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Physiol Behav. 2000 Jul 1-15;70(1-2):27-33.

Lunch eating behavior of preschool children. Effects of age, gender, and type of beverage served.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Wittenberg University, P.O. Box 720, Springfield, OH 45501, USA.


To examine the eating behavior of preschool children offered chocolate-flavored or plain milk at lunch, food consumption by 135 children, aged 18-66 months, was measured. Four different menus were served six times during a 12-week period, each menu being presented twice with each of three test beverages, plain milk (18.1 kcal/oz), sucrose-sweetened chocolate milk (29.4 kcal/oz), or aspartame-sweetened chocolate milk (18.6 kcal/oz). The type of milk beverage served had no significant effect on the consumption of other food items offered at that meal. Subjects did drink significantly more chocolate milk than plain milk during all meals and consequently consumed significantly more energy during those meals in which sucrose-sweetened chocolate milk was served. A macronutrient analysis of lunch-time food intake for each menu revealed significant differences in protein, fat, and carbohydrate content among the four menus. Older children consumed significantly more milk and more energy per lunch-time meal than did younger preschoolers, but no other consistent age-related differences were observed. No significant gender differences were detected in any of the statistical analyses conducted. These findings suggest that young children do not reduce the intake of other food items at a meal to compensate for the increased energy intake that results from excessive sucrose-sweetened milk consumption. Aspartame-sweetened milk increases milk intake in small children without providing them with the additional calories of sucrose-sweetened milk.

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