Kids Learn Nutrition From a Very Hungry Caterpillar

Mar 9, 2011
Megan Bedard is a sucker for sustainable agriculture and a good farmers market, she likes writing about food almost as much as eating it.
A very hungry caterpillar has some very good advice about portion control. (bopuc/Creative Commons)

Anyone who's ever read A Very Hungry Caterpillar could not forget it. Beautiful illustrations made from hand-painted collages depict a crudly shaped, extremeley lovable caterpillar who learns about nutrition the hard way—by over-indulging.

On day one of his eating adventures, the hungry caterpillar eats a red apple. On day two, two green pears. On day three, purple plums, and by days four and five, strawberries and oranges.

On day six, the caterpillar munches his way through chocolate cake, ice cream, a pickle, cheese, salami, a lollipop, sausage, a cupcake, and cherry pie, among other treats. He becomes sick to his stomach and only begins to feel better after chomping on a plain green leaf on day seven. After learning his lesson, the little caterpillar blossoms into a beautiful butterfly.

Forty years after it was created by children's author and illustrator Eric Carle, more than 12 million copies of this book have been sold, and the story has been translated into 20 languages. It's a tale every child can enjoy—and one the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) hopes will still resonate today.

Teaming up with the Pearson Foundation and We Give Books, the AAP will be distributing copies of the book to more than 17,000 pediatricians' offices, reports the Huffington Post.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the books will arrive "packaged with growth charts and a reading guide designed to help parents use the story to talk to their young children about healthy eating."

The packages are an initiative of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, the anti-obesity campaign established by Bill Clinton and the American Heart Association.

Carle, who has gone on to write and/or illustrate more than 70 children's books, is happy to hear that his character has become the face of the anti-obesity campaign. During an announcement for the campaign, Carle said ""I hope The Very Hungry Caterpillar will be a happy reminder for children to grow healthy and spread their strong wings, like the butterfly in my book."

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