Calorie Reductions and Within-Meal Calorie Compensation in Children's Meal Combos
Wansink, Brian and Andrew S. Hanks (2014), “Calorie Reductions and Within-Meal Calorie Compensation in Children’s Meal Combos,” Obesity, 22:3. 630-2.
13 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2013 Last revised: 29 Apr 2017
Date Written: December 9, 2013
Objective: What happens if a fast-food restaurant chain lowers the calories in a children’s meal bundle (CMB), mainly by reducing the portion size of French fries? This study examines how such changes may influence within-meals selections. Specifically, do lower-calorie changes lead to within-meal calorie compensation?
Design and Methods: Item-level anonymous transaction data were collected for thirty representative US restaurants during the months of June, July and August of 2011 (pre-changes) and 2012 (post-changes) with a focus on transaction records that included a CMB. Mixed effects, repeated measures estimation techniques were used for analysis. Outcome measures were the number and caloric profile of specific entrée items, side items, and beverages purchased in all children’s meals.
Results: Based on transaction data, the new CMB resulted in children’s meals that had an average of 18.8% fewer calories (p<0.001). Additionally, a greater percentage of meals had milk (p<0.001) compared to the prior year.
Conclusion: Small changes in the automatic – or default – foods offered or promoted in children’s meals can reduce calorie intake and improve the overall nutrition from selected foods as long as there is still an indulgence. Importantly, under these conditions, small enough changes do not appear to encourage within-meal calorie compensation among children.
Keywords: child nutrition, eating behaviors, consumer economics, fast-food
JEL Classification: D03, D12, I18, Q18
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation