Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: April 21, 2008
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: Limited evidence suggests that allowing children to self-select portion size may prevent overconsumption associated with large food portions. Determinants of children's self-selected portions, however, are poorly understood. Among adults, the amount of food available and size of eating implements (i.e., bowls, utensils) influences the amount selected and consumed. This research used a 2 x 2 within subjects design to test effects of the amount of entree available (reference-275 g vs. large-550 g) and serving spoon size (teaspoon vs. tablespoon) on young children's self-served portions and intake of a macaroni and cheese entree at a dinner meal. Participants were 61 (33 female and 28 male; 26 Hispanic, 17 Black, 14 white, 4 Asian; 13 with BMI >85th percentile) 5- to 6-year-old children. Condition sequence was randomly assigned and each condition was spaced one week apart in a laboratory setting with groups of 3-4 children eating together. Each child was presented with an individual serving dish containing the entree and serving spoon along with an empty plate and fixed portions of other familiar foods on a tray. Self-served entree portions and entree intake were determined using weighed servings and intakes. Parental reports of demographics and feeding styles were obtained. Maternal and child body mass index (BMI) were measured. Mixed models, taking into account social groupings at tables, were utilized. Across all experimental conditions, greater self-served entree portions were seen in male (p<0.01) and non-Hispanic black children (p<0.001), those with mothers reporting unemployment (p<0.001), and those with mothers reporting indulgent or authoritarian feeding styles (overall p<0.0001). Self-served entree portions systematically increased when the amount of food available was experimentally doubled (p<0.001) but was not influenced by serving spoon size (p=0.29). Entree intake, however, did not differ by condition (p=0.15). However, children who selected more of the entree when more was made available also ate more of the entree (X^2=14.5, p<0.0001). In conclusion, these data demonstrate that the amount of food available influences the size of children's self-served entree portions, but does not have a uniform effect on intake. These findings also point to social factors that may influence children's self-determined portion sizes.