Food characteristics, long-term habituation and energy intake. Laboratory and field studies

Appetite. 2013 Jan;60(1):40-50. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2012.08.030. Epub 2012 Oct 22.


Greater food variety is related to increased energy intake, and one approach to reduce food intake is to reduce food variety. The effects of varying the variety of foods at the dinner meal to reduce energy intake was assessed in laboratory and field experiments. Experiment 1 randomly assigned 31 overweight children to one of three conditions that provided one laboratory meal per day over a week. Conditions were the SAME macaroni and cheese, SIMILAR types of macaroni and cheese, or a VARIETY of high-energy-dense foods. On days 1 and 5 all children consumed the same macaroni and cheese meal. Results showed significant differences in energy consumed between SAME and SIMILAR versus VARIETY from day 1 to 5, with SAME and SIMILAR decreasing and VARIETY increasing energy intake. Trials to habituation, a potential mechanism for the variety effect, showed the same pattern of between group differences as energy intake. Experiment 2 randomly assigned 30 overweight children to conditions that provided the SAME, SIMILAR or VARIETY of high-energy-dense entrees along with a variety of low-energy-dense dinner entrees to eat in their homes for 4 weeks. Results showed significant between group differences in energy intake across weeks, with significant decreases over weeks for the SAME and SIMILAR versus VARIETY groups. The pattern of results across the experiments shows the same pattern of reduction in energy intake if children eat the same or similar characteristics of foods (types of macaroni and cheese), which may provide ideas about how to develop dietary variety prescriptions that can reduce intake and be tested in clinical trials.

Trial registration: NCT01208870.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Anthropometry
  • Child
  • Diet / methods*
  • Eating / psychology*
  • Energy Intake*
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Overweight / metabolism
  • Surveys and Questionnaires

Associated data