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Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Jul;96(1):36-43. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.035261. Epub 2012 May 30.

Do children eat less at meals when allowed to serve themselves?

Author information

1
Center for Childhood Obesity Research, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA16802, USA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

The effect of self-serving on young children's energy intake is not well understood.

OBJECTIVE:

The objective was to examine individual differences in the effects of plated and self-served entrée portions on children's energy intake.

DESIGN:

Two within-subjects experiments were used to examine ad libitum intake at meals in 63 children aged 3-5 y when 400 g of a pasta entrée was either plated or available for children to self-serve. Child age, sex, BMI, and responsiveness to increasing portion size (defined as individual slope estimates relating ad libitum intake of the entrée across a range of entrée portions) were evaluated as predictors of self-served portions.

RESULTS:

Children's entrée and meal intakes did not differ between the self-served and plated conditions for the total sample or by child weight status. However, larger self-served entrée portions were associated with greater entrée and meal intakes. Children who served themselves larger entrée portions tended to be overweight and more responsive to portion size (ie, greater increases in entrée intake as plated portion size increased). Last, self-served portion predicted both entrée and meal intake over and above BMI z score and responsiveness to portion.

CONCLUSIONS:

Contrary to our hypothesis, relative to plated portions, allowing children to self-serve the entrée portion did not reduce energy intake. Children who were more responsive to portion-size effects were likely to self-serve and eat larger entrée portions. Self-serving is not a one-size-fits-all approach; some children may need guidance and rules to learn how to self-select appropriate portion sizes.

PMID:
22648719
DOI:
10.3945/ajcn.112.035261
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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