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Thursday, June 24,2010

ZisBoomBah: A nutrition tool for kids

By Heather May Koski



Childhood is arguably the most influential period of a person’s life, when children learn to speak, walk, read and write, among other basic skills.


It is also a time when children begin shaping a lifestyle based on their parents’ expectations and surrounding environment.


Many believe that childhood is a critical time to develop skills for a healthy lifestyle through regular exercise, adequate sleep and a smart diet.

A new, local company, ZisBoomBah, has a tool for families wanting to support healthy lifestyles by creating kidfriendly meals.

Based in Boulder, ZisBoomBah.com offers a fun and educational tool called Pick Chow!, where children can virtually choose their ideal meal online. Featuring an interactive empty plate, children are given a wide variety of virtual food and the task of creating a nutritionally balanced meal.

The goal is to create a meal that achieves the highest score possible based on the meal’s nutritional content. After children have finished creating their ideal meal online, ZisBoomBah calculates the nutritional value of the meal, saves the recipe and provides the option of e-mailing it to parents, who can in turn buy the selected food at the grocery store to actually make the chosen meal.

Brandon Saranik, a ZisBoomBah marketing representative, says the company flips conventional wisdom upside down to solve age-old problems with new solutions. “We teach kids not to talk to strangers and run into the road, but we don’t teach them basic nutrition. Let’s give them the choice to make their own meals,” Saranik says.

Founded in fall of 2008 by an entrepreneurial group of professionals focused on employing online technology to create a better future for families, ZisBoomBah lets kids play with their food — while saving parents time and money.

“It’s a two-part system. The meals won’t be created unless the kids get online and use our interactive tool and the meals won’t be made unless the parents go out and shop. We give them a shopping list,” Saranik says.

The Pick Chow! interactive tool features a virtual plate with categorized sections of vegetables, fruit, dairy, grains, meat, beans and dessert. Children can choose from an extensive list of food from each category for their meal by dragging the selected food onto the plate. A set of nutritional meters react to the selected food by measuring protein, carbohydrates, fat, fiber, sugar, saturated fat and sodium for each item. After children are finished creating their meal, Pick Chow! will rate the meal using a five-star system and offer to e-mail the results to parents so that it can be made at home.

Trisha Lutz-Ball, a Westminster resident and mother, says she thinks that children don’t generally like healthy food because it’s hard to swallow and that a website like ZisBoomBah is completely feasible in her household. “The idea of it is perfect,” Lutz-Ball says.

Saranik says ZisBoomBah recognizes that children can create a one- or five-star meal with the Pick Chow! interactive tool. “Another one of our philosophies is that we really don’t want to criminalize food because it creates a negative relationship between kids and food. We want kids to make good and bad meals as long as they take responsibility for it,” Saranik says.

In the instance that a child does create a five-star meal on ZisBoomBah, they have the option of submitting it for Meal of the Week to be featured on the website. Last week’s Meal of the Week was submitted by Merliah from Littleton and consisted of a small macaroni and cheese pizza, a green apple and broccoli.

ZisBoomBah has about 3,500 unique visitors and 500 registered users. Saranik says children and parents can go online and play for free. “We really need parents to sign on because we actually want the meals to be made at home. It’s such a unique and innovative approach that it takes some time for parents to catch on,” Saranik says. ZisBoomBah offers free coupons andrecipes for all visitors.

While interesting and fun to say, the word ZisBoomBah was developed out of the blue and doesn’t mean anything. Saranik says the company is in the process of making a video for the website of all the different ways that people pronounce the name.

Currently funded solely by founder and manager Karen Laszlo, ZisBoomBah hopes to partner with other organizations that share the same vision of healthy food choices for children. Saranik says ZisBoomBah had a booth at the Boulder Creek Festival over Memorial Day weekend and is competing in the Pepsi Refresh Challenge as well as The Apps for Healthy Kids Competition, part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign to end childhood obesity within a generation.

According to a study conducted in July 2007 by the Colorado Children’s Campaign, nearly 29 percent of Colorado children ages 2 to14 were considered overweight or at risk for being overweight, and 53 percent of adults were overweight or obese in 2005. It is estimated that if current trends continue, by 2020, 76 percent of all Coloradans will be overweight or obese, while only 24 percent of the population will be at a healthy weight.

The Colorado Children’s Campaign emphasizes how important it is for parents to create environments that are conducive to nutrition and physical activity. ZisBoomBah aims to help support this idea in Colorado households and nationwide.

For more information, visit www.zisboombah.com.

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