Larger bowl size increases the amount of cereal children request, consume, and waste

J Pediatr. 2014 Feb;164(2):323-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2013.09.036. Epub 2013 Nov 16.


Objective: To examine whether larger bowls bias children toward requesting more food from the adults who serve them.

Study design: Study 1 was a between-subject design involving 69 preschool-age children 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 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. Hidden scales measured how much cereal and milk were served, consumed, and wasted. Body mass index was calculated at the end of the study.

Results: In study 1, the young children requested almost twice as much cereal to eat when presented with the larger bowl compared with the smaller bowl. In study 2, the older children consumed 52% more and wasted 26% more when served in the larger bowl.

Conclusion: A step toward potentially reducing overeating and waste would be for parents and adult caregivers to use smaller bowls for serving food to children.

Keywords: BMI; Body mass index.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Eating / physiology*
  • Edible Grain*
  • Energy Intake / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / prevention & control*