What they found was quite encouraging.
On the plus side, Gigliotti says she was pleased that healthy alternatives are equally available on the menus at most restaurants, that food portions aren't "huge," and that many healthy snacks are sold in an accessible form, such as carrots with dips, that can be carried while walking.
"Sometimes the problem when you get into a controlled environment is that you're really stuck with what they have there," says Gigliotti. "I thought given the environment that it is, that they did have a good range of choices. There were vegetarian items; there were some low-fat items."
She especially liked the vending carts loaded with items like freshly cut fruit, trail mixes, and water, and felt they were as accessible as the carts selling popcorn or ice cream bars.
However, Disney should stop being paranoid.
When I called Disneyland for comment, the media relations office initially set up an interview with Mary Niven, Disneyland Resort's vice president of food and beverage. But on the day of the scheduled interview Tucker called me to cancel the interview saying Niven was "ill" and he expressed concern with the type of column I would be writing.
Another news organization had done a similar experiment he said, tipping me off to a nutritional analysis commissioned by Bloomberg News last fall that found that Disney's Magic Kingdom in Florida serves food with more fat, salt and calories than even the McDonald's Corp. They discovered one reason some food is fattier than McDonald's is because Disney's serving sizes are bigger.
Bloomberg also found, for example, that a smoked turkey leg sold in Frontierland has almost a day's worth of fat and 1,092.5 calories.
Disney maintained that the Bloomberg study was unbalanced for focusing on a fraction of the food it offers. However, if it truly aims to promote healthier kids' diets, as its initiative claims, then shouldn't all its offerings be open to analysis?
Considering that this turned out to be a rather positive review of the nutritional content of the available food, Disney should have been more open to such scrutiny. It would have been a huge plus to have an independent source acknowledging that there are healthier choices available at the parks. It certainly would back up what they have been saying.