Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Will the Real Cookie Monster Please Stand Up

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It’s been four years since Cookie Monster said, “Me want cookie!” Gone are the days of hearing Cookie Monster say, “Om nom nom nom” while munching down on a delectable treat.

Think you’ll ever see the big blue guy eat any more letters of the week? Think again. It’s over. Done. Cookie Monster is now health conscious.

After Sesame Street transitioned from teaching our children how to count and spell to an agent for social change, Cookie Monster had to change his ways. Now he sings songs about vegetables and told a 2007 Martha Stewart audience that “cookies are a sometimes” food.

Here’s something we’ll agree upon—you, me and Cookie Monster. Childhood obesity is no laughing matter. One study reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tells us 80% of children aged 10-15 who were obese as children grew up to be obese adults. The CDC also reports that over 9 million children age 6 to 19 fit this classification (2006).

Certainly the powers that be at Sesame Street are right about the problem, but are they right about the solution? Maybe having Cookie Monster chomp on vegetables instead of cookies makes a difference, but I’m not so sure.

I grew up watching Cookie Monster eat cookies and other non-food objects. Not once did I eat the letter of the week, salt and pepper shakers, napkins or pencils. Cookie Monster’s antics made me laugh, but Cookie Monster had nothing to do with my eating habits or choices.

Around dinner the other night my family and I discussed the new Cookie Monster. My husband said, “Remember when all those children started counting numbers like the Count? It was crazy. Vvvooooonnnnneeee, Tttttoooooo, Tttthhhrrreee.” He wondered where were all the headlines about our children’s inability to correctly pronounce numbers.

Greg made my point. Kids aren’t fat because of Cookie Monster. Healthy eating habits are formed at home, by the family.

An on-line article from Kids for Health Nemours Foundation says, “The key to keeping kids of all ages at a healthy weight is taking a whole-family approach….Get your kids involved by letting them help you plan and prepare healthy meals, and take them along when you go grocery shopping so they can learn how to make good food choices.”

Other tips: 1. Follow Cookie Monster’s lead and save favorite junk foods, like chips, cookies, letters and crackers for occasional treats. Restrict the amount of junk food kept in the house. Don’t make it easy to grab. 2. Encourage exercise. Children play differently than we used to for a variety of reasons, including safety concerns and new technology, so it’s important to give your kids access to physical activities that are fun. 3. Tell your children to stop eating when they are full. Encourage them to only eat when they are hungry.

If your child is struggling and your efforts are not working, seek a doctor’s help.

On a humorous note, blogger and author Mike Adamick blames Cookie Monster for his childhood obesity and Elmo for his stint in San Quentin. He tells us in his byline to “don't even get him started on Oscar and his get-a-way driving skills.” All kidding aside, Mike also said something that made a lot of sense: “And if Cookie Monster has that big of an influence on your kid, let me tell you a secret: It's not public television's fault.”

Allyn Evans
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