Should Toys be Banned from Happy Meals?

Santa Clara County, CaliforniaCounty Supervisor Ken Yeager has proposed a ban on toys in kids’ meals at fast food restaurants. He would like to limit restaurants from offering toys that encourage children to eat fatty, sugary, high-calorie foods which may lead to childhood obesity.

Yeager told on Monday, “they want the toy and have no idea what’s in the food. You can’t expect a 3-year-old to say there are too many calories in that hamburger.”

The California Restaurant Association is unhappy about this proposal. Dan Conway, a spokesman for the Association argues that fast-food chains have been offering healthier alternatives such as salads, apple slices, and juices for children. He believes that offering customers wider options is better than “piecemeal legislation.”

In 2008 Santa Clara county required fast food restaurants to include calorie counts on their menus. This law was later adopted by the state of California. states:

Yeager cited a recent study by the organization that said 10 out of 12 unhealthy, high-calorie meals meant for children came with toys. Citing a county study, he said 1 in 3 low-income, young children are overweight or obese. The problems could lead to diabetes and other diseases in adulthood.

Barragan, a stay-at-home mom who’s running a long shot campaign for mayor of San Jose, said the family eats out often at fast-food restaurants,
including McDonald’s, which offers Star Wars and the iCarly line of Happy Meal toys, and Jack in the Box, which offers the Yo Gabba Gabba toy figurines.

“A toy’s important,” she said while she and Jena left a Burger King in an unincorporated pocket of Santa Clara County just south of downtown San Jose, “because I can use it as a treat for when she does her homework.”

She’s not opposed to requiring more healthful meals, but she doesn’t want the prices to go up, either.

“With the economy this low, I don’t think it’s a good time to raise prices,” Barragan said. “A lot of families would be hurt.”

I understand the importance of ending childhood obesity in this country. In fact that is why I started Healthy Moms. But as a firm believer in small government, freedom and liberty I think that Santa Clara County is doing this all wrong.

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Fast food restaurants have been offering toys in their kids’ meals for decades. I agree with Barragan that toys in kids’ meals are a great tool for parents. I also use the toys to reward my kids for good behavior.

As parents it is our responsibility to teach our children about making healthy food choices. We don’t need “big brother” breathing down our necks and telling us what we can and can not do with our children. Popular fast food restaurants like McDonald’s, Carl’s Jr. and Burger King offer healthier alternatives for kids. It is up to us to decide what we allow our kids to eat and how often they can have that food item.

It is alright to treat your child to a fast food restaurants once or twice a month. Parents that allow their kids to eat fast food on a weekly or daily basis are only contributing to the childhood obesity problem.

What do you think? Do you think that toys should be banned from kids meals at fast food chains?

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  • Lydia , March 25, 2010

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  • Kristie , March 25, 2010

    Wow-I would have never thought that the toys in the kids' meals would lead to obesity. I definitely think they're taking things too far with that!

  • JamericanSpice , March 26, 2010

    I'm not sure if they should be banned all together, but sadly they are using these toys to lure our kids and you know how kids can get. I don't visit fast food places often so that's not a problem for me, however something should be done to get kids focused more on healthy options.

  • Heather , March 26, 2010

    I've said it before and I'll say it again, toys don't cause obesity, parents giving in to children asking to go too often, kids not being active, and parents not encouraging healthy lifestyles causes obesity.

    I take my daughter for fast food from time to time. I'm not saying she eats “healthy” when we go for a Happy Meal, but she always gets the nuggets, apples, and milk. That's her choice because that's what we got her before she was old enough to choose. She doesn't care for fries, doesn't like burgers, and rarely drinks soda. Why? Because we are trying to encourage healthy choices.

  • Senior Debutante , March 26, 2010

    I truly agree, “It's up for us to decide….”. We don't break our healthy diet plans for the kids even if they ask to “eat out” obviously for the toys offered by most fast food chains. Nice reminder. Carry on!

  • Lucy , March 27, 2010

    I personally dont like the toys. I think they are tiny pieces of junk that just add more plastic waste to the earth. I dont know if the toys need to be banned but maybe just adding an option of asking if the family wants the toy or not.

  • Tina , March 28, 2010

    I agree that its fine for the kids to have those meals once a week. its not like they are eating it every day is it?

    my kids love the toys and it gets them to eat their food as they get it after they have eaten!!

    besides there is healthier choices now in the meals

    Tina from
    Mummy Diaries
    Gossip Avenue
    Travel Shack
    Game FreakZ

  • ben , April 5, 2010 conducted a poll among 301 viewers of a video clip highlighting potential government regulation of toys in fast-food kids’ meals. Results found that majority of parents (82%) reported that the U.S. government should not regulate toys in fast-food kids’ meals. In addition, the majority of parents (77%) indicated that child obesity rates would stay the same if toys were banned from fast-food restaurant meals.
    More in depth results can be seen at:

  • Valerie Jennings , June 11, 2010

    Cascia, I completely agree with you that the issue of childhood obesity is the responsibility of parents. This ban is simply trying to take away the rights and responsibilities of parents to make healthy food choices for their children. According to a survey conducted by the California Restaurant Association, 87% of Santa Clara County residents feel lawmakers are not better informed to make decisions about what kind of food sold in restaurants is healthy and nutritious. We need to let the government know about our views against this legislation before it gets passed elsewhere.

    Eric Mar, member of the Board of Supervisors for the City and County of San Francisco, is asking for legislation similar to Santa Clara County’s happy meal toy ban. Call and tell him NO.
    Eric Mar

    Mar’s request to ban kids meal toys can be found in this article from the San Francisco Chronicle:
    A leading kid-focused marketing agency for the restaurant industry, Creative Consumer Concepts (C3), has taken a stand on this issue. Bob Cutler, CEO, states that “unfortunately, banning kids meal toys from restaurants will not resolve childhood obesity. C3 has been educating, advocating and executing healthy food options for kids and parents and will continue to commit to supporting this issue.”Read more in their position paper on the toy ban:

  • Cascia , June 11, 2010

    Valerie, thank you for providing that information for me. I am planning on writing a follow up article on this concerning Mar's proposal for San Francisco.

    I will definitely use those links for references when I write my article.

  • sheila , June 11, 2010

    I think parents should make common sense decisions.

    With that said, many don't.

    We should focus more on bringing back recess and gym into the classroom and educate kids early on nutrition and exercise.

    Maybe they could offer toys in only healthy meals? lol

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