Child eating behaviors are consistently linked to intake across meals that vary in portion size

A. L. Pearce, N. V. Neuwald, J. S. Evans, O. Romano, B. J. Rolls, K. L. Keller

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1 Scopus citations


Prior studies evaluating a single meal in children characterized an “obesogenic” style of eating marked by larger bites and faster eating. It is unclear if this style is consistent across portion sizes within children so we examined eating behaviors in 91 children (7–8 years, 45 F) without obesity (BMI<90th percentile). Children consumed 4 ad libitum meals in the laboratory consisting of chicken nuggets, macaroni, grapes, and broccoli that varied in portion size (100%, 133%, 166%, 200%) with a maximum of 30 min allotted per meal. Anthropometrics were assessed using age and sex adjusted body mass index (BMI) percentile and dual energy x-ray absorptiometry. Bites, sips, active eating time, and meal duration were coded from meal videos; bite size (kcal and g/bite), proportion of active eating (active eating time/meal duration), and eating rate (kcal and g/meal duration) were computed. Intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC) showed that most eating behaviors were moderately consistent across portions (>0.50). The consistency of associations between eating behaviors and total meal intake and adiposity were assessed with general linear models adjusted for food liking, pre-meal fullness, age, and sex. Across all portions, more bites, faster eating rate, and longer meal duration were associated with greater intake. While higher BMI percentile was associated with faster eating rates across all meals, greater fat mass index was only associated with faster eating at meals with portions typical for children (i.e., 100% and 133%). In a primarily healthy weight sample, an ‘obesogenic’ style of eating was a consistent predictor of greater intake across meals that varied in portion size. The consistent relationship of these behaviors with intake makes them promising targets to reduce overconsumption.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107258
StatePublished - May 1 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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