Background: Restricting children's access to palatable foods may appeal to parents as a straightforward means of promoting moderate intakes of foods high in fat and sugar; however, restricting access to palatable foods may have unintended effects on children's eating. The efficacy of restricting children's access to palatable foods as a means of promoting patterns of moderate intake of those foods is unknown.
Objective: Two experiments were conducted to test the hypothesis that restricting access to a palatable food enhances children's subsequent behavioral responses to, selection of, and intake of that restricted food.
Design: Both experiments used a within-subjects design to examine the effects of restricting access to a palatable food on children's subsequent behavior, food selection, and food intake. The first experiment examined the effects of restriction within and outside the restricted context and the second experiment focused on the effects within the restricted context.
Results: In both experiments, restricting access to a palatable food increased children's behavioral response to that food. Experiment 2 showed that restricting access increased children's subsequent selection and intake of that food within the restricted context.
Conclusions: Restricting access focuses children's attention on restricted foods, while increasing their desire to obtain and consume those foods. Restricting children's access to palatable foods is not an effective means of promoting moderate intake of palatable foods and may encourage the intake of foods that should be limited in the diet.