Male and female rats were given three palatable, high energy foods either simultaneously or in succession during three 40 min courses. Both simultaneous and successive variety enhanced energy intake compared to the intake of single palatable foods, which was itself enhanced compared to the intake of chow. Rats deprived of food for 24 hr showed a compensatory increase in chow intake (84%) but only a 20% increase in intake in the single palatable food conditions, and no increase in the variety conditions. Male and female rats showed a similar response to variety and deprivation. The effect of variety on body weight was also examined in rats offered either chow, or chow and one palatable food, or chow and three palatable foods in succession (changed every 12 hr) or simultaneously, for seven weeks. All rats offered the palatable foods were hyperphagic compared to chow-fed controls. Rats given the simultaneous but not the successive variety diet were more hyperphagic than the other palatable food groups and showed significantly greater body weight and fat gains. The availability of a variety of foods is an important factor in the amount eaten in the meal and in the etiology of obesity.