Parents' Meal Portions Predicted Kids' Portions

Kids meal portions predicted by parental portion sizes and parental characteristics

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Most kids are pretty good at deciding what foods they will eat. How much they eat, however, is influenced by more than hunger.

In a recent study, researchers measured how much food parents served to their kids and how much those kids ate.

These researchers found that when parents served themselves more, they served their kids more. And when parents served their kids more, they ate more.

"Discuss your child’s diet with your pediatrician."

The lead author of this study was Susan L. Johnson, PhD, from the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado in Aurora, Colorado.

The study involved 145 parents and their preschool children. There were 57 African Americans and 82 Hispanic people in the study. The researchers collected data on employment and marital status of the parents and their level of education.

These researchers observed the amount of food fed to children at the evening dinner meal and measured how much was eaten.

The results of this study showed that the amounts of food parents served to their children was strongly associated with how much the children ate. That is, the more the kids were served to eat, the more they ate.

The researchers also found that the portion size parents served themselves was reflected in the portion size they give their kids. Parent who served themselves more food also served more food to their children.

The African American parents served themselves more and ate more than the Hispanic parents. Likewise, African American children were served more and ate more than Hispanic children.

Parents who were employed served their children more than unemployed parents, and children of employed parents ate more than children of unemployed parents.

The study's authors could not explain the differences in the portions served by parents.

Some parents, the authors felt, might not have a good understanding of what a child’s portion size should be. They also may have served their children more food in an effort to get them to become better eaters.

The authors felt that perhaps unemployed parents may eat with their children more often and so may have a better understanding of how much food they usually eat. These parents may have served less because there was less money for food.

The authors cited a few limitations of their study. Only dinner meals were observed, so serving portions may have differed at other meals. The researchers also felt that their presence may have influenced the amount of food parents fed their children. Additionally, since all children in this study were recruited from a Head Start program, they may not represent all children.

“These findings underscore the strong relation between portions offered by caregivers and the amounts children consume at a meal and suggest that factors unrelated to the child (such as the amount a parent serves himself or herself) are important predictors of children’s consumption,” these authors wrote.

These research findings were published in the April issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The research was funded by grants from the US Department of Agriculture, the National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and partly by Kraft Foods, Inc.

The researchers declared no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
April 10, 2014
Last Updated:
April 10, 2014