Happy Meal Toys Under Fire

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted this week to ban restaurants from handing out toys with meals that don't meet its minimum nutritional standards. In order to include a toy, meals will have to contain less than 600 calories, 640 mg of sodium, and 35% of calories from fat. Since toys are very appealing to children and are often the reason they ask for a specific meal in a restaurant - and parents frequently meet their children's requests - this action is intended to give restaurants the incentive to offer healthier foods. This hotly-debated topic brings up a number of issues, from childhood obesity to healthy school lunches.

Related: Your Healthy Guide to Eating Out and Healthy Fast Food Options for Kids

While the ban won't go into effect until December 2011, parents still need to be wary of fast-food toys. Recently the Good Housekeeping Research Institute (GHRI) investigated the safety of toys that are distributed by chain restaurants and found that they are not necessarily either safe or age-appropriate. Toys that were clearly labeled for children above the age of three were given to parents with toddlers under three years old in tow at both McDonald's and Burger King restaurants. The only chain that we found consistently handed out age-appropriate toys was Wendy's.

Related: The Truth About Kids' Restaurant Meals

If you purchase a meal for your child at a fast-food chain and are given a toy, make sure it is both safe and age-appropriate. For tips on how to check for safety, read the GHRI experts' advice for identifying safe toys.

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