A simple way to help kids control their weight

kids weightServing kids food in small bowls may help them eat less and avoid piling on pounds, according to a study in the Journal of Pediatrics.
The study found that serving children sugary cereal in larger bowls, rather than smaller ones, almost doubled the amount of food they asked for.

“Bigger bowls cause kids to request nearly twice as much food, leading to increased intake as well as higher food waste,” said researcher Koert van Ittersum, PhD, of the University of Groningen, Netherlands.

“The quickest way parents can help kids eat less might be to [give] them a smaller bowl,” added lead author Brian Wansink, PhD, a professor of behavioral economics at Cornell University.

About the study

Researchers randomly served 69 preschoolers a presweetened breakfast cereal in either an 8- or 16-ounce bowl. Adults poured cereal in small amounts, asking, “Is that enough, or do you want more?” until the kids felt satisfied with the amount of food dished out.

On average, the children with small bowls requested 24.7 grams of food, while those who had big bowls asked for 46.1 grams of food—or almost double the serving size. This was true regardless of the children’s sex, age or weight.

In the first part of the study, researchers didn’t allow the children to actually eat any cereal. But in a separate experiment involving 18 kids ages 6 to 10, the children were able to eat the food they requested.

As in the first experiment, the researchers gave children either small or large bowls. And this time they measured both how much cereal and milk the kids requested and how much they actually consumed.

Compared to kids given small bowls, the children with larger bowls:

  • Requested 69 percent more food.
  • Ate 42 percent more food.
  • Wasted 20 percent more food.
The take-home message
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of all children and adolescents nationwide are either overweight or obese.

This study suggests that something very easy—serving kids food on smaller plates—might be at least part of the solution to the problem.


Memorial has partnered with the Yakima Family YMCA to provide ACT!. ACT! which stands for Actively Changing Together is an evidence based program that models nutrition and physical activity behaviors that your family can put into action right away. For more information about the program visit yakimamemorial.org/act or call Kate Sansom at 509 225-3179.




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