Disney plans to dump trans fat at U.S. theme parks

October 16, 2006, 11:55 AM · The Walt Disney Company announced today that it will eliminate the use of trans fat in food served at its U.S. theme parks by the end of 2007. In addition, it will stop licensing food that contains trans fat by 2008.

Trans fats, created through the use of partially hydrogentated oils, are perhaps the nastiest thing one can put in one's body. People need some level of fat and sugar in their diet, but no one needs even a smidgen of trans fat. Fast food chains and large-scale food manufacturers started using trans fat in an an effort to replace saturated fats with more shelf-stable options. Plus, at the time it was believed that trans fats might be healthier than saturated fats.

Now, scientists know that is not the case. Trans fats have been shown to elevate bad cholesterol, lower good cholesterol, and contribute to heart disease. Fast food chain Wendy's recently purged trans fats from its menu, as have many grocery cookie and cracker manufacturers. Yet food industry leaders such as McDonald's have resisted, refusing to substitute healthier frying oils for trans fat-laden ones.

According to a Disney press release, starting this month, kids meals at Disney theme parks will come with milk, juice or water instead of soda pop, and with applesauce or carrot sticks instead of french fries. Parents who want pop and fries for their kids may substitute them by request. In addition, Disney will implement new nutritional guidelines for all theme park meals. The new guidelines will:

  • Limit fat to a maximum of 30 percent of calories for entrees and side dishes, and 35 percent for snacks.
  • Cap saturated fat at 10 percent of calories for main dishes, side dishes and snacks.
  • Limit sugar to 10 percent of calories for main dishes and side dishes, and 25 percent of calories for snacks.

    I'd love to hear from representatives from other theme parks, especially Universal and Busch, about their use of trans fat and nutritional guidelines for theme park meals. Is Disney's laudable move setting the curve?

    Replies (10)

    October 16, 2006 at 1:57 PM · Well, it is going to be illegal to use trans fat in Illinois soon, no joke!

    I mean McDonalds is doing it too! I think other theme parks will follow!

    October 16, 2006 at 6:05 PM · So I guess there's not "gold in them thar fries" after all.

    This is a good move for Disney Parks, although for any park its rather hypocritical considering the sugar-fat/veggie-protein choices they all offer.

    I got enthusiastic when Magic Kingdom opened the Tomorrowland Noodle Station last year, but on my last visit about a month ago, I noticed the restaurant being used for a non-noodle, private party. To me, a private party means that the location is more profitable in two hours than being open for six.

    October 16, 2006 at 6:11 PM · Busch wins the PR response contest, sending along a release detailing "healthy options" on the menus at SeaWorld Orlando.

    The park's newest approach to healthier dining includes Mama's Kitchen Healthy Alternatives, a quick-service restaurant offering an assortment of foods prepared with fresh ingredients and substitutes such as non-fat mayonnaise and dressing, whole wheat bread and pasta, zero trans fat frying oil and no preservatives.


    For those with dietary restrictions, there are a variety of low-fat, low-carb, and vegetarian options also available throughout the park. All fried foods cooked in the park --- such as french fries -- are cooked with trans-free fat frying oil.

    For the little tykes, all kids meals -- served in a Shamu-shaped lunch box-include raisins, the option of substituting fresh fruit over fries, and the choice of 1% milk, 100% apple juice or orange juice, or bottled water.

    So, it appears that SeaWorld already has dumped trans fat from the park, though the default on the kids meals' sides is fries, with the other options by request, rather than the other way around, as Disney is now promoting.

    October 16, 2006 at 7:24 PM · Well, not totally. According to Dr. Dean Edell, a popular radio host and doctor, all butters and cheeses contain trans-fats. So they can't be getting rid of them all together.
    October 16, 2006 at 8:50 PM · The trace amounts of trans fat that occur naturally in animal products is insignificant compared with the harmful, measureable amounts (greater than 0.5 gram per serving) of trans fat that are found in products made with partially hydrogenated oils.
    October 16, 2006 at 10:03 PM · Well I should have remembered that Sea World had most likelyy the "healthiest" food since a majority of it was not fast food!

    I am right now in another food nightmare, College! However, there is a place that sells chicken fingers that are baked instead of fried. They are really good and I would love to see that in the resturants.

    I don't think this will effect most of our favorite resturants (Mythos of course and the EPCOT ones for us Orlando folks!).

