pretty sure the most simple, elegant and easy to remember guidelines I’ve seen for a healthy meal are those that Finland employs for its school lunch: half the plate is for veggies, a quarter for grains, a quarter for protein. Of course, it leaves out dairy and fruit entirely, but at least it’s simple and anyone could follow it to have one balanced meal.)
But in a kid-friendly effort to make sense of all of the nutritional gobbledygook, there’s now also LunchLine: a game of wits and cottage cheese. A computer game designed to help kids make good decisions about what they need to eat, it’s a fun race against the clock to meet nutritional requirements and have a balanced meal.
After punching in your weight, age and gender, you head right to the lunch line, and load food on your tray while a counter monitors your calorie and nutritional intake. You try to stay within your target for the meal and the day. You can ask for specific dishes from the lunch lady, but wait too long and the food you want will likely be gone!
According to my 11-year-old, it was “hard but fun.” He didn’t like the background music (designed, it seemed to remind the player that there’s a time limit) and thought it might be cool to see how it went if he said he was, say, 80 and 300 pounds.
It’s the kind of game teachers might employ in the classroom following a lesson on a balanced diet. But for me, it was also a reminder of the challenge of making good choices when you’re rushed and there are people behind you and the options are limited as they are in so many school cafeterias.