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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Effects of portion size and energy density on young children's intake at a meal

Authors
item Fisher, Jennifer
item Liu, Yan - BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICIN
item Birch, Leann - PENN STATE UNIVERSITY
item Rolls, Barbara - PENN STATE UNIVERSITY

Submitted to: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: March 12, 2007
Publication Date: July 1, 2007
Citation: Fisher, J.O., Liu, Y., Birch, L.L., Rolls, B.J. 2007. Effects of portion size and energy density on young children's intake at a meal. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 86:174-179.

Interpretive Summary: Large portions of energy-dense foods are thought to promote obesity in children but evidence is limited. This research tested the combined effects of portion size and food energy density on 53 ethnically diverse preschool aged children's food and energy intakes at a meal. Children were served regular and large portions of a main entree that was of a reference energy density or 40% higher energy density. Results showed that entree portion size and energy density had separate but additive effects on children's energy intake at the meal. Compared with the reference portion size and energy density condition, children consumed 76% more energy from the entree and 34% more energy at the meal when served the larger, more energy-dense entree. These findings provide new evidence that the effects of large portions on energy intake will be exacerbated when foods are energy dense.

Technical Abstract: Large portions of energy-dense foods are one feature of obesity-promoting dietary environments. Entrée portion size has been shown to influence energy intake at meals by young children. The role of energy density (ED) in children’s response to portion size, however, is unknown. We aimed to test the effects of portion size and ED on children’s food and energy intakes at a meal. Participants were 53 (28 girls and 25 boys; 15 Hispanic, 20 black, 16 white, 2 other race) 5- to 6-y-old children [mean (+/-SD)body mass index percentile: = 61 +/- 28]. A 2 x 2 within-subjects design was used to manipulate entrée portion size (250 compared with 500 g) and ED (1.3 compared with 1.8 kcal/g). Fixed portions of other familiar foods were provided. Weighed intake, food preference, and weight and height data were obtained. Effects of portion size (P < 0.0001) and ED (P < 0.0001) on entree energy intake were independent but additive. Energy intake from other foods at the meal did not vary across conditions. Compared with the reference portion size and ED condition, children consumed 76% more energy from the entree and 34% more energy at the meal when served the larger, more energy-dense entree. Effects did not vary by sex, age, entree preference, or body mass index z score. These findings provide new evidence that portion size and ED act additively to promote energy intake at meals among preschool-aged children.

Last Modified: 10/24/2014
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