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It always makes me happy to report on companies that do good things, but when those good things involve kids and kids’ health – all the more so! Back in January, after reading this article on Food Business News, I immediately started chasing down contacts at Disney to learn more about their healthy children’s menus. That’s right – America’s largest theme parks are serving up healthy foods for kids which can be found all over, from kiosks to restaurants. I recently caught up with Gary Jones, the Culinary Dietary Specialist for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts and heard all about the programs’ successes and future goals.
Healthy meals for children have been an increasing priority at Disney Parks since 2006, when they ﬁrst aimed to oﬀer well-balanced kids meals. Then in 2011, responding to parent feedback that Disney should lead the charge in healthy foods, the “Mickey Check” program was launched. Foods with the Mickey Check meet Disney Nutrition Guidelines, limiting calories, saturated fat, sodium and added sugar. More information on the guidelines can be found here.
Adding to the growing list of Mickey Check items available at fruit carts and quick-serve locations throughout the parks, over 40 restaurants now serve full meals which meet the guidelines. As of last fall, that totaled 50% of kids’ meals in table-service restaurants meeting Mickey Check standards. While vacation is a time to let loose a little, Gary points out that you “can’t be indulgent every day!” Certainly parents agree, as he also told me that half of parents are seeking out the Mickey Check when looking for dining options.
When I asked Gary speciﬁcally about whole grains, I was excited to hear about the variety being oﬀered. Whole grain pastas are available for substitute at many locations, and brown rice makes a frequent appearance on restaurant menus. Since each restaurant has its own chef, kitchen, and menu, there is great grain potential! Among the delicious items mentioned were: roasted beet salad with millet, quinoa pilaf and even spaetzle made from spelt ﬂour. All chefs at Disney restaurants are free to build their own menus, and experimenting with grains is something Gary tells me is certainly on their radar.
A quick websearch found many more examples of kid-friendly foods, chock full of whole grains. At the Be Our Guest restaurant, for instance, bulgur wheat is mixed into the turkey meatloaf (shaped like Mickey Mouse, served with day-glo orange carrot ketchup!) for an extra whole grain kick. At the Sci Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant, the kids menu oﬀers choices like whole wheat penne with chicken or grilled salmon with ancient grains. And Kouzzina, in Disney’s Boardwalk Inn, serves a whole grain croissant.
If Disney parks are on your vacation list, there is abundant information on where to eat and what is oﬀered. Disneydining.com is an oﬃcial Disney website listing restaurants, menus and reviews on all things edible at Disney parks. The Disney Food Blog is an independent blog, jam-packed with insider info, tips on Disney Dining plans and how to make reservations at Disney restaurants, and where to ﬁnd those tasty treats that can’t be missed. Bon Voyage!
Mickey Check logo, courtesy of Walt Disney brands.