Cookie Monster eating fewer cookies to combat child obesity epidemic

by Ilana Weinberg

(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON - "Sesame Street"'s infamous Cookie Monster is eating fewer cookies, and his Internet home page now features a "healthy habits" section, picturing the familiar blue, furry monster eating -- an apple? Yes, "Sesame Street" rang in its 36th season last week, featuring a segment for its new health initiative at the beginning of each episode.

Due to the rising child obesity rates in America, Cookie Monster has decided to lay off the cookies for a bit. He's not going on a diet, per se, but he is advocating a healthier eating style. His new song, replacing the favorite "C is for cookie, that's good enough for me," teaches that "a cookie is a sometimes food."

Rosemarie Truglio, the show's vice president of research and education, emphasized the need to teach children about healthy eating habits and physical exercise, according to a story by The Associated Press. In keeping with the new theme, each episode now opens with a health tip. New characters, such as talking fruits and vegetables, will make their debut to entice children to a new healthy lifestyle.

"The preschool years are a crucial time in children's lives to foster healthy habits. Recent data reflect both the immediate and long-term consequences of poor dietary behaviors," said a recent press release from the Sesame Workshop Company.

Cookie Monster is the leading man behind this new initiative and is transitioning to a healthier, more well-balanced diet. But don't worry, he's not giving up his cookies altogether.

"We are not putting him on a diet, and we would never take the position of no sugar," Truglio told the AP. "We're teaching him moderation."

Cookie's new eating plan will include fruits and vegetables, but also "healthier" cookies that stray from his standard chocolate chip. Other aspects of the "Healthy habits for life" include staying in shape with "Grovercise" and lessons on personal hygiene and getting a good night's sleep.

Politicians have recognized the importance of this initiative. More than a dozen U.S. senators taped public service messages with "Sesame Street" characters Elmo and Rosita, with topics including nutrition, to fitness and personal hygiene. Participants include such high-profile politicians as Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Bill Frist (R-TN) and Christopher Dodd (D-CT). In fact, a recent episode featured Frist jumping up and down with Elmo in a lesson on exercise, and Clinton discussing the tastes and textures of different foods.

"These messages unite the trusted characters of 'Sesame Street' with the respected voices of more than a dozen members of Congress. I'm confident that our message of embracing healthy habits for life will resonate with children and adults alike," said Sesame Workshop President and CEO Gary Knell in a recent press release.

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