- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 20, 2003

Junk food has been one factor leading to supersize Americans, who continue to expand around the midsection, spurring an increase in heart attacks, strokes and complications from type II diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Until a generation wakes up and understands what it is doing to itself, many Americans will continue to be mesmerized by double Quarter Pounders with cheese and New York-style pizza.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) wants to help. It has spent 22 years acting as the nation’s food police with eye-opening reports on Chinese food, the worst fast food and the dangers of overusing antibiotics. It created a Web site last year to help children understand healthy eating habits and that “food to die for” eventually will produce that result.


Site address: www.cspinet.org/smartmouth/index1.html


The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a nonprofit health organization based in the District, maintains the site. CSPI works to make healthy eating and physical activity easier for children and adults through education programs and local, state and national policy initiatives.

Creator quotable:

“Smart-Mouth.org uses games to teach children (and their parents and teachers) how to eat well and resist the food industry’s marketing campaigns,” says Margo Wootan, CSPI’s director of nutrition policy.

Word from the Webwise:

The site aims to attract children 10 to 14 years old with quick, astounding facts, fun challenges and illustrations in an exaggerated style one might find while paging through Mad magazine.

As the opening page loads, visitors are hit with a pop-up box that might report: “If you’re like most Americans, switching from whole to fat-free milk could cut 400 pounds of fat and 1.5 million calories from your diet over your lifetime.”

After digesting that bit of information, visitors can move the cursor over a fun-house-style cast of characters as they decide which main section Choose up Chews, Articles & Recipes, Video Clips, Trust Gus or Snacktoids to enter first.

I suggest getting the hard reading out of the way and gobbling up Articles & Recipes for some easy-to-understand news on nutrition and tips for creating healthy meals. Tasty-sounding ideas such as banana split cereal, turkey barbecue sandwiches and muffin pizzas can be found here, complete with preparation directions. Also learn about the bad points of eating cheese, why soda is like liquid candy and the importance of balancing calories.

Next, reinforce the educational articles with Video Clips, cartoony vignettes (RealPlayer and Windows Media Player ready) on how to clog an artery, the problems with whole milk and, using claymation to bring junk food to life, the woeful tale of saturated fat.

Need a break? Use Snacktoids to review facts about food, marketing, health and why exercise and eating lots of fruits and vegetables are important.

Those looking for a challenge will appreciate both Choose up Chews and Trust Gus. The first has visitors use an automatic counter to add up the calories and fats associated with some favorite foods; the second has smarmy quizmaster Gus tossing true/false questions at players. For example: True or false, a bottle of Strawberry Melon Fruit Works contains plenty of great-tasting strawberry and melon juices. (False; the drink contains just a tiny bit of pear juice, and the rest of the flavors are from chemicals).

Ease of use:

This site worked perfectly and only requires the plug-ins listed above for the video clips and a browser supporting Javascript (which all of the current ones do).

Don’t miss

I love a good game of Hangman, especially when I learn something, and Smart-Mouth has a dandy. Feed the Face gives a single player six chances to answer a riddle by revealing a word or phrase after selecting letters from a menu that looks like a keyboard. Wrong answers keep peeling away at the scary face until nothing remains but a skull.

Family activity:

Besides working through the recipes listed on the site, the CSPI recommends that parents watch their children’s favorite television programs with them, discussing what kinds of foods are advertised, how healthful those foods are and what kinds of marketing techniques are used to encourage children to eat those foods.

Also, when eating at a restaurant, families could discuss how healthful different menu items are, what portion size of food the child really needs or is hungry for, and how their choices could be made more healthful.

Cyber-sitter synopsis:

After spending about an hour on this site, children may never drink a Coke, eat a Whopper or enjoy a Dunkin’ Donut again, and they will have been entertained.

Overall grade: B+

Remember: The information on the Internet is constantly changing. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it’s accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your own physician.

Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message ([email protected]).

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