Portion Size, Energy Density are Key Components in Kids'
December 14, 2007
It's pretty well known that it's
not just how much we eat, but also the caloriesthe food energy in the
portions servedthat make weight control a challenge. However, until
recently, the role that food energy density plays in young children's
physiological response to portion size has been unproved.
Now a study at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Childrens Nutrition Research
Houston, Texas, has shown that serving large portions of energy-dense foods at
meals equates to substantial extra calories consumed by U.S. preschoolers.
The CNRC is operated by the Baylor College of
Medicine in cooperation with
Texas Children's Hospital
and ARS, the U.S. Department of
Agricultures chief scientific research agency.
Since the 1970s, average portion sizes of foods consumed both inside and
outside the home have been steadily increasing. Previously reported research
suggested that doubling the portion size of a preschooler's entree would
increase the childs total calories consumed at a meal by 15 to 39
percent. For this CNRC study, 53 children were selected from the Houston
area28 girls and 25 boys, aged 5 to 6 and representing a wide range of
body mass indexes.
The researchers recorded each child's weight and height and noted each
participant's food preferences at the beginning of the study. Over the next
four weeks, researchers served a special macaroni-and-cheese entree to the
children in either one- or two-cup portions and prepared with either a
traditional-energy density of 1.3 kilocalories per gram, or a high-energy
density of 1.8 kcal/gram by adding extra fat.
Results showed that children ate one-third more entree calories when either
the energy- dense version or the large portions was served. However, combining
the larger portions with the higher energy added the most calories to the meal.
When children were served a large portion of the energy-dense entree, they ate
75 percent more entree calories and 35 percent more total calories at the meal.
These findings provide new evidence that portion size and energy density act
additively to increase caloric intake at meals among preschool-age children.