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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Effects of plate size and food diameter on children’s perception of entree portion size)

item Fisher, Jennifer
item Grusak, Michael
item Aguilar, Felicita
item Tovar, Wendy

Submitted to: Obesity
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/15/2007
Publication Date: 10/20/2007
Citation: Fisher, J., Grusak, M., Aguilar, F., Tovar, W. 2007. Effects of plate size and food diameter on children’s perception of entree portion size [abstract]. Obesity. 15:A201(Supplement).

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Visual cues associated with portion size are thought to account for intake-promoting effects on children’s eating, but little is known about the visual cues to which young children attend in evaluating portion size. Developmental theory indicates that young children’s perception of size focuses on single dimensions of objects and lacks conservation of mass/volume. This research used a within-subject design to test the effects of portion size (reference-275 g vs. large-550 g), plate size (6 inch vs. 10 inch), and food diameter (4 inch vs. 8 inch) on children’s perceptions of entrée portion size. Participants were 52 (24 female and 28 male; 10 Hispanic, 21 Black, 18 white, 3 other), 5- to 6-year-old children (BMI percentile = 61 ± 30). Five presentations, varying in macaroni and cheese portion size, plate size, and food diameter were used. Children were shown each possible pair (10 pairs; two plates at a time) and asked to indicate whether the entrée amounts differed, and if so, to indicate the one having more. Correct judgments of portion size were made, on average, for 5 (± 0.8) of the 10 pairs presented, with a range of 4 to 7. Most children (88%, p<0.0001) correctly identified the larger portion when it had twice the diameter of the smaller portion and was served on a larger plate (10 inch). In fact, most children perceived portion size to be larger when the diameter of equal portions (275 g) was doubled (4 inch vs. 8 inch), whether plate size was held constant (44/52 children) or not (46/52 children). Alternatively, few (27%, p<0.001) perceived a portion size difference when the smaller portion was spread out to have the same diameter (8 inch) as the larger portion and was served on the same size plate (10 inch). The number of correct judgments of portion size was related to age, but unrelated to child BMI, gender, or ethnicity. Children’s perception of portion size is influenced by visual cues pertaining to food diameter.

Last Modified: 05/23/2017
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