Tag Archives: weight

Vaccinating kids against sugary drink addiction

It’s sometimes hard to notice against the backdrop of large and extra-large adults, but 1 out of 3 kids these days is overweight or obese, too. Consuming drinks that have sugar, which kids really, really love, is a big part of why, especially because some parents think such drinks are healthy. So I got to wondering what public schools are actually doing to educate kids about the calorie content of beverages. Or, for kids too young to really grasp the calorie concept, how do schools inform kids that drinking too many sugary drinks can make them fat (if, indeed, teachers are allowed to suggest that being fat might be unhealthy)? Given that obesity is the most pressing medical issue facing kids, I would think that public schools would be totally focused on these topics, and would acknowledge that early intervention is better.

Below is the class activity I think all kindergartners should be doing: making a poster showing how much sugar is in common beverages. It’s a common science fair project, but if done in early elementary school the experience might vaccinate them against over-consumption of sugary drinks.

Sugar in drinksThere are lots of ways to do it, but what I like about the one above is that water and plain milk are included. There should also be some common juices (apple, orange, e.g.), of course, because they are loaded with sugar. And just for scale, it might be good to show how many teaspoons of sugar are in a typical bag of candy (e.g., Skittles).

I would further suggest that the poster include a bag of sugar to represent the total number of calories needed for a typical kindergartner (maybe 1 1/2 cups; 1200 calories?). Teachers should clarify, of course, that eating 1 1/2 cups of sugar is not the way kids should meet their daily energy needs. When done, the poster can go out in the hallway to horrify the rest of the school.

Finally, don’t give your poster a weak title like, “Rethink your drink.” Although we know what that means (and it rhymes), try instead to craft something with a more direct message, like, “Don’t drink dessert all day”, “Don’t drink your dessert”, “Sugary drinks are candy drinks”, “Liquid candy can make you fat.” The idea is to be direct, memorable. And to not shy away from the point: sugary drinks can (do!) make kids fat.

I’m making a Pinterest board to collect some good examples, so if you are a public school teacher, please have a look:

Pinterest board Educating kindergartners about sugary drinks on Pinterest.

Posted in Biology, Education, Food, Graphic design, Health, Photography, Science | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Junk food vending machines in public schools

I’m amazed that we are well into 2014 and schools can still sell junk food to students in vending machines. Below are four photographs just in case you haven’t been to school recently.  In first, some breakfast cereals: Frosted Flakes, Cocoa Krispies, and Apple Jacks, with 37%, 40%, and 43% sugar, respectively.  I’m sure that the Vending Machine Committee for this school decided that if they avoided Kellogg’s Honey Smacks (55.6% sugar), they could argue that the actual offerings are “healthier options.”  Photographs 2 and 3 show candy and chips.  Photograph 4 is for viewers interested in obesity among minorities.

In Pennsylvania (where photographs were taken), 15.9% of high school students are overweight.  11.8% of adolescents are obese.  With rates that high, many students don’t even need healthier forms of calories — they need to stop snacking.  Vending machines promote snacking.

Colin Purrington Photography: Obesity &emdash; junk-food-vending

Colin Purrington Photography: Obesity &emdash; public-school-vending-machine-radnor

Colin Purrington Photography: Obesity &emdash; junk-food-school-vending-machine

Colin Purrington Photography: Obesity &emdash; public-school-vending-machines

Posted in Biology, Education, Food, Graphic design, Photography, Science | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sugared beverages and obesity

Like everyone else, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying New York’s recent proposal for banning supersized containers of sugared beverages. Unlikely to pass, but nice to think about how to affect change somehow, since the tax-paying public ends up paying for the medical consequences of other people’s obesity.  Wish we could try to following:

1.  Somehow mandate that sugared sodas cost 25% more than diet options; and that water should be free (OK, you can charge for the cup).

2. Mark the calorie counts on the side of the supersized versions so that people have a visual sense of how many calories are contained. Diet drinks would come with their caloric values, too (zero, at least darn close to zero).

3.  Mandate funny or gross labels like those that are on packages of cigarettes. Writing, “excess calories cause weight gain,” over and over again is clearly a waste of ink and doesn’t seem to reach your average sugar fan. Need something interesting or irreverent.

My quick sketches of #2-3 are below, on a typical large beverage (7-11’s Double Gulp is 64 oz, by the way).  And, yes, I know that sugared drinks vary in calorie content, that hamburgers vary in calorie content, and that not all people find jiggly fat repulsive.

Warning labels for sugared beverages


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Example of bad scientific poster

When I give lectures on poster design, I sometimes show examples of horrific posters I’ve found on the internet — they are pretty much all bad, in fact. Someday, though, the author of a poster I’m critiquing is going to be in the audience, probably in the front row, and probably carrying a concealed weapon. So I thought it was time to construct my own terrible poster example. The result is, “Pigs in space: effect of zero gravity and ad libitum feeding on weight gain in Cavia porcellus.” I’m especially ashamed of the bad logos, which I designed so as not to anger actual entities like NSF, SpaceX, and the Corn Refiners Association. A partial list of why the poster is awful is below the image.

Example of bad scientific poster (copyright colin purrington)

Why this is a terrible poster:

  1. Too much text.
  2. Background image is distracting, wastes ink.
  3. Text box backgrounds are dark, which makes text hard to read (and wastes ink).
  4. Text box backgrounds are all different colors, for no reason (thus annoying).
  5. Text boxes are different widths (and annoying).
  6. Text boxes not separated from each other by pleasing “white” space.
  7. Text box edges not aligned, which is annoying.
  8. Text justified, which causes bad inter-word spacing. Also makes reading harder (brain uses jaggedness of left-justified text).
  9. Logos are pretentious (true of any logo).
  10. Logos crowd the title.
  11. Title perspective is annoying (unless you like Star Wars).
  12. Title is in all caps, which is harder to read and obscures Latin name).
  13. Title is italicized, which obscures Latin name.
  14. Author font and color is annoying (comic sans should be reserved for comic books).
  15. Author font color is too loud relative to other text.
  16. Results are presented in sentences instead of visually with charts.
  17. Section headers have more than one type of formatting (big font, bolded, italicized, underlined, and colored — ack!).  Choose one. [Note: I forgot to number the sections…that would have been even worse.]
  18. Terrible graphic of Guinea pig on scale. Need one of the actual set up (pigs eating while weightless, for example). [UPDATE: Or should have bribed Jeff at joegp.com, who apparently has a comic series about Guinea pigs in space suits. Awesome]
  19. Inclusion of an Abstract gobbles up space needlessly. Abstract section should be banned from posters.
  20. Plus the science is terrible! (Bad science is correlated with bad graphic design, by the way.)

I encourage teachers to print the poster and show to students a month before their posters are due. Students don’t read instructions anymore unless you threaten them with a test or coat the material with something snarky, and the above might be able to break through their filters. The printable PDF is on my “Designing conference posters” page if you want to try.

And yes, that fictitious street number is a gravity joke. Sorry.

Believe it or not, the poster got published in the journal Nature.

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