The federal government is hoping to help kids blast off to better eating habits with an online game and a food pyramid created just for 6-to-11-year-olds.
But if you're like the students at Samuel W. Tucker Elementary School in Alexandria who tried the new pyramid and game yesterday, you may find that it's a little hard to get your rocket to lift off with the food and activity you get now.
This is the first food pyramid ever designed for 6-to-11-year-olds. The goal is to get kids to "eat right, exercise and have fun," Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns told a roomful of fifth-graders yesterday.
Earlier this year, the Department of Agriculture redesigned the food pyramid for adults and for kids 12 years and older. The pyramid for kids 6-11 looks a lot like that one, with bold colorful stripes for each food group.
Orange stands for food made from grains, such as bread, crackers, pasta and rice. Red is for fruit. Green is the color for vegetables. Blue is for milk and other dairy products, including yogurt and cheese. Purple stands for protein, including beans, nuts, lean meat, seafood, eggs, and chicken or turkey without the skin. Yellow is the color for olive oil, margarine, butter and other types of fat.
There's also a stairway on the side of the pyramid -- a reminder to be more active. Kids should get at least an hour of physical activity every day.
But what makes the 6-11 pyramid kid-friendly is Blast Off, an online game that can be played at school or home. Blast Off, available at www.mypyramid.gov, lets kids see what foods they need to eat and how much daily exercise they need to stay healthy.
The idea is simple: The more healthful foods you eat and the more exercise you get, the more your rocket builds up fuel. When it has enough fuel, you can blast off to Planet Power.
But the third-graders who tried Blast Off yesterday at Tucker's computer lab found that it didn't have some of their favorite foods. Kids couldn't find strawberries, blueberries or cantaloupe. It also didn't list the powdered-sugar doughnut that Claudia Flores, 8, had for breakfast, or the biscuit eaten by Daniel Rodriguez, 8. (The three groups of food change periodically, so the game is a little different each time you play; you might not find cantaloupe one time, but it might be there the next.)
A big problem today is that kids don't get enough exercise. They spend too much time watching television or playing video games. But Blast Off might not be able to keep up with really active kids. The game lets you record only up to 60 minutes of exercise a day.
Superactive kids might want to keep track of their activity as part of a challenge program sponsored by the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. You can even earn a presidential medal for being active. That Web site is www.presidentschallenge.org. (Always check with your parents before going to any Web site.)
-- Sally Squires