A Happy Meal might not be very happy for much longer after Australian obesity experts called for an end to free toys being offered with unhealthy foods. A study carried out by the Cancer Council of Victoria found that the appeal of a toy had great sway over the choices children made when presented with the option of a toy.

The study found that children overwhelmingly choose the less healthy option over healthier Happy Meal options, such as a fruit bag, when both meals were offered without toys. However, when only the healthy meals were accompanied by toys, the number of children choosing that option doubled.

“Rather than ban food-related premiums altogether, [our] findings support the use of these promotions as vehicles for promoting healthier meal choices to children,” the study concluded.

A spokesperson for McDonald’s said that the inclusion of a toy in the Happy Meal was an “important part of that treat and what makes a visit to McDonald’s fun and special”.

“Parents have the opportunity to choose from a number of different alternatives, including healthy options like a seared chicken wrap, apple slices, low-fat flavoured milk, fruit juice and water.”