According to a recently published study, “[c]hildren 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,” reports the Winnipeg Free Press.

In the same article, HALO Director Dr. Mark Tremblay is quoted about his thoughts on the study’s findings.

From the article:

Dr. Mark Tremblay, an obesity expert at Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, called the study’s findings “rather compelling.”

“One would hope that they (McDonald’s and other fast-food chains) would look at this as an opportunity to contribute to the promotion of active healthy living in our children and take under advisement the findings that are in this report,” said Tremblay, pointing out that one-quarter of Canadian kids are overweight or obese.

“So ideally, it would be great if voluntarily, if they use toys as part of their marketing of their product, that they would direct them towards their healthier alternatives and withhold them from the least healthy alternatives,” he said from Ottawa.

In at statement, McDonald’s Canada said it is “proud of our Happy Meal program. 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 it does not agree the fast-food industry is responsible for high rates of obesity, as referenced in the report.

“We do, however, see ourselves as part of the overall solution,” McDonald’s Canada said. “Since this study was completed, our Happy Meal program has been reformulated to include an automatic offering of yogurt and the choice of apple slices or mini-sized French fries.

“All our Happy Meals are advertised with one per cent white milk, apple slices and yogurt, and meet the current Canadian Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative commitment.”

But Tremblay said fast-food restaurants encouraging healthier eating through selective toy inclusion could be at least one small way of chipping away at the factors contributing to the high prevalence of obesity among both children and adults.

“Will this single-handedly solve the obesity epidemic? Almost certainly not. But is it a piece of the puzzle?

“I think that it’s worth a conversation at least … And this is just one organization. We need to remember that all of the fast-food spots do the same thing.”

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