BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 06 January '16

Disney World visitors embrace healthy alternatives to default menu items

When meals at Disney World restaurants came with fruit or vegetables instead of fries, about half of diners opted to keep the healthier option.

Improving kids’ meals

A new study published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research shows that nutritionally improved kids’ meals at the 145 restaurants located at Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida were embraced by diners.

In 2006 the Walt Disney Company started improving the nutritional quality of kids’ meals by replacing the default sides and beverages of French Fries and regular fizzy drink with low-fat milk or water and either fruit or vegetables.

Customers could still request fizzy drinks and fries if they chose to ‘opt out’ of the healthy default items.

No extra cost

To better understand the acceptability and nutritional impact of making these changes, Disney recently provided kids’ meals sales data for the years 2010-2012 to the University of Colorado Anschutz Health and Wellness Center for detailed analysis.

The results showed that across all restaurants, 48% and 66% of guests accepted healthy default sides and beverages, respectively. The healthy defaults reduced calories (21.4%), fat (43.9%) and sodium (43.4%) for the side dishes and drinks.

Disney also reported that improving the nutritional quality of the meals did not affect the consumer cost of the meals.

‘While these results were obtained in a theme park setting they may have broader applicability and may encourage other restaurants to try the opt-out approach for making healthier choices easier for consumers.’

John C. Peters, lead author

Click here to read more from the the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research.