Bigger dishes can cause adults to serve and consume more food, but a new study reveals that kids are also vulnerable to this bowl-size bias. Researchers Brian Wansink, Koert van Ittersum, and Collin Payne found that children will not only ask for more food to fill larger bowls-they'll also eat 52% more!
To examine how bowl-size impacts the amount of food kids request, researchers served 69 preschoolers a familiar beloved breakfast-sugary cereal-in either small 8-oz bowls or large 16-oz bowls. Adults poured the sweetened cereal and milk in small increments, continually asking "Is that enough or do you want more?" until the kids indicated that they were satisfied with the amount served. No consumption was allowed in this study. Results showed that when using the bigger bowl, kids requested 87% more cereal-regardless of their age, gender, and BMI.
Bowl size may have a massive effect on how much food kids say they want, but will they actually eat the enormous portions they ask for? To find out, the researchers ran a second similar study of 18 kids ages 6-10, at summer camp. As in the first study, adults served the kids cereal and milk in increments until the kids indicated that they had enough food. This time, however, the researchers used secret scales embedded within the tables to weigh each cereal portion before and after the kids ate to measure exactly how much they consumed. The kids requested 69% more cereal and milk when using large bowls and also ate52% more! In addition to taking and eating more, kids with large bowls also wasted about 14% more food than those with small bowls. Interestingly, 78% of the kids in this study reported using the same size bowl as their parents at home, which may be causing them to over- serve and overeat.
Bigger bowls cause kids to request nearly twice as much food, leading to increased intake as well as higher food waste. Based on these findings, decreasing the size of plates and bowls may be an easy way to prevent kids from over-consuming. Having a separate set of smaller dishware for children may be a simple solution for caregivers who are concerned about their kids' caloric intake!