Using big bowls and plates to serve food can subconsciously encourage children to eat considerably larger portions, according to a new study by Princeton University researchers.
The researchers gave 69 preschool-aged children sets of eight-ounce and 16-ounce bowls. Adults then poured cereal and milk into the bowls in small increments, periodically asking the children if their serving sizes were sufficient or if they wanted more. The results were striking: children with the bigger bowls requested a whopping 87 percent more cereal than those with the eight-ounce bowls, irrespective of age, gender, or Body Mass Index.
A similar second study was done to see how much of those larger portions kids actually ate, this time with a group of children aged six to 10. The children with larger bowls in this group requested 69 percent more food but also ate 52 percent more than those with smaller bowls, leading researchers to conclude that parents should be more discerning in their use of tableware to control portion sizes.
Encouraging portion control in young children could be an effective way of curbing future obesity rates, too. Studies have shown that contemporary American single-serving portions are packed with far more calories than they were just 20 years ago. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have recommended smaller serving containers as one way push back on this trend.
“To minimize the temptation of second and third helpings when eating at home, people should serve reasonable portions on individual plates, instead of putting the serving dishes on the table,” wrote CDC officials in a 2006 report. “Keeping the excess food out of reach may discourage inadvertent overeating.”