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Casting Off Cookies?

Well, one.

"That sounds perfectly reasonable," says Margo Wooten of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "You can't build a whole diet around cookies!"

For "Sesame Street," which has long been considered the hallmark of educational children's programming, it's a natural evolution. Teaching kids about good life habits fits in perfectly with the program's mission. Politicians have embraced the message -- more than a dozen senators agreed to film "healthy habit" public service announcements with the "Sesame Street" Muppets.

The Cookie Monster from TV's "Sesame Street" goes over to the healthy side as he forsakes a cookie for a bounty of fruit. (Richard Termine)

So let's just accept it, and admit it. This is good for kids. This is a worthwhile idea. Most parents probably hope, deep down, that Elmo can get their 3-year-olds to eat the peas instead of dropping them under the table. Childhood obesity is a very big problem.

Somehow, though, that doesn't seem to make it easier to accept that Cookie Monster is now tossing salads on the Sesame Workshop Web site. What's next, Scooby-Doo restricted to organic kibble? The clink for Count Chocula, Toucan Sam and Cap'n Crunch?

"Kudos to Cookie Monster for trying new things," says Ronald McDonald in a statement through his corporate office.

Ronald, of course, understands Cookie Monster's dilemma. He, too, has undergone such a transformation. Yogurt has made its way onto McDonald's Happy Meal menu. There are now grilled chicken salads available for moms. This January, Ronald was promoted to "Chief Happiness Officer" -- which, translated, turns out to be a "character who tells schoolchildren that french fry consumption equals a need for exercise." (No word yet on when Cookie might be promoted to "Happy Snack Puppet").

"It's great to know you can have your cookies and eat fruit, too," The Ronald said, via e-mail. "It's cool to try different foods and fun to stay active and fit. The way I look at it, it's what I eat and what I do and I'm lovin' it. Let's do lunch!"

Then there's Chester Cheetah, the "spokescat" for Cheetos, who himself introduced baked, lower-fat Cheetos last year in an attempt to be part of the "healthy" eating universe.

"Although it ain't easy being cheesy," Chester says, also via an e-mail statement provided by his company, Frito Lay, "it is easy to balance your diet. Keep up the good work Cookie Monster, we are proud of you."

For the most part, though, official reaction from the cartoon community was hard to come by. There was no response from the Keebler Elves, who were feared to be moping in their tree, concerned that the Cookie Monster's cookie-reduction plan would impact their own financial futures. SpongeBob SquarePants, purveyor of Krabby Patties, had nothing to say.

And no word from the Jolly Green Giant, who should be gloating, given that he has been promoting all that's green and leafy for decades by now.

Yes, of course, it is all an overreaction.

"He is a Cookie Monster," Truglio says. "He loves his cookies. But he's always eaten a variety of things. He even eats tables and chairs."

The world is not coming to an end. Is it a slippery slope? Perhaps. But Oscar the Grouch is not going to go on Zoloft. Really. They swear.

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