January 23, 2014
Sesame Street is onboard with a message of healthy eating, including a message from Cookie Monster to cut back on the cookies.
Ernie, Bert, Cookie Monster, and other familiar characters from television's long-running Sesame Street will focus even more on eating healthy foods, after the completion of a three-year project in Colombia helped young children there lead more healthy lives.
Among the suggestions is one by Cookie Monster himself, to eat cookies only sometimes, rather than every day, and to replace snacks in children's diets with fruits and vegetables. The vegetables sing, as does Cookie Monster, in "Cookie Is a Sometimes Food."
Recent studies have found that younger and younger children are at risk of heart problems, even at an early age but certainly later in life, because of a decline in healthy eating and exercise. One recent large study found that one-third of American children teens are overweight or obese. Another study found a marked drop in children's exercise around the world.
The Colombia project tested the healthy foods/exercise message on more than 1,200 children from about a dozen schools in Bogota, the capital. Participants played a board game called "The Heart Game," sang songs, designed posters, and watched videos, all with a healthy message. The children's parents also got into the act, absorbing messages of promoting exercise alternatives, such as taking the stairs instead of using the elevator and walking instead of riding in a car or a bus, where practicable.
The project continued for a few years, with researchers monitoring the weight and exercise habits of the children at regular intervals. After three years, the number of children who were at a healthy weight increased 13 percent. That and other successes have convinced organizers to increase the Colombia project to 20,000 children. A similar effort is planned for Spain as well.
The American project will have a wide launch in New York in stages throughout 2014. A limited N.Y. trial has already had successes similar to the Colombia project, with participants learning the names of fruits and vegetables and even working in a nearby community garden.
Sesame Street healthy habits: