INTERNATIONAL -- Public health experts are leading a renewed push to stop toy giveaways with junk food aimed at kids.
Also read, Canadian families can now get a book or toy in every McDonald's Happy Meal.
A study of 900 Australian children aged 5-9 published in journal Appetite has revealed kids are more likely to choose a fast-food meal that comes with a free movie character toy.
"Children believed the meal with the toy looked better, would taste better, and that they would feel happier if their parents bought them the meal," said Helen Dixon, study author and Cancer Council Victoria's Senior Research Fellow.
Dr Dixon says the powerful marketing tool frequently used by fast-food chains should be put to better use promoting healthier foods to kids.
"Given the pester power parents face from their children, restricting toy premiums to healthy foods would harness this persuasive technique to support rather than undermine parent's efforts to help their kids achieve a healthy diet."
On average, unhealthy foods contribute as much as 41 per cent of a child's daily energy intake.
In the US, San Francisco and Santa Clara County in California banned restaurants from providing toy incentives with children's meals that don't meet set nutritional standards to "break the link between unhealthy food and prizes".
Obesity Policy Coalition Executive Manager Jane Martin would like Australia to follow suit.
"At a time when one-in-four Australian children are overweight or obese, we strongly encourage government to introduce policies to restrict food companies from offering toys and other child-oriented giveaways with unhealthy food and drinks," Ms Martin said.
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