Children's accuracy of portion size estimation using digital food images: effects of interface design and size of image on computer screen

Public Health Nutr. 2011 Mar;14(3):418-25. doi: 10.1017/S1368980010002193. Epub 2010 Nov 15.


Objective: To test the effect of image size and presence of size cues on the accuracy of portion size estimation by children.

Design: Children were randomly assigned to seeing images with or without food size cues (utensils and checked tablecloth) and were presented with sixteen food models (foods commonly eaten by children) in varying portion sizes, one at a time. They estimated each food model's portion size by selecting a digital food image. The same food images were presented in two ways: (i) as small, graduated portion size images all on one screen or (ii) by scrolling across large, graduated portion size images, one per sequential screen.

Setting: Laboratory-based with computer and food models.

Subjects: Volunteer multi-ethnic sample of 120 children, equally distributed by gender and ages (8 to 13 years) in 2008-2009.

Results: Average percentage of correctly classified foods was 60·3 %. There were no differences in accuracy by any design factor or demographic characteristic. Multiple small pictures on the screen at once took half the time to estimate portion size compared with scrolling through large pictures. Larger pictures had more overestimation of size.

Conclusions: Multiple images of successively larger portion sizes of a food on one computer screen facilitated quicker portion size responses with no decrease in accuracy. This is the method of choice for portion size estimation on a computer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Eating
  • Energy Intake*
  • Female
  • Food
  • Food Preferences
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Photography / standards*
  • Random Allocation
  • Size Perception / physiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires