Variety and portion size combine to increase food intake at single-course and multi-course meals

Paige M. Cunningham, Liane S. Roe, Kathleen L. Keller, Barbara J. Rolls

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Increases in food variety and portion size independently promote intake. Little is known about how these effects combine or how they depend on meal structure. In two randomized crossover experiments, once a week for four weeks, women ate a lunch meal that was varied in two properties: variety (low: three bowls of the favorite dish vs. high: three bowls, each with a different main dish) and portion size (small: 450 g vs. large: 600 g). In Experiment 1 (n = 42), dishes were served simultaneously and in Experiment 2 (n = 49), dishes were served sequentially over three courses. At each meal, the primary outcome of food intake was measured; additionally, we measured sensory-specific satiety (SSS; the relative hedonic decline of a food as it is eaten). In Experiment 1 (simultaneous structure) variety and portion size did not interact (p = 0.72) but both independently increased intake; participants consumed 15 ± 7 g more at meals with high variety compared to low and 57 ± 7 g more from large portions compared to small (both p < 0.03). Similarly, in Experiment 2 (sequential structure) variety and portion size did not interact (p = 0.99) but participants consumed 30 ± 8 g more at high-variety meals and 51 ± 8 g more from large portions (both p < 0.001). SSS was not influenced by portion size in either experiment (both p > 0.16) or by variety in Experiment 1 (p = 0.58), but SSS was smaller at high-variety meals in Experiment 2 (p = 0.001). Thus, variety and large portions promoted greater food intake for a similar or smaller hedonic decline, indicating these effects were facilitated by delayed SSS. At meals with either a simultaneous or sequential structure, high variety and large portions combined to increase intake, suggesting that these common properties act together to promote overconsumption.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107089
StatePublished - Dec 1 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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