Food portions are positively related to energy intake and body weight in early childhood

Kristen L. McConahy, Helen Smiciklas-Wright, Leann L. Birch, Diane C. Mitchell, Mary Frances Picciano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

127 Scopus citations


Objective: To identify portion sizes (quantity ingested at a meal/snack) of foods commonly consumed in early childhood, temporal stability, and relations to energy intake, weight status, and sociodemographic characteristics. Study design: Three samples were evaluated: the Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals, 1994 to 1996, 1998 (CSFII 94-96, 98) (n = 1039), the Nationwide Food Consumption Survey, 1977 to 1978 (NFCS 77-78) (n = 1045), and a longitudinal sample (n = 55) studied from 12 to 18 months. The CSFII 94-96, 98, and NFCS 77-78 samples were compared to evaluate secular trends. Change from 12 to 18 months was assessed in the longitudinal sample. Relations of portion size to other relevant variables were evaluated in the CSFII 94-96, 98 sample. Results: In recent decades, portions remained remarkably similar for most foods. An exception was for meat portions, which were smaller in recent samples. Portions were longitudinally stable for most foods but increased for milk, bread, cereal, juice, and peanut butter. Body weight was positively related to energy intake and portion size but not number of eating occasions and/or foods. Sociodemographically, portion size was inversely related to number of eating occasions and/or foods. Conclusions: Children regulate energy intake largely through portion size. Sociodemographic patterns may have implications for later weight status.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)340-347
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Pediatrics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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