Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Want Kids To Eat Healthier? Add A Toy

Children make healthier choices when toys are involved, and parents are generally okay with that.

Happy Meal toy

Photo: Rich Lyons (flickr)

Suddenly healthy lunches seem more tasty to a preschooler if this toy were missing from their set.

Children are familiar with the toys that come in fast-food kid’s meals. Research suggests that the appeal of healthy foods might be heightened if toys came with it.

Researcher T. Bettina Cornwell from the University of Oregon found preschoolers were more likely to eat foods that came with a collectible toy, even if the food was healthier than say, pizza.

“What was interesting to us—even more than we expected—was that the presence of the collectible toy moved the healthier food option up to the point that it was just as likable as the fast-food offering,” she says.

When the toys were part of a set, the desirability of the food went up –  in other words, if the child recognized he or she wanted a complete set of toys, the food that came with the toy became more desirable.

This led preschoolers to choose and eat healthier foods.

Parents don’t seem to mind — more than 70 percent of respondents were okay with marketing toys with healthy food, if that meant children were more likely to make healthy choices. 92 percent were against similar marketing when fast food was involved.

Read More:

  • Toys turn healthy foods into ‘happy meals’ (Futurity)
  • Collectible toys could foster healthy food choices (Zee News)
Liz Leslie

Liz Leslie is a journalist based in Bloomington, Indiana. When she's not writing about food, she's likely eating food. Or dreaming about food.

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