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Portion Distortion - Does Bowl Size Affect How Much Your Kids Eat?

>> Tuesday, June 10, 2014

We know that downsizing dinnerware can be helpful for weight loss in adults (see my randomized controlled clinical trial results here).  Do kids response to dishware cues in the same way adults do?

An interesting new pair of studies by Dr Wansink and colleagues, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, looks to answer that question.  In the first study, 69 preschoolers were enrolled in a trial where they were randomized to receive either a small (8oz) or large (16oz) cereal bowl, and asked how much cereal they wanted for a morning snack.  The kids given the larger bowl requested almost twice as much cereal than those presented with the smaller bowl (in parallel with the difference in the size between the two bowls).

In the second similar study, 18 school aged kids were given the 8oz bowl for breakfast on one day and the 16 oz bowl on another day, and asked how much cereal and milk they wanted for breakfast.  The kids consumed 52% more, and wasted 26% more (what they couldn’t eat), when served in the larger bowl.

These studies teach us that just like for adults, tableware size is important for helping to guide kids in terms of how much is appropriate to eat.  This doesn’t come as a surprise, given that portion sizes have increased by 300-400% compared to what they were three decades ago.  The increase in plate sizes is thought to be one contributor to this portion distortion - what used to be a dinnerplate is the millenium’s lunchplate, with a supersized dinner set present in many restaurants and homes.

We are looking at The Diet Plate ™’s Kids’ Plate right now in a clinical trial through the Alberta Children’s Hospital to see if these plates and bowls are helpful for kids who struggle with their weight – stay tuned for the results! 

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