McDonald's Branding Makes Food Tastier for Tots

"That way parents and kids have to ask [specifically] for the less healthy alternative," he said, adding as an example that under such a plan customers would have to ask for a soda instead of milk.

"We always knew that kids were susceptible to advertising. Now we have to look at what we are advertising to them," Ayoob said.

Robinson agreed. "Our findings also suggest that if McDonald's and other fast food corporations spent the same billions to market healthful foods instead of high fat, calorie-dense foods, they might be able to improve children's nutrition instead of hurting it."

Not a Fair Food Fight

While parents like Riseberg say they are happy that there are healthier food options available at fast food restaurants, they also know that kids are going to want to eat what tastes good -- namely, chicken nuggets and French fries.

It is at this point, Ayoob said, that parents must be firm in laying down the ground rules for good nutrition.

"Parents play a big role," Ayoob said. "In the end, it is up to them to say yes or no."

But Brownell said parents are fighting an uphill battle.

"Parents hold some responsibility to be sure, but they are a drop against a tidal wave when one considers who industry has at their disposal -- characters like Sponge Bob, sports heroes and other celebrities… It is not a fair fight."

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