Doggy bags and downsizing: Packaging uneaten food to go after a meal attenuates the portion size effect in women

Appetite. 2018 Oct 1;129:162-170. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2018.07.009. Epub 2018 Jul 7.


Serving larger portions leads to increased food and energy intake, but little is known about strategies to moderate this response. This study tested how the effect of portion size on meal intake was influenced by providing the option to take away uneaten food in a "doggy bag" (to-go container). Women were randomly assigned to one of two subject groups: a To-Go Group (n = 27) that was informed before each meal that their leftover food would be packaged to take away after the meal, and a Control Group (n = 26) that was not given this option. In a crossover design, subjects came to the lab once a week for four weeks to eat a dinner composed of five foods. Across meals, the portion size of all foods was varied (100%, 125%, 150%, and 175% of baseline). Results showed that the portion size effect, defined as the trajectory of intake across the weight of food served, differed significantly by subject group (P ≤ 0.025). In the Control Group, increasing the portion size of all foods led to substantial increases in intake (P < 0.0001); for every 100 g added to the baseline portion, women in this group consumed an additional mean (±SEM) of 64 ± 12 g of food and 90 ± 19 kcal, until intake leveled off. In contrast, intake of women in the To-Go Group increased by only 17 ± 12 g and 19 ± 18 kcal for every additional 100 g served; these increases did not differ significantly from zero (P > 0.15). Thus, the effect of portion size on intake was attenuated in the To-Go Group compared to the Control Group. These data indicate that packaging uneaten food after a meal could be an effective strategy to reduce overconsumption from large portions.

Keywords: Doggy bag; Energy intake; Food waste; Leftovers; Portion size; To-go container.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • 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

  • Adult
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Energy Intake*
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Meals*
  • Portion Size / psychology*
  • Satiation
  • Young Adult