Big Bowls Could Mean Big Appetites

Large bowl size shown to increase the amount of cereal children ate

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

(RxWiki News) Before you put food in front of your kids, you may want to be mindful of the size of the bowl you put the food in. According to new research, it could affect how much they eat.

Two recent studies found that when children were given larger bowls, they asked for more cereal than when they were given smaller bowls.

These researchers also found that children not only asked for more cereal, but also ended up eating more cereal when they were given larger bowls.

"Use smaller dishes for your children’s food."

These two studies were conducted by a research team led by Brian Wansink, PhD, of the Department of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University.

In the first study, these researchers examined the relationship between bowl size and the amount of food consumed by a group of young children.

Dr. Wansink and colleagues analyzed data from 69 preschool age children, with an average age of about 4 years.

These children were randomly assigned a small 8-oz cereal bowl or a large 16-oz cereal bowl. They were then asked to tell the researchers how much cereal they wanted. These researchers poured the cereal until children said enough, and the amount of cereal was then measured and recorded.

The researchers took into account age, sex and body mass index (BMI) — a measure of height and weight — when looking at how much cereal was requested.

Children who received large cereal bowls asked for almost twice as much cereal as children who received small cereal bowls. When the researchers took into account age, sex and BMI, bowl size still had a significant effect on how much cereal the children requested.

In the second study, Dr. Wansink and colleagues analyzed data from 18 school age children attending summer camp. The average age of these children was about 8 years. These children were given both a small and large bowl on different days, and told cafeteria servers how much cereal they wanted. The amount of cereal the children asked for was then measured.

The researchers also measured how much food children ate and how much they wasted.

These researchers found a 69 percent increase in the amount of cereal children asked for when they got a large cereal bowl compared to when they were given a small cereal bowl. The researchers also found that children ended up eating 42 percent more when given the large cereal bowls compared to the small cereal bowls.

At the end of camp, these researchers showed the children 24 different sized bowls and asked them to pick out the bowl closest to the size of the bowl they used at home. The average size of the bowl children picked held 19.2 ounces, which was larger than the large bowl used in the study.

The authors of this study concluded that using smaller dishes to serve children’s food could potentially reduce overeating and limit food waste.

This study was published on November 18 in The Journal of Pediatrics.

The authors reported no competing interests.

Review Date: 
November 21, 2013
Last Updated:
November 22, 2013