August 13th, 2012

Kids pick nutritional Happy Meal when no toy offered with less healthy option: study

By Sheryl Ubelacker
Winnipeg Free Press

Children are far more likely to pick a healthier fast-food meal when promotional toys are offered only with those menu options and not with less nutritional fare like burgers, fries and a pop, a study has found.

Canadian researchers set out to see which McDonald’s Happy Meals that kids age six to 12 would choose when toys were included with healthier menu combinations, but not with standard offerings that are typically higher in fat and salt.

It turns out the children were three times more likely to opt for a healthier Happy Meal containing apple slices with caramel sauce and water instead of fries and pop when a toy came only with the more nutritional boxed meals.

“Overall, our findings suggest that toys have a strong influence on children’s food choices,” said Erin Hobin, a post-doctoral fellow in the school of public health at the University of Waterloo, who led the study published Sunday in the Canadian Journal of Public Health.

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