Big Bowls Could Lead to Fat Children

A recent study shows bowl size may be the solution to childhood obesity.

Posted: 12/02/2013 10:50 AM EST

Want to help fight childhood obesity? Give your kids smaller bowls. A new study from Cornell found that children eat to match bowl size and that could be contributing to excess pounds.

“The quickest way parents can help kids eat less might be to grab them a smaller bowl,” says Brian Ven Ittersum, professor of behavioral economics at Cornell and lead author of the study. “Make it 12 ounces rather than the 20 ounces we use.”

In the study, researchers randomly gave 8-ounce or 16-ounce cereal bowls to 69 preschoolers, and the kids were fed until they indicated they were full. Children with bigger bowls asked for 87 percent more cereal and milk. Weight, race and gender played no role in how much food the children requested.

In a second part of the study, researchers used secret scales embedded within tables to determine how much each child consumed. The kids with larger bowls requested 69 percent more cereal and milk and ate 52 percent more than those with smaller bowls.

“Bigger bowls cause kids to request nearly twice as much food, leading to increased intake as well as higher food waste,” Ven Ittersum says. “Based on these findings, using smaller dishware for children may be a simple solution for caregivers who are concerned about their kids’ caloric intake.”

Childhood obesity rates, like those in the adult population in this country, have soared over the past few decades. And like African-American adults, our children also have the highest obesity rates. Though some recent progress has been made on this front, 21 percent of black children are obese compared to the national average of 16 percent.

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(Photo: Tanya Constantine/GettyImages)

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