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Appetite. 2013 Sep;68:158-63. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2013.04.013. Epub 2013 Apr 22.

Timing of serving dessert but not portion size affects young children's intake at lunchtime.

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Department of Nutrition Science, College of Health and Human Sciences, Purdue University, Stone Hall, 700 W. State Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2059, USA.


The purpose of this repeated exposure, randomized, cross-over quasi-experimental study was to determine the individual and combined impact of (a) the timing of serving dessert and (b) portion size of main course in 2-5 year old children (n=23) on energy intake at lunch in a childcare setting. Children were served two study lunches (fish or pasta, each with dessert) twice a week for 12 weeks that differed in the timing of dessert (served with or after the main course) and portion size of the main course (reference portion or 50% larger portion). Analyses of variance revealed that serving dessert after the meal resulted in higher energy intakes from both the main course and from dessert, and therefore greater total intake at the meal. Portion size of the main course did not influence total energy intake at the meal. Results indicate that the timing of serving dessert affects children's energy intake regardless of the portion size of the main course. Specifically, serving dessert with the meal reduces total energy intake regardless of the main course portion size. This suggests that offering dessert with the main course may be an effective strategy for decreasing total energy intake at meals in preschool-aged children.

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