A newly released study done by Ontario, Canada's University of Waterloo suggests that kids' meals with a toy are more attractive to younger consumers than kids' meals with french fries and soda.
According to the Toronto Star, just 19 percent of the 6 to 12 year olds in the study chose healthier Happy Meals – with apple slices and water – over those with fries and a soda when both were offered with a toy.
However, when the toy was only available with the healthier meal, 40 percent of the children gave up fries and the soda.
Public health researcher David Hammond said this study proves the successful marketing power of adding a toy, since the amount of kids choosing the healthier option doubled when one was available.
The research suggests only offering toys with healthier kids meals to reduce rising obesity rates among Canadian children.
Quick-service chains in some California counties have already been subjected to toy bans to achieve this objective. Many chains have started to offer healthier kids' meals in the past year, with apple slices, yogurt, milk and grilled chicken nuggets.
McDonald's new Happy Meals – with yogurt and a smaller portion of fries – were launched in Canada in April.
The research is being published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health. The study was largely funded by the Canadian Cancer Society.
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