Pre-schoolers overeat if food portion is large

New Delhi: Preschoolers may not be as good at resisting large portions of everyday foods as previously thought, according to a new study. Researchers examined whether the portion size effect — the tendency to eat more when portions are larger — affects children between the ages of three and five.

The researchers found that when they served the children larger portions of typical meals or snacks, they consumed more food, both by weight and calories. Alissa Smethers, a doctoral student in nutritional sciences at Penn State, says the findings suggest that caregivers should pay close attention to not just the amount of food they serve but also the variety of food.

“It’s hard to define portions that are appropriate for all preschoolers, since their calorie requirements vary due to differences in height, weight, and activity level,” says Smethers. “But it’s a good idea to look at the proportions of different foods you’re serving, with fruits and vegetables filling up half the plate and with smaller portions of more calorie-dense foods, as recommended in the USDA MyPlate nutrition guide.”

The results also suggest that caregivers can use the portion-size effect strategically to help children eat more fruits and vegetables, says Barbara Rolls, director of the Laboratory for the Study of Human Ingestive Behavior. ,“The positive side is that you can use the portion size effect strategically, for example by serving larger portions of fruits and vegetables to increase their consumption,” Rolls says.