Objective: We tested the effect on meal intake of varying the energy density and portion size of a compulsory first-course salad.
Design: The study used a randomized crossover design.
Subjects/setting: Forty-two women from the State College, PA, university community ate lunch in the laboratory once per week for 7 weeks.
Intervention: Lunch comprised one of six first-course salads, or no salad in the control condition, followed by a main course of pasta. Subjects were required to consume the entire salad, but ate as much pasta as they wanted. The salads varied in energy density (0.33, 0.67, or 1.33 kcal/g) and portion size (150 or 300 g). The energy density of the salad was reduced by changing the amount and type of dressing and cheese.
Main outcome measures: Energy intake and ratings of hunger, satiety, and food characteristics were measured.
Statistical analyses performed: Outcomes were analyzed using a linear mixed model with repeated measures.
Results: Compared with having no first course, consuming the low-energy-dense salads reduced meal energy intake (by 7% for the small portion and 12% for the large), and consuming the high-energy-dense salads increased intake (by 8% for the small portion and 17% for the large). When two salads with the same number of calories were compared, meal intake was decreased when the large portion of the lower-energy-dense salad was consumed.
Conclusions: Eating a low-energy-dense first course enhances satiety and reduces meal energy intake. Consuming a large portion of a low-energy-dense food at the start of a meal may be an effective strategy for weight management.