Which of the following affects how much your children eat?

Choose one:

  • A)    How filling the meal is.
  • B)    How many calories the meal has.
  • D)    How much food was eaten at the previous meal.
  • D)    How much food you serve.

The debate is over: Size Matters

The correct answer above is… D!

Research shows that HOW MUCH YOU SERVE determines how much your kids eat.

Your kids don’t eat less when the meal is filling, when there are more calories or when they’ve eaten a lot lately. YOU may compensate for large snacks by SERVING SMALLER MEALS, but your kids eat how much you serve.

When you serve more food, kids eat more.  When you serve less food, they eat less.

PORTION DISTORTION starts as early as age 3.

Researchers USED to believe that children always regulate how much they eat.  We NOW know that large portion sizes and large packaging leads to more eating, even for young kids.

(Of course, these researchers didn’t study picky eaters. And other studies show that sometimes picky eaters eat more when presented with less, it depends on why they are picky.  But that’s another blog post.)

Kids who snack more, eat more.

One study of 4-6 year olds found that kids who ate 3 snacks instead of 2 snacks ate 40% more food and 30% more calories over the course of the entire day.  In other words, these kids didn’t compensate for snacks by eating less at meals.

What you can do

  • Serve small portions
  • Put crackers, chips and other snacks in small containers.
  • Use smaller serving platters.
  • Use smaller plates and cups.
  • Be mindful of how many snacks you serve.



Mrdjenovic, G. and D. A. Levitsky. 2005. “Children Eat What They Are Served: the Imprecise Regulation of Energy Intake.” Appetite 44 (3): 273-82.

Wansink, B. and K. Van Ittersum. 2007. “Portion Size Me: Downsizing Our Consumption Norms.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 107(7):1103-1106