How are children choosing their food portions?

October 07, 2008

At dinner time, parents will often tell their child to clean their plate. However, that old maxim might lead kids to eat more than they need, especially when portions are adult-sized or supersized.

In findings to be presented at The Obesity Society's Annual Meeting on Oct. 7, children took more food when larger portions were made available to them.

Jennifer Fisher, Ph.D., associate professor of public health and researcher at the Center for Obesity Research and Education at Temple University, and her research team observed 61 children between five and six years old to determine their eating habits when normal entrée portions (275 g) and "super-sized" entrée portions (550g) were offered. The children used either teaspoons or tablespoons to serve themselves.

They found that while children served themselves larger portions when the super-sized meal was available, portion sizes varied by gender, ethnicity, and parents' reports of child feeding practices -- all environmental influences on children's eating behavior.

Fisher theorizes that having large amounts of food available conveys a social expectation about portion size that condones larger self-served portions.

"Seeing a large amount of food in front of you can lead you to believe that someone decided this portion was the right amount to eat," she said. "These results suggest that children take cues from their eating environments when deciding how much is enough."

There currently is very little research on what factors affect children's eating habits, but Fisher's team hopes to pinpoint some of these factors to determine how children's eating patterns develop, which could help stave off unhealthy relationships with food later on in life.

"We are interested in the cues that children take from their eating environments when serving themselves," said Fisher. "Many questions about children's eating habits are as yet unanswered, such as whether large quantities of food and large utensils prompt children to eat more or if the size of children's self-served portions influences their caloric intake."

Fisher and her team are currently exploring a number of different avenues to determine the association between the amount of food children are served and the amount they're actually eating.

"Our goal is to try to identify ways to promote healthful choices from an early age," she said. "We want children to grow up with good eating habits, and without having to struggle with food issues into adulthood."
-end-
Other authors on this study include Michael A. Grusak, Ph.D, and Sheryl O. Hughes, Ph.D, of the Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine, and Leann L. Birch of the Center for Childhood Obesity Research at Penn State University. Funding for this research was provided by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Temple University

Related Eating Habits Articles from Brightsurf:

Shifts in water temperatures affect eating habits of larval tuna at critical life stage
Small shifts in ocean temperature can have significant effects on the eating habits of blackfin tuna during the larval stage of development, when finding food and growing quickly are critical to long-term survival.

DNA in fringe-lipped bat poop reveals unexpected eating habits
By examining the poop of the fringe-lipped bat (Trachops cirrhosus), a team at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) encountered surprising results about its eating habits and foraging abilities.

Norman Conquest of 1066 did little to change people's eating habits
Archaeologists from Cardiff University and the University of Sheffield have combined the latest scientific methods to offer new insights into life during the Norman Conquest of England.

Gut bacteria may modify behavior in worms, influencing eating habits
Gut bacteria are tiny but may play an outsized role not only in the host animal's digestive health, but in their overall well-being.

Temperament affects children's eating habits
Temperamental children are at greater risk for developing unhealthy eating habits.

Pre-COVID-19 poll of older adults hints at potential impact of pandemic on eating habits
Most people in their 50s and older were capable home cooks just before COVID-19 struck America, but only 5% had ordered groceries online, according to a new national poll.

Revving habits up and down, new insight into how the brain forms habits
Each day, humans and animals rely on habits to complete routine tasks such as eating.

More stroke awareness, better eating habits may help reduce stroke risk for young adult African-Americans
Young African-Americans are experiencing higher rates of stroke because of health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity, yet their perception of their stroke risk is low.

Social media users 'copy' friends' eating habits
Social media users are more likely to eat fruit and veg -- or snack on junk food -- if they think their friends do the same, a new study has found.

Interest in presidential eating habits may affect the public's food choices
A recent study by a Penn State researcher examined how President Donald Trump's reported fondness for fast food may affect the public's perception of fast food and the likelihood, based on their media habits, one might purchase some.

Read More: Eating Habits News and Eating Habits Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.