Buffet of Information

Learn how to shop for groceries and plan meals at Koshland’s new food exhibition

November 27, 2012

At the “Food For Thought” exhibit, visitors can drive a cart around a virtual grocery store and figure out what to buy.

Planning to eat a lot over the next month or so? Feed your brain first at the Marian Koshland Science Museum (525 E St. NW; Koshland-science-museum.org). “Food For Thought,” a new exhibit at the interactive educational center, aims to increase your nutritional know-how.

“We wanted to launch this before the holidays so people could make informed choices,” says community relations manager Amy Shaw.

Learning feels a lot like gaming when visitors get into a driver’s seat —  with a steering wheel and gas and brake pedals — to take a simulated spin around a grocery store. As they cruise in a virtual cart down aisles displayed on-screen, they answer questions about such things as fat content and recommended daily servings. Crashing into a display of Diet Fizz Bang soda eats into the five-minute time limit.

Racking up a lot of wrong answers? Head to the wall of touch screens that allow users to plug in their age, gender and activity level to find out how various meal plans suit their nutritional needs.

“Maybe I’ll eat eggs Benedict,” says museum deputy director Erika Shugart. “But that has a lot of empty calories. Or I can eat tons of grains and vegetables, but then I see I’m not getting enough protein.”

The teenage years get extra attention with a module that lets users take on the role of a high-school lunch lady. She has to serve a neverending row of teens, and if their chicken nuggets aren’t swapped for broccoli, the kids on screen get increasingly depressed.

At the final stop in the exhibit, visitors can tap a screen filled with bubbles representing calcium, ginseng and other popular supplements to pull up a thorough roundup of research, and then take a test.

Shugart shares one fact that will boost any score: “Most people can put together healthy diets without taking supplements.”

Just remember what you learned in the exhibit.

Contest: Take what you learn back to your kitchen — and take pictures for the museum’s Healthy Plate Challenge. Experts will pick the top three photos of meals emphasizing veggies and whole grains. Then the public will vote on a winner, who will score Koshland swag. Deadline: Dec. 17.

Vicky Hallett is a MisFits columnist and the Fit editor for Express.
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