Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 103, Issue 4, pp e244–e248 | Cite as

The Happy Meal® Effect: The Impact of Toy Premiums on Healthy Eating Among Children in Ontario, Canada

  • Erin P. Hobin
  • David G. HammondEmail author
  • Samantha Daniel
  • Rhona M. Hanning
  • Steve R. Manske
Quantitative Research



“Toy premiums”, offered with McDonald’s Happy Meals®, are a prominent form of food marketing directed at children. Two California jurisdictions recently implemented policies that only permit offering fast-food toy premiums with meals that meet certain nutritional criteria. The primary objective of the current study was to examine elements of this policy in a Canadian context and determine if children select healthier food products if toy premiums are only offered with healthier food options. The study also examined if the impact of restricting toy premiums to healthier foods varied by gender and age.


A between-groups experimental study was conducted with 337 children aged 6–12 years attending day camps in Ontario, Canada. Children were offered one of four McDonald’s Happy Meals® as part of the camp lunch program: two “healthier” meals that met the nutritional criteria and two meals that did not. In the control condition, all four meals were offered with a toy premium. In the intervention condition, the toy was only offered with the two “healthier” meals.


Children were significantly more likely to select the healthier meals when toys were only offered with meals that met nutritional criteria (OR=3.19, 95% CI: 1.89-5.40). The effect of pairing toys with healthier meals had a stronger effect on boys than girls (OR=1.90, 95% CI: 1.14-3.17).


Policies that restrict toy premiums to food that meet nutritional criteria may promote healthier eating at fast-food restaurants.

Key words

Obesity nutrition policy fast foods 



Les jouets offerts en prime avec les repas Joyeux Festin® de McDonald sont une forme évidente de marketing alimentaire destiné directement aux enfants. Deux municipalités californiennes ont appliqué récemment des politiques qui interdisent d’offrir des jouets en prime, en restauration rapide, sauf avec des repas respectant certains critères nutritionnels. L’objectif principal de notre étude était d’examiner les éléments d’une telle politique dans le contexte canadien et de déterminer si les enfants choisissent des produits alimentaires plus sains si les jouets ne sont offerts qu’avec des options alimentaires plus saines. Nous avons aussi cherché à déterminer si les effets de la restriction des primes aux aliments plus sains variaient selon le sexe et l’âge des enfants.


Une étude expérimentale intergroupe a été menée auprès de 337 enfants de 6 à 12 ans fréquentant des camps de jour en Ontario, au Canada. On leur a proposé l’un de quatre repas Joyeux Festin® de McDonald dans le cadre du programme de déjeuner du camp: deux repas «plus sains» respectant les critères nutritionnels et deux repas ne respectant pas ces critères. Dans le groupe témoin, on a proposé les quatre repas avec un jouet en prime. Dans le groupe expérimental, le jouet n’a été proposé qu’avec les deux repas «plus sains».


Les enfants ont eu significativement plus tendance à sélectionner les repas plus sains lorsque l’on n’offrait des jouets qu’avec les repas respectant les critères nutritionnels (RC=3,19, IC de 95 %: 1,89-5,40). L’association des jouets avec des repas plus sains exerçait un effet plus prononcé sur les garçons que sur les filles (RC=1,90, IC de 95 %: 1,14-3,17).


Les politiques qui restreignent l’offre de jouets en prime aux aliments qui respectent des critères nutritionnels peuvent favoriser une alimentation plus saine dans les restaurants rapides.

Mots clés

obésité politique nutritionnelle aliments de restauration rapide 


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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erin P. Hobin
    • 1
  • David G. Hammond
    • 1
    Email author
  • Samantha Daniel
    • 1
  • Rhona M. Hanning
    • 1
  • Steve R. Manske
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Public Health and Health SystemsUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada
  2. 2.Propel Centre for Population Health ImpactUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

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