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Children Eat More When Given Larger Plates

Scott Monge
In a recent study funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Research Initiative, researchers assessed plate size and children’s appetite. The study focused on first-grade students at a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, elementary school. The results showed that children served themselves more food when given larger dishware.

Former studies have shown that adults consume more when eating from a larger dish. This study tests those findings with children who had access to a buffet-style lunch and had to serve themselves portions of an entree and fruits and vegetables. Children served themselves more with larger plates and bowls. But their eyes may have been larger than their stomachs, as they consumed nearly 50 percent of the calories that they served. The larger dishware was a 100 percent increase in surface area of plates and volume of bowls.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Institute of Medicine and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, allowing young children to serve themselves at mealtime is thought to promote numerous developmental benefits, social and motor skills and autonomy in eating. This study expressed the need for age-appropriate plate and portion sizes if children are allowed to serve themselves.

Not surprisingly, the study noted that while larger dishes resulted in children piling on more food to their plates, the children increased their portions for the entrees and fruits, but very few served themselves additional veggies.

The researchers said their results show that children serve themselves larger portions and may consume greater amounts when using larger dishware, and that these findings are beneficial to pediatricians and clinicians to target child nutrition and healthy eating. The study also proves a useful tool for nutritionists trying to help curb childhood obesity.

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