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Say 'Aaah' | YOUR HEALTH ONLINE

ABCs of Nutrition, With Kids in Mind

September 04, 2000|Benedict Carey

Nutrition Cafe

(http://www.exhibits.pacsci.org/nutrition/)

Overview: The Nutrition Cafe page is a joint educational project launched three years ago by the Washington State Dairy Council and Pacific Science Center in Seattle, one of the country's most innovative science museums. Geared toward children ages 6 to 10--and their parents--it is meant to give kids the basics of nutrition.

What Works: This is one of the few health sites for children that a kid might actually spend time on, especially for a homework assignment. It includes a "Jeopardy"-like quiz game that teaches about fat, carbohydrates and protein; and another challenge, modeled on the hangman game, that explains why things like vitamins A and D are so important. The site also has a feature that allows parents to help their children assess the nutritional value of their diets.

What Doesn't: The Nutrition Cafe is not prepared for hungry customers; after you've played the games a few times, there's not much juice left. Several of its (very few) links to other sites go to the sort of government documents on nutrition that might instantly kill off any interest in the subject. And there's no attempt to cover, or even discuss, news, such as food labeling controversies. Nor are there articles about junk cereals or peanut butter-and-marshmallow sandwiches or milkshakes for breakfast: stuff kids would really eat up.

Children's Health Research Center

(http://www.bcm.tmc.edu/cnrc)

Overview: The Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor University is the oldest federal facility devoted to the study of nutrition, from conception to adolescence. This Web site, launched in 1999, is an attempt to give parents access to some of the center's research and expertise.

What Works: The question-and-answer formats are very good: How can I help my 12- and 14-year-old girls maintain their weight? Isn't type 2 diabetes something only adults get? What can I give my child to drink if she won't drink milk? The answers to these are straightforward, readable, sometimes complete with charts, all without seeming long-winded or confusing. The site also has an online newsletter with easy-to-digest articles on everything from sports drinks to teens and vegetarian diets. The site is inclusive, free of ads and sprinkled with outside links throughout.

What Doesn't: The site offers little information explaining its own research and why it's relevant. In the one area where Baylor could be most authoritative--defining the most important questions facing kids' nutrition researchers and how they're trying to answer them--the site loses its nerve, lapsing into scientific jargon that is fit only for other researchers. Parents who want to understand how experiments are being done, and what they could mean for kids' health, will have to go elsewhere.

Worth Checking Out: The U.S. Department of Agriculture's USDA for Kids (http://www.usda.gov/news/usdakids); Healthy Choices for Kids Online (http://www.healthychoices.org), from Washington state's apple growers; and Dole Food Co.'s Dole 5 a Day (http://www.dole5aday.com).

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