Happy Weight

Can Happy Meals help us lose weight?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

We Americans love super-sized fast food, even though that’s not particularly healthy.

Can we curb this habit? University of Arizona psychologist Martin Reimann thinks maybe so. He researched serving incentives along with food. Think of Happy Meals. After all, what kid can turn down toys?

Reimann wondered if that concept could be tweaked, to motivate people to eat less.

To find out, his team offered sixth graders two lunchtime options. Option one: A half sandwich and inexpensive earbuds. Option two: A full sandwich, but no earbuds. Almost eighty percent chose earbuds! And, hence, less food.

For adults, Reimann offered either a full lunch, or a half lunch plus a chance in a drawing. Prizes were either frequent flier miles or a modest gift card.

Result? Most adults chose the half lunch and drawing. What’s more, a modestly valued prize was incentive enough.

Reimann says it’s economically feasible for restaurants to try this.

So go for it! Just make the prize Star Wars action figures! Otherwise think MacDonald’s Unhappy meal.