Does 'Disney-Approved' Mean It's a Healthy Food?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Disney began focusing on providing healthier kids' meals at their Parks and Resorts beginning back in 2006. Now kids' meals routinely include low-fat milk and carrots unless parents opt out. Disney internal statistics reveal that parents will stick with these healthier side options six out of ten times instead of requesting substitutions. With more than 12 million kids' meals served annually in Disney Parks and Resorts in the U.S. alone, the changes are making a difference in how children are eating. In September of 2010, The Walt Disney Company launched Disney Magic of Healthy Living, a national multimedia initiative to help families raise healthy, happy kids.
Last month the Walt Disney Company took another step forward in their brand commitment to healthy eating by introducing new food advertising standards. Under Disney's new standards, after 2015 all food and beverage products seeking advertisement, sponsorship, or promotion on any Disney-owned television channels (including Saturday morning programming on Disney owned ABC), radio stations, or Web sites will need to comply with the company's new nutrition criteria for programming targeting children under the age of 12.

By the end of 2012, consumers will also begin seeing the new Mickey Check symbol on Disney-licensed food products. Disney anticipates this tool will help consumers easily identify nutritious choices in stores, online and while visiting Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. Disney also updated their nutrition guidelines to reflect current federal standards and recommendations. The new criteria include not only specifics related to calories but also to reducing saturated fat, sodium, and sugar.

Let's take a closer look at the details of the Disney Nutrition Guideline Criteria to see how they stack up nutritionally.

The Disney nutrition guidelines align with the federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans and My Plate recommendations. Disney criteria are slightly more specific than what the food industry uses for everything from complete meals and main dishes to side dishes, breakfast meals, and snack items. The center of attention falls on nutrient rich options such as whole grains, low fat dairy, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. They also encourage beverages without added caffeine or other stimulants except what naturally occurs in cocoa as well as 100 percent juice and no added sugar or sweeteners in water based beverages.
As Disney Chairman and CEO Robert A. Iger pointed out, kids have an emotional connection to Disney characters and stories that provide Disney with a "unique opportunity to inspire and encourage them to lead healthier lives." Igor also noted, "This is not altruistic. This is about smart business." Since it is about business and expanding the market as much as anything else it is important to note that with the ever-popular "tween" and teen market NOT the focus of the restricted food advertisement campaign, programming aimed at that demographic on Disney channels may not notice much of a change even after 2015. At the same time, the under-12 crew will "eat up" the Disney-licensed food products to give Disney a double win.
Therefore, while we applaud Disney for supporting the First Lady and her national initiatives to help American families lead healthier lives, we also remind parents to be smart consumers for their families. Just because Mickey is on the package doesn't mean it is the best choice for your family. After all, we should be aiming to decrease processed foods in our diets and many of the healthiest options don't come in a package. To help you make the healthiest choices possible, here are some family friendly resources to help you build a balanced diet.
A Parent's Guide to Nutrition for Kids: Blueprint for a Healthy Diet
Healthy Habits to Make Family Mealtime More Pleasant
The Benefits of Eating Together
9 Meal Makeovers that Will Please Parents and Kids Alike
20 Nifty, Nutritious Snacks for Picky Kids
Healthy Lunches Kids Will Actually Eat
Tips to Packing a Nutrient Rich Lunch That Saves Pennies
Healthy Family Makeover Challenge
What do you think about Disney's new initiative? Do you think other companies like Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network will feel pressured into following suit? How do you think consumers will respond to Disney-licensed food products?

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints


To be sure; always read the label. Report
Well, it is a step in the right direction as far as a big biz taking a stand for offering at least the government standard as to what nutritious and non toxic food is, so kudos for Mickey. :) Report
Disney Approved??? hmmm I'll read the label. Report
Just 2 days ago we actually bought a Disney snack. I needed something to feed her as lunch was going to be quite late that say. She asked for it. The good parts, it was a few mini pretzels, cheese cubes, and grapes. To mean this was a much better way to fuel a 9 year old on the go then grabbing cookies, or a bag of goldfish crackers. The bad, advertising at work and I could have made the same snack at home for far less. Report
just because Disney approves something, doesn't automatically mean it's healthy. I applaud the fact that Disney is making efforts to have healthier foods available. however, last i checked, the FDA is the one that determines healthy foods (and even they make mistakes). also, since i am the parent or person seeking the food, it is MY decision what i or my child eats-NOT DISNEY! so, I will make the determination what is healthy for me and my family, not a for profit bazillion $ making business industry. Report
Many people can't tolerate milk and unless they're an infant, they don't need it (I was a soy baby because I was lactose intolerant). Carrots are naturally high in sugar, so I guess that's an attempt to convince kids to eat "something" vegetable rather than fries or cookies.

