Larger Bowl Size Increases the Amount of Cereal Children Request, Consume, and Waste

The Journal of pediatrics 164.2 (2014): 323-326

13 Pages Posted: 29 Jul 2014

Date Written: August 28, 2013


Objective: Because younger children lack the motor skills required to serve themselves without spilling, adults often ask children how much they would like to eat and then serve the requested amount onto bowls. Previous research shows that larger bowls biases adults towards serving themselves larger portions. We examine if larger bowls biases children towards requesting more food from the adults who serve them. Study Design: Study 1 was a between-subject design involving 69 pre-schoolers who were randomized to receive either a small (8 oz) or large (16 oz) cereal bowl and were asked to tell researchers how much cereal they wanted for a morning snack. Study 2 was a within-subject design involving 18 elementary school age children at a summer camp who were given a small (8 oz) cereal bowl on one day and a large (16 oz) cereal bowl on another day and asked by a cafeteria server how much cereal and milk they wanted for breakfast.

Methods: Hidden scales measured how much cereal and milk were served, consumed, and wasted. BMI levels were obtained at the end of the study.

Results: Study 1 indicated that younger children requested almost twice cereal to eat when presented with a larger bowl. Study 2 shows that older children consumed 52% more and wasted 26% more when served with a larger bowl.

Conclusion: An immediate step to reducing overeating would be for parents and adult caregivers to use smaller bowls when serving food to children.

Suggested Citation

Wansink, Brian and van Ittersum, Koert and Payne, Collin R., Larger Bowl Size Increases the Amount of Cereal Children Request, Consume, and Waste (August 28, 2013). The Journal of pediatrics 164.2 (2014): 323-326, Available at SSRN:

Brian Wansink (Contact Author)

Retired ( email )

607-319-0123 (Phone)

Koert Van Ittersum

University of Groningen ( email )

Postbus 72
9700 AB Groningen

Collin R. Payne

Cornell University ( email )

Ithaca, NY 14853
United States

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