“Fill er up”

A few years ago my wife took a bunch of kids to a local frozen yogurt place.  The kids take their bowl and choose their frozen yogurt flavor and toppings; the cost is determined at the end of the line based on how much you took.  One of our guests filled her bowl (at a sizable expense) but only ate a small portion.  My wife told her, ‘if you lived in our household, I would insist that you eat what you took.’  And even though we both hate waste, it seems like human nature to have ‘eyes that are bigger than your stomach.’

An interesting publication (J Pediatr 2014; 164: 323-6) on bowl size and cereal consumption did not make the coveted list of articles reviewed by the editors.  But, I think a lot of pediatric providers and anyone who goes to frozen yogurt establishments would find the information useful.

The article consisted of two studies.  In the first, 69 preschool-age children were randomized to either an 8 oz bowl or a 16 oz bowl and asked to tell researchers how much cereal they wanted for a morning snack; the amount consumed was not measured.  In the second study, 18 school-age children at a summer camp were given an 8 oz bowl on one day and a 16 oz bowl on another day.  Each day, they were asked by the cafeteria server how much cereal and milk they wanted for breakfast.  Hidden scales measured how much was served, consumed, and discarded.

Who thinks they can guess the results?

  • In study 1, children with the larger bowl requested 87% more.
  • In study 2, the older children also consumed more (52%) when given a larger bowl; in addition, they wasted 26% more.

The article notes that some studies (eg. J Consumer Res 2012; 39: 215-28) but not all (Appetite 2007; 49: 652-60) have indicated that “when adults serve themselves, they select an amount of food proportional to the size of the plate;” some have suggested this is due to a visual illusion effect —Delboeuf illusion – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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Take-home message: If kids (and probably adults) have a bigger bowl, they will want to “fill er up.”  This will certainly lead to more waste but it may increase their waists too.

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