Still. Water would be better than milk for most humans! With Disney's power, I wish they'd go the extra mile and not settle for mediocre. There are so many healthier choices and if you're trapped in a theme park, they could *really* get folks to try new things! Report
The influence Disney and anything associated with it has on my kids is huge! Anything that they can do to encourage kids to make better choices I think is great. I think it will also help many families who don't practice healthy habits make unconscious changes just by "giving into the kids" who want the new Mickey treats. Report
I think this is a very positive position. More companies should follow it. Disney
is recognizing its responsibility in the role it plays in children's (and parent's)
lives. I applaud Robert Iger for the hand he has had in this. I think the 2015 edict regarding all advertisers of food and beverages seeking advertising and sponsorship for kids programming under 12 is great. These are giant steps forward and hopefully, will be emulated by others. Report
We just got back from Walt Disney World and we opted to purchase the deluxe Disney Dining Plan. We found the options to be very healthy and while you could purchase "unhealthy" snacks, the healthy ones were in plain sight. Parents need to be proactive and teach their children that healthy eating leads to less illness and better health. Our grandchildren picked healthy foods and I will say that we did not have hamburgers/fries once in the 8 days we were there! Report
I don't care who approves what, or prints a stamp of approval. Reading the food labels is the only way to know how to make the best choice... or not. Report
I know from my recent trips that the healthier sides are available for adult meals as well. I actually found I preferred apple slices or grapes on a hot day instead of french fries. I realize that changing some side dishes, and monitoring who advertises are not the overall solution, but I am thrilled to see a company stand up and say "we think this is important" Report
I like the idea, especially since Disney is probably one of the first "commercialized" items kids know about. If they can start instilling good, healthy eating habits to kids watching their programs....go for it. Will others follow?....Money talks, so it may not be a trend that is followed so quickly. I will say good job to Disney!! It's the happy place and now it is more of a healthy place too! Report
I like the comment about Popeye reminding people to eat spinach. I was already thinking of Bugs Bunny and carrots. Don’t forget Scooby Doo and his Scooby Snacks… although those may not be healthy.

I also like the idea of carrots as the side instead of fries. Apple slices would be good too as would celery sticks with a small amount of peanut butter and maybe some raisins so kids could make their own “Ants on a Log.” I was at the Science Museum in Oklahoma City, OK and they also have the option of grapes for a side with their meals. Report
I really like this idea and applaud Disney for taking the lead on changing advertising aimed at kids. It is very frustrating, as a parent, to try to feed your child healthy foods only to be undermined by the constant barrage of commercials for unhealthy snacks.

I think that other networks will wait to see whether Disney's strategy is profitable before they follow suit. If it turns out that Disney starts showing increased sales of these "Mickey Check" items, I have no doubt that we will see similar strategies used by other companies. Disney is a huge company and is very influential in the marketplace.

As for how consumers will react, I don't know that the "Mickey Check" will influence them to buy a Disney-licensed product over another, although it may convince them to buy something they otherwise wouldn't if the kids are asking for it. Report
"...we should be aiming to decrease processed foods in our diets and many of the healthiest options don't come in a package." Why? Where we complain about the amount of advertisement of sweetened products on children's channels, why complain when someone takes a step forward. Where good is never good enough, why even try? Report
I agree! I also like the idea of having the standard side be carrots and parents have to request something else, instead of having the standard side be fries and parents can request something healthier. This way, it makes it seem like carrots are "normal" and not something special you have to request. Report
As noted in the article, just because Mickey Mouse endorses a product doesn't mean it's healthy. However, it is a step in the right direction if it makes kids and parents more aware of what they eat. Consumers drive the market. If more and more people demand better quality food, the food industry is going to have to listen.

Of course, playing devil's advocate for a moment, some people might say whose business it of Disney's to decide what a person should and shouldn't be eating ? The fact is, kids pay attention to commercials. They know product branding. So, if Mickey Mouse reminds kids to eat their carrots, that's not such a terrible ting.

Of course, Popeye has been reminding us for the last 70 years to eat our spinach and how many do ? eh-hem... Report