Is There a Way For Toys and Food to Mix?

I saw this article in Psychology Today about popular toys being placed in a kids’ meal in order to entice children to want to eat the meals, which has proved to be an effective marketing technique for McDonald’s and other fast food restaurants for a very long time. But, it seems parents are beginning to understand that a healthy meal is more important than just getting their kids something to eat. So when a nutritionally aware parent comes up against McDonald’s marketing, who wins? I’m really not sure but I know who loses, the kids. Either they feel left out, because that marketing is a set up, or they end up eating junk food. So what’s the answer? The author of the article, Nicole Avena, Ph.D., felt that the least companies who give out toys with their kids meals could do would be to meet a certain nutritional criteria with the meals that have toys. I think that is sound reasoning. McDonald’s has been upping the nutritional value of its meals by offering fruit as a side choice.

Dr. Avena recognized that there was not anyway parents could get companies to not give out toys with their meals, so the above compromise might be the best choice for nutritionally aware parents to make when taking on this debate. She says:

“I am not an advocate of using any toys to bribe kids to eat. I don’t think we should be confusing our children about the purpose of food, which should be to get energy, not to wolf something down that Mom wants you to eat so you can play with some cheap toy. But, I also recognize that it is unlikely that we will see toy premiums banned.”

I agree that it is unlikely we will see toys be taking out of kids meals as they have become the standard. I don’t know a restaurant that doesn’t at least offer kids crayons and something to color when they walk in the door. My kids have always enjoyed doing that so much so that when my oldest daughter who is now an adult took her sisters out to dinner she chose the place where they can draw on the tablecloth. They’re still talking about the Phineas and Ferb characters they drew and I bet they wouldn’t be able to tell us what they ate. ran an article 2 years ago on this issue because the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) filed a suit against McDonalds for having toys in their Happy Meals. And it may work! It has in San Francisco as the Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance setting nutrition standards for children’s meals sold with toys, and CSPI is urging other jurisdictions to consider similar legislation. It’s all very interesting and in time will find out how it shakes out, but for now if you don’t want your children eating unhealthy food, you need to say no. Please share your experiences with junk food and toys, opinions or advice in the comments below.

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