Sometime in February of this year, Apple’s iPhone App Store reached over 600,000 apps. MobiHealthNews reported that there were then over 23,000 health apps. Happtique.com is working feverishly to categorize health apps, but sometimes health games are submitted to the App Store as “games” and don’t get included in the health app hunt.
I just finished writing an ebook called, “An App A Day.” In it, I briefly review and point consumers to hundreds of apps for iPhones, iPads, and the iPod touch. Most are health apps, but some are just plain handy for personal use. In the book, I make the case for using health apps, but you have probably already heard about the obesity epidemic and the rising costs of health care on the daily news. I also include guidelines for how to assess apps to find the best.
In An App A Day, there are 3 main categories in the Health Games chapter that include: Food & Nutrition (11 games), Activity (9 games), and Health Education (2 games). I really like Max’s Plate for preschoolers, and Seek ‘n Spell for older children. Eat This-Not That and Food Focus: Fruits are fun, too. Recently I contributed multiple-choice and true-false questions for Breast Cancer Care to help educate users about prevention. And if you have a new iPad and an exercise bike, you will love Fit Freeway. This game gives momentum to a race car on a track based on vibrations from the exercise bike. It tracks head movements to steer the car. Pretty amazing use of technology!
After purchase, An App A Day is emailed as a PDF download that can then be read on your Apple device either in iBooks or Kindle apps as a document when opened from your email. I also wrote a version for health professionals. So, the next time you visit the doctor, don’t be surprised if you are given a prescription to play a health game. Staying healthy sure beats popping pills!
It seems that everyday you can log onto the Internet and see articles referring to a scientific study from somewhere around the globe. Some of these studies are done by private research companies, others are by governments, many are done by universities, and sometimes there’s a mix of all three. When professionals read these studies, they pay close attention to the scientific methods and procedures that were used. Most prominent health journals have peer review boards that decide if an article is good enough for publication. Archimage has been a leader in nutrition and health game research for over 10 years years. Results of their work have been published in numerous national and international peer-reviewed scientific journals. For a short list, search Pubmed, an online database of scientific and biomedical journals, for Archimage and Playnormous’ president Richard Buday (a frequent co-author).
A good example of this appeared in Public Health Nutrition in 2010. A team from Baylor College of Medicine and Archimage collaborated to find the best method to visually teach children how to estimate food portions. Children aged 8 to 13 were asked to guess the portion size of 16 food models by matching them to the correct photo. They were shown food images of varying portion sizes. Some children were tested using size cues like utensils or a checked tablecloth placed in the photo as hints. Some were shown each portion photo one at a time; and some were shown all of their photo choices on one page ranging in size from small to large.
In the end, results showed that children made correct food model portion matches with the photos 60% of the time. The way the photos were displayed did not affect accuracy, but choosing from the full page of photo options was 50% faster than viewing them one at a time.
So, if you are planning to teach children how to estimate portion sizes of food photography, presently the most efficient way to is to show them all of their size options at once. Using this method, they will be correct about 60% of the time with this method.
Archimage is very interested and committed to quality research on the best ways to improve childhood nutrition and physical activity behavior. Check the Playnormous Blog often to read the latest nutrition research news. Teachers and parents can use these reviews to help guide their class methods and their application at home.
The year-end holidays are the perfect opportunity to engage the entire family in the kitchen. Some health professionals worry that today’s youth are missing out on learning how to cook. Once on their own, few young adults know how to do more than boil an egg, make toast, or make boxed macaroni and cheese, so take advantage of this special time together to teach lifelong cooking and nutrition skills and family recipes.
It’s tempting to have the kids only make cookies and desserts at this time of year, but also seize the opportunity to teach them how to contribute to making family meals. If relatives are visiting, invite everyone to help. To start, have everyone wash their hands while counting to 20 or singing Happy Birthday. Children with long hair should pull it up into a hair band.
Very young children are good with their hands and can help wash produce, peel fruit and tear lettuce, snap beans, stir and toss cold ingredients, sift flour, sprinkle raisins, and crumble cheese. They are terrific assembly artists and can pour dry ingredients from measuring cups.
