"Split Them!" Smaller Item Sizes of Cookies Lead to a Decrease in Energy Intake in Children

Social Psychology Unit, Free University of Brussels, Bruxelles, Belgium.
Journal of nutrition education and behavior (Impact Factor: 1.36). 03/2012; 44(3):251-5. DOI: 10.1016/j.jneb.2011.07.007
Source: PubMed


Examine the influence of altering the size of snack food (ie, small vs large cookies) on short-term energy intake.
First- and sixth-graders (n = 77) participated in a between-subjects experimental design. All participants were offered the same gram weight of cookies during an afternoon tea at their school. For half of the participants, food was cut in 2 to make the small item size. Food intake (number of cookies, gram weight, and energy intake) was examined using ANOVA.
Decreasing the item size of food led to a decrease of 25% in gram weight intake, corresponding to 68 kcal. Appetitive ratings and subject and food characteristics had no moderating effect.
Reducing the item size of food could prove a useful dietary prevention strategy based on decreased consumption, aimed at countering obesity-promoting eating behaviors favored by the easy availability of large food portions.

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    • "Children are also vulnerable to the unit size bias. Cutting unpacked cookies in half led to a decrease of 25% among children of on average nine year old (Marchiori, Waroquier, & Klein, 2012). The division in units can also be more subtle than simply cutting or dividing foods up in separate packages. "
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    ABSTRACT: Abstract In deciding how much to eat, people are influenced by environmental cues. The unit size of food (i.e. the number of units in which a given amount of food is divided) provides such a cue. Previous research showed that given equal caloric and volumetric content, smaller units of food tend to reduce food consumption. We propose that the unit size of food impacts intake as it influences perceptions of impulsiveness and appropriateness. Our analysis is based on three experimental studies, all employing between subject designs. When consuming similar amounts of chocolates in study 1 (n=118) and 2 (n=124), both studies show that consumption of five small units of chocolates is considered to be more impulsive, excessive and less appropriate than consuming one large unit of chocolate. Results of a third study (n=165) indicate that about 23% less chocolate is eaten when it is presented in small unit size versus a large unit size and this effect is mediated by perceptions of impulsivity. All three studies suggest that perceptions of impulsivity and excess eating while eating several smaller units of food compared to one large unit might be a key factor explaining consumption effects in earlier studies on this bias.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2014 · Psychology & Health
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    • "Hence, for the prevention of obesity in children, health education should focus on age-appropriate energy intake and portion sizes [38]. Even the reduction in item size of (snack) foods has been found to decrease consumption and may be an effective strategy to reduce obesity-related eating patterns, such as the easy availability of large food portions [39]. However, reverse causality has to be taken into account when interpreting cross-sectional associations. "
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    ABSTRACT: The aim of this study was to investigate the associations between proxy-reported energy intake, daily food intake and energy density of foods and body mass index (BMI) z-score in 2-9-year-old European children. From 16,225 children who participated in the identification and prevention of dietary- and lifestyle-induced health effects in children and infants (IDEFICS) baseline examination, 9,782 children with 24-h proxy dietary information and complete covariate information were included in the analysis. Participating children were classified according to adapted Goldberg cutoffs: underreports, plausible energy reports and overreports. Energy intake, daily food intake and energy density of foods excluding noncaloric beverages were calculated for all eating occasions. Effect of energy intake, daily food intake and energy density of foods on BMI z-score was investigated using multilevel regression models in the full sample and subsample of plausible energy reports. Exposure variables were included separately; daily food intake and energy intake were addressed in a combined model to check for interactions. In the group of plausible energy reports (N = 8,544), energy intake and daily food intake were significantly positively associated with BMI z-score. Energy density of foods was not associated with BMI z-score. In the model including energy intake, food intake and an interaction term, only energy intake showed a significantly positive effect on BMI z-score. In the full sample (N = 9,782), only energy intake was significantly but negatively associated with BMI z-score. Proxy-reporters are subject to misreporting, especially for children in the higher BMI levels. Energy intake is a more important predictor of unhealthy weight development in children than daily food intake.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2013 · European Journal of Nutrition

  • No preview · Article · Jul 2012 · Journal of nutrition education and behavior
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