by Sari Harrar
A new Canadian study says that little kids are three times more interested in healthier fast-food options when they’re the only ones that come with a toy. It’s really no surprise…what parent hasn’t had a little kid go wild in the backseat for a little plastic thingie in their fast-food sack and barely notice what they’re eating? But…this study gave me a sneaky idea. Why not set your own “toys with good food only” rule at the drive-through?
Canadian scientists stacked the deck. They offered 350 kids, ages 6 to 12, McDonalds Happy Meals of better and worse nutritional quality -- but a little plastic Smurf toy came only with the good stuff. Kids could choose a hamburgers or a grilled chicken wrap with fries and a soda or with apple slices and bottled water. The kids were going to a YMCA day camp and ordered the meals from a form, so the researchers could manipulate which had the toys.
The scientists say they hope the finding will convince McDonald’s and other toy-happy chains to incentivize their healthier kids meals. But in a statement, McDonald’s Canada said no dice. “The toy is a fun and engaging part of the Happy Meal experience for kids and parents alike, and we have no plans to change it,” the company said.