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Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 May;77(5):1164-70.

Children's bite size and intake of an entrée are greater with large portions than with age-appropriate or self-selected portions.

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US Department of Agriculture Children's Nutrition Research Center, Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX 77030, USA.



Whether large portion sizes affect children's eating behavior has rarely been studied.


Our objectives were 1) to determine the effects of repeated exposure to a large portion of an entrée on preschool-aged children's awareness of portion size, self-selected portion size, and food intake and 2) to evaluate associations of children's responsiveness to portion size with weight status and overeating.


Energy intake, bite size, and comments about portion size were evaluated among 30 children at 2 series of lunches in which either an age-appropriate portion or a large portion of an entrée was served. On separate occasions, the children's self-served portions, weight, height, and tendency to overeat were assessed.


Doubling an age-appropriate portion of an entrée increased entrée and total energy intakes at lunch by 25% and 15%, respectively. Changes were attributable to increases in the average size of the children's bites of the entrée without compensatory decreases in the intake of other foods served at the meal. These increases were seen even though observational data indicated that the children were largely unaware of changes in portion size. Greater responsiveness to portion size was associated with higher levels of overeating. The children consumed 25% less of the entrée when allowed to serve themselves than when served a large entrée portion.


Large entrée portions may constitute an "obesigenic" environmental influence for preschool-aged children by producing excessive intake at meals. Children with satiety deficits may be most susceptible to large portions. Allowing children to select their own portion size may circumvent the effects of exposure to large portions on children's eating.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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