Elementary school children can progress to chopping veggies and fruits with strong plastic knives like those made for lettuce, and using other kitchen gadgets such as garlic clove rolls, garlic presses, vegetable peelers, apple section dividers, melon ball scoops, and rolling pins. They may also want to attempt layering salads, or lasagna and scooping liquid into baking cups and pans. They can also use a butter knife to make their own sandwiches and cut fruits and cooked veggies.
Middle school children can measure using spoons and cups. They can stir warm liquids on the stove, use a microwave with care, and begin using a mixer with supervision. They may even want to dabble in designing their own pasta dishes with various veggie combinations. Mature students will need a lesson in safe knife skills, including using a sharpening steel. Take kids this age to the grocery store and have them read food labels and prices.
High school students need to be given some basic rules about using the stove, oven, carving knives, blenders, and food processors. They may have an interest in designing family meal menus and recipes and creating grocery lists. Using recipes with minimal ingredients can be a good foundation to practice planning, shopping, and timing meal preparation.
At this time of year, filling jars with dry ingredient mixes for soups or pancakes make fantastic time-saving gifts. Here’s a link to making a few holiday mixes.
Of course, good nutrition principles should be encouraged at any age, as well as using guided patience, because it will get messy. Show everyone how to help clean up, too. Enjoy precious family time together in the kitchen sharing recipes and special meals.
The seasons have come around to fall once again, and the Halloween rush is on. When my children were young, that meant home made costumes from our ever-expanding collection, making flowing gauze ghosts to hang in the front tree, lining the driveway with lit carved pumpkins, making fruit punch in a black plastic cauldron, and leaning a witches broom and hat by the front door, while ghostly moans from a spooky sound track filled the house.
The dads distributed flashlights and glow sticks, the moms corralled everyone for the annual photo, and the kids dashed for the largest candy bag they could find—their pillowcases. None of those cute little candy containers were ever sufficient.
We hosted the annual Halloween night neighborhood chili dinner to help harness the excitement and take the edge off of the incoming flood of candy with a quick, healthy, shared meal. The excitement was palpable.
Our candy bowl had a green battery-powered plastic hand in the middle that would flinch when a hand reached in. It spooked, but never stopped anyone from grabbing a few pieces. The elementary school always gave a homework assignment to count and categorize each load of candy. By the end of the evening, the kids were exhausted, and would only eat a few pieces. Their exuberance for it lasted only a couple days and after that, Halloween and candy were mostly long forgotten.
The kids learned that this was a special treat. No threats, no drama—just learning for themselves the difference between a special occasion and daily food needs. Candy isn’t on my weekly grocery list, and rarely in our home. Within a few days of Halloween, the thrill of the hunt was gone and we were back to our regular eating routine. Sometimes I would find those pillowcases of candy weeks later, and they would quietly disappear—just in time for the next lesson in go-slow-whoa foods with the appearance of the next holiday’s traditional novelty treats.
Here’s a link to read another Halloween blog post, “5 Ways to Help Kids Eat Smart This Halloween,” also written by a registered dietitian.
Have a spooktacular Halloween!
Fall is back-to-school time and much has been written in newspapers, magazines and blogs about healthy food to pack for your favorite students. Keep protein selections lean, add fruits and veggies, and pack whole grains when possible. Melissa wrote a blog entry on packing healthy lunches below.
Choosing a lunch box is a favorite activity for kids. Insulated bento boxes are big this year. Check out www.easylunchboxes.com and www.laptoplunches.com . No matter what type of lunch box, bag, or pouch you choose, be sure to add a chill pack or frozen juice box to keep the food cool. Chill packs also prevent food-borne illness in foods that need refrigeration. These would include foods with protein like meats, fish, chicken, eggs, dairy, and mayonnaise. Nuts and seeds do not require chilling.
Read through the kid-friendly recipes on www.Playnormous.com/health/recipes with your child. The recipes and the games on the website are great conversation starters to ensure that your student eats healthy to learn well all year.