Washington: The idea of toys being given out as a part of children`s meal deals might be more acceptable if they are tied to healthy, nutrition-rich food choices and part of a collectible set.
The findings come against the backdrop of obesity in the US -- about one-third of adults are now obese, as are 17 percent of children aged two to 19 years, noted the Centers for Disease Control.
The belief is growing that toys with fast-food meals only serve to put fatty, calorie-dense selections into the mouths of children, the Journal of Public Policy and Marketing reported.
Researches Anna McAlister and T. Bettina Cornwell of the Universities of Wisconsin Madison and Oregon, found that pre-schoolers aged two to five years can be influenced to prefer a healthy food choice with the help of collectible toy sets.
Besides, 73 percent of the participating parents reported that they would be okay with such an approach while 92 percent strongly opposed pairing collectible toys with traditional, less-healthy fast-food meals, according to a University of Wisconsin statement.
"The study tells us that the inclusion of a collectible toy influences the children`s perceptions of how the food is going to taste, and whether they will like it," said Cornwell, professor of marketing at Oregon Lundquist College of Business.
"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 likeable as the fast-food offering," added Cornwell.