Background: Given the large proportion of daily calories attributable to fast food, there is growing interest in considering whether ordinances that restrict calories in kids' meals with toy giveaways could avert weight gain among children.
Methods: Based upon a literature review and stakeholder feedback, a model was developed to estimate the potential number of children that could be affected by a statewide toy giveaway ordinance and the caloric savings should such a policy effectively reduce the number of calories in kids' meals with toy giveaways. Assumptions included the estimated number of children that eat fast food each day, the proportion that choose a kids' meal with a toy, the caloric savings of a kids' meal that meets nutrition standards, and the degree to which these savings could result in weight gain averted per child per year.
Results: Using New York as a case study, the model estimates that, on a typical day, 5% (163,571) of children 0-12 years of age in New York could be affected by a toy ordinance. A child who typically consumes fast food two times per week could avoid gaining approximately 2 pounds per year with an ordinance requiring kids' meals to be ≤550 calories. The amount of weight gain averted would vary according to the calorie limit set by the law and the frequency of consumption per week.
Conclusions: Our model indicates that a reduction in calories in kids' meals with toy giveaways has the potential to positively affect weight gain in a considerable percentage of children. Limitations of the model are considered.