Increasing the size of portion options affects intake but not portion selection at a meal

Faris M. Zuraikat, Liane S. Roe, Gregory J. Privitera, Barbara J. Rolls

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


In an environment with large portion sizes, allowing consumers more control over their portion selection could moderate the effects on energy intake. We tested whether having subjects choose a portion from several options influenced the amount selected or consumed when all portion sizes were systematically increased. In a crossover design, 24 women and 26 men ate lunch in the lab once a week for 3 weeks. At each meal, subjects chose a portion of macaroni and cheese from a set of 3 portion options and consumed it ad libitum. Across 3 conditions, portion sizes in the set were increased; the order of the conditions was counterbalanced across subjects. For women the portion sets by weight (g) were 300/375/450, 375/450/525, and 450/525/600; for men the portions were 33% larger. The results showed that increasing the size of available portions did not significantly affect the relative size selected; across all portion sets, subjects chose the smallest available portion at 59% of meals, the medium at 27%, and the largest at 15%. The size of portions offered did, however, influence meal intake (P < 0.0001). Mean intake (±SEM) was 16% greater when the largest set was offered (661 ± 34 kcal) than when the medium and smallest sets were offered (both 568 ± 18 kcal). These results suggest that portions are selected in relation to the other available options, and confirm the robust effect of portion size on intake. Although presenting a choice of portions can allow selection of smaller amounts, the sizes offered are a critical determinant of energy intake. Thus, the availability of choices could help to moderate intake if the portions offered are within an appropriate range for energy needs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-100
Number of pages6
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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