Disney has unveiled a new policy to associate its brands and characters with a healthier range of foods, and to encourage children and parents to choose healthier food options.

The new policy calls for the company to use its name and characters only on kid-focused products that meet specific guidelines, including limits on calories, fat, saturated fat and sugar. It also plans to eliminate added trans fats from food served at its Parks by the end of 2007 and from its licensed and promotional products by the end of 2008

The guidelines for licensed foods and promotions aimed at children will govern Disney’s business partnerships and activities in the US on an ongoing basis and will be adapted internationally over the next several years.

Specifically, the guidelines governing kid-focused licensed foods call for limits such as a cap on calories that results in appropriate kid-sized portions. Total fat will not exceed 30% of calories for main and side dishes and 35% for snacks, the company said. Saturated fat will not exceed 10% of calories for main dishes, side dishes and snacks. Added sugar will not exceed 10% of calories for main dishes and side dishes and 25% of calories for snacks.

The company said it would continue to license special-occasion sweets such as birthday cakes and seasonal candy as part of its product range but would limit the number of indulgence items in its licensed portfolio to 15% by 2010. In addition, most special-occasion sweets will be available in single-serving packets.

Beginning this month in US Disney Parks and Resorts, kids’ meals are automatically being served with low fat milk, 100% fruit juice or water along with side dishes like apple sauce or carrots in place of the traditional soft drinks and French fries. Parents will still be able to substitute French fries and soda at no additional cost. Initial tests involving 20,000 kids’ meals show that as many as 90% of parents and kids stayed with the more nutritious option, the company claimed.