Feature Articles: Weight Control
Self-Serve vs. Being Served
Karma Metzgar, C.F.C.S. Former Northwest Regional Nutrition Specialist in Nodaway County, University of Missouri Extension
If you are the type who likes to serve yourself at the table-that's a wise habit to have. If you are frequently served your portion-whether away from home or at home-the waist will show your habit!
Experts from the United States Department of Agriculture
Children's Nutrition Research Center (CNRC) at Baylor College of
Medicine have recently shared some insight on self-serve vs.
being served when it comes to helping sizes. With the super size
and all you can eat options we have, I thought the researchers
findings were worth sharing.
Parents who avoid piling oversized portions on children's
plates could be helping their pint-size diners avoid super-sized
appetites and whopper waistlines. Portion sizes definitely
affects how much kids eat, according to CNRC's behavioral
nutrition scientist, Dr. Jennifer Fisher.
"Preschoolers in our study ate an average of 25 percent more
macaroni and cheese when the lunchtime serving was doubled,"
Since eating more mac-and-cheese didn't curb the youngster's
appetites for other foods, Fisher found that average lunchtime
calorie counts jumped a belt-busting 15 percent on days when the
entrée was super-sized.
"The power of large portions to encourage overeating among
young children is a warning flag," Fisher said. "Because not
only do today's families eat out and take-out more often than in
the past, but restaurant, beverage and snack food portions keep
However, Fisher also noted that the children did not all
respond the same when served heaping helpings. While some ate as
much at 60 to 80 percent more, others ate about the same amount
regardless of the portion size served.
"We don't know why some children were more susceptible to
large portions," she said. "However, the children most
responsive to large portions were also those who consumed the
greatest amount of snack foods in the absence of hunger during
another phase of the study. We also found that overeaters tended
to consume their extra calories not by eating faster, but by
taking bigger bites."
According to Fisher, the study findings suggest a link
between an increased susceptibility to external eating cues like
super-sized portions and a diminished ability to recognize or
respond to internal hunger and fullness cues.
"Interestingly, we also found that large portions seem to
lose the power to promote overeating when children are allowed
to serve themselves," Fisher said. When the super-sized entrees
were in serving bowls instead of piled on children's plates, the
amount the children served themselves and ate mirrored the
amount they typically consumed when served "single-sized"
"Young children are not immune to the power of large
portions," she said. "But, simple mealtime strategies like
encouraging 'small bites' and serving family-style meals can
help kids avoid the temptations to overeat."
What is the take home message from this research? We would all do better on controlling our intake if we served ourselves-family style. We also need to resign from the clean plate or paper bag syndrome. Simply stop eating when you are full and don't measure your hunger by the portion size or empty container.
Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009