Identifying Barriers to Reducing Portion Size: A Qualitative Focus Group Study of British Men and Women

Nutrients. 2019 May 10;11(5):1054. doi: 10.3390/nu11051054.


Reducing portion size might reduce meal satisfaction, which could minimize adherence to portion size interventions. The present study sought to identify the perceived barriers for consumers to eat smaller portions. A secondary aim explored the relative contribution of enjoyment of taste and post-meal fullness as determinants of meal satisfaction. Focus groups (N = 42) evaluated consumers' feelings toward a small reduction in portion size. Thematic analysis of written free association tasks and open-ended group discussions revealed that most participants expected to feel hungry and unsatisfied, which motivated them to consume something else. However, others expected to feel comfortable, healthy, and virtuous. The acceptability of the reduced portion was also determined by meal characteristics (e.g., time and setting) and individual characteristics (e.g., predicted energy requirements). Compared to post-meal fullness, enjoyment of taste was perceived to be the more important determinant of meal satisfaction. In conclusion, interventions should present portion reduction as a marginal modification with little physiological consequence to energy reserves, while emphasizing the positive feelings (e.g., comfort, satisfaction, and self-worth) experienced after consuming a smaller portion. Additionally, focusing on taste enjoyment (rather than fullness) might be a useful strategy to maintain meal satisfaction despite a reduction in meal size.

Keywords: focus group; meal satisfaction; portion reduction; portion size intervention; qualitative.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Focus Groups*
  • Humans
  • Hunger
  • Male
  • Meals
  • Middle Aged
  • Portion Size*
  • Satiation / physiology*
  • Taste
  • United Kingdom
  • Young Adult