KRISTINA LISOWSKI | Mon., July 16, 2012 @ 9:33 pm
BOULDER—It’s a frustration parents deal with every day. How do you get your child to choose the apple over the cookie? Karen Laszlo and Mike Carcaise started ZisBoomBah to solve this problem.
ZisBoomBah is a free website dedicated to enabling children to make healthy choices through fun, educational methods. It targets 5 to 13-year-old children and offers games and resources for both the
children and their parents. The site’s slogan is “Where it’s ok to play with your food!”. Children play games that earn points by making nutritious choices. Points allow them to clothe their “ant-vatars” and incentivize them to increase their dietary knowledge.
“We gamify the entire process and we co
nnect the people who are most critical to the child’s success”, says co-founder Karen Laszlo, explaining why ZisBoomBah differs from other sites. Th
e site relies on a form of game theory to motivate kids to visit the site, build their skills, and become entrenched in the ZisBoomBah community so that they’ll w
ant to keep visiting the site even after they’ve reached their goals — not unlike the Weight Watchers or Nike+ communities.
In September 2010, ZisBoomBah’s “Pick
Chow!” tool won the Grand Prize in First Lady Michelle Obama’s Apps for Healthy Kids competition that was focused on ending childhood obesity (panel jud
ges included Apple Cofounder Steve “The Woz” Wozniak). The tool lets kids create their own meals by dragging food onto a plate in an effort to create a well-balanced meal.
The Pick Chow! tool, launched in 2009, uses a virtual plate divided into dairy, fruit, vegetables, grains, and meat and beans sections. Interestingly, the new nutrition plate, MyPlate, introduced by th
e USDA and Let’s Move in June, 2011, strongly resembles the PickChow! Plate launched in 2009.
Laszlo has found that parents have more
trouble getting a five star meal using the “Pick Chow!” tool than their children. “The parents need to be retrained. They’ve been bombarded by so much messaging that isn’t valid but the kids haven’t been,” she says.
The site recognizes that there is not a on
e-size-fits-all solution to healthy living and takes into account the economic factors, time constraints, and dietary restrictions within today’s families. “The whole goal is to make it easy, relevant, and actionable,” Laszlo says.
No food is criminalized or considered off-limits. The focus is simply on portion control and ensuring all dietary needs are met. The company is cautious about placing restrictions on food because they
recognize that their young audience is susceptible to anorexia and other childhood eating disorders.
ZisBoomBah was founded by siblings Ka
ren Laszlo and Mike Carcaise. Karen Laszlo has 24 years of technology experience ranging from startups to Fortune 500 companies. Mike Carcaise has been in the restaurant industry since he was 14 years old. He has developed many of the recipes for the ZisBoomBah Parents’ Ultimate Food Guide.
While this is the first time either of them i
s working at a company that directly targets children, Karen Laszlo and Mike Carcaise come from a family of ten, which now includes 23 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren, so working with kids is nothing new.
ZisBoomBah has assembled a well-rounded team that includes fitness experts, registered dietitians, childhood nutritionists, and psychologists. They are looking to raise about $1 million dollars which will fund their mobile development which will include five apps. The company just partnered with the Girl Scouts of Colorado and is talking to schools about launching Salad Bar Adventures in order to gain more users.
Their “Pick Chow!” tool won the Grand Prize in First Lady Michelle Obama’s Apps for Healthy Kids competition in September 2010.