    October 17, 2006 at 5:33 AM · Disney is a private business, and can do whatever it wants. But I question the wisdom of this.

    How many times has butter been good for you? Then it's bad. Then it's good. Then you should eat margarine. Then you shouldn't eat margarine. See what I mean?

    How many times were you told that sugar was bad, use Sweet and Low? Then you find out Sweet and Low will give you stomach cancer.

    There are a million things out there that are bad for you. Trans fat is one of them. And, again, according to that same Dr., there's still only small evidence that Trans Fats are any worse for you than, say, the copious numbers of other bad for you food choices out there, like Twinkies, steak, beer, etc.

    Trans Fats may end up like carbs. A craze. Consumers care NOW about trans fats, but how long before they assume the risks and want their deep fryed deliciousness back?

    October 17, 2006 at 5:24 PM · Umm, Scott, sorry, but you're wrong. There are legitimate dietary needs for things such as carbs and saturated fats. That many people eat waaaaay too many of them does not negate the fact that some other people do not get enough.

    Trans fats are different. Though their destructiveness in diet has been shown, no one yet has demonstrated any value that they deliver to anyone. Their only presumed benefit was that they weren't saturated fats, and too many saturated fats were bad... so maybe trans fat would be better?

    Um, upon further review... no.

    Want crunchy fried goodness? Fire up the peanut or canola oil. Heck, I wondered why I never felt the same "food hangover" eating a burger and fries at In-N-Out that I felt after the same at McDonald's. Well, trans fat was part of the reason. McDonald's burgers and fries are loaded with it. In-N-Out fries in trans fat-free veggie oil.

    Proper nutrition is a balancing act. What was person abuses might be another's sustenance. That makes blanket statements about individual items troublesome. Trans fat is unusual in that it is one of those rare food items that is universally bad. Which is why you're now seeing such legal and economic pressure on businesses to do away with it.

    You can't just ban meat, fat, sugar or carbs, because people need them (okay, maybe not the meat). But you can eliminate trans fat from the world's diet and no one would be worse off.

    Apologizing for trans fat is a defeatist's attitude -- one from the type of person who might suggest, "Hey, you're gonna die anyway. Go ahead, lie, cheat, steal, booze it up and eat like a glutton. What does it matter?" I'm glad that bozo's not *my* doctor!

    October 17, 2006 at 8:58 PM · I just wanted to submit a clarification -

    According to Disney's press release, the nutritional guidelines mentioned (30% of calories from fat, 10% of calories from sugar, etc.) are for Disney-licensed foods. NOT for the food served in the theme parks.

    The only changes that are listed for the theme parks are the elimination of trans fat, and making soda and fries optional for kids' meals instead of the default.

    So not much is really going to change. After all, when people go to theme parks, they want to eat cheeseburgers, churros and ice cream. Eliminating those foods would make for very unhappy customers!

    October 18, 2006 at 2:39 PM · Just to add a little bit here: Busch Gardens Europe has been advertising this year about not using trans-fat in it's cooking oil. I'm not sure when they started it, but they definitely were advertising about it all this year. Here's some other information from their website:

    "We Care About Quality and We Care About You

    Our chefs use the finest quality ingredients. Since the oil we cook in becomes part of the foods you eat, our deep frying oil
    Has ZERO grams of trans fat per serving
    Is low in saturated fat
    Is a good source of monounsaturated fat
    Nutrition professionals suggest looking for these things in the products YOU choose, we look for them in the products WE choose.

    Guest Service with a Personal Touch

    Guests with special needs will find cheerful assistance at any Busch Gardens restaurant or snack location. All Busch Gardens employees are trained to offer assistance in serving lines, and special seating is available.

    Guests with special dietary requests will find a variety of low-fat, low-carb, and vegetarian entrees at Trappers Smokehouse, Das Festhaus, Ristorante della Piazza, Grogan's Grill, Squire's Grill and La Cucina.

    If you are concerned about food allergens, such as peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, milk, egg or soy, please speak with a restaurant manager or supervisor to request recipes and product packaging labels before consuming any food items.

    Busch Gardens serves 2% milk at all restaurant locations. Fresh brewed decaffeinated coffee is available at major restaurant locations. Sugar-free candy can be found at M. Sweets and Sons and the Gingerbread House."

    This is the way I feel it should be done. Instead of MAKING everyone eat healthy, provide CHOICES for people. Let the people make their own decisions regarding their health and diet.

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