Food liking is an important predictor of both portion selection and food intake in middle childhood according to a new study published in The Journal of Nutrition.

Few studies of portion size have been conducted during middle childhood when children are developing autonomy regarding the amounts of food they select and eat. Thus, it is important to understand the factors that promote selection and consumption of larger portions of foods across a range of energy density (the calories in a particular weight of food). To better understand the impact of factors that affect portion selection by children aged 7 to 10 years, a team of researchers led by Barbara Rolls and Kathleen Keller (The Pennsylvania State University) developed a computer survey that included images of different portions of 20 common foods across a range of energy density. For each food, the survey presented sliding scales with 5 images varying portion size and children indicated their liking and the amount they would eat at a specified meal or snack. On 4 test days in a randomized crossover design, children were served a meal of 6 foods from the survey with portions of 100%, 133%, 167%, or 200% of baseline amounts.

Across the 20 foods used in the survey, portion selection ratings were predicted by food liking ratings. After accounting for liking, portion selection ratings did not vary by food energy density. At the meals, intake of all 6 foods increased when larger portions were served. Furthermore, the selected portion of a food on the survey was positively related both to intake of that food at the 100%-portion meal and to increased intake as larger portions were served.

Results from a computer survey demonstrated that liking ratings across a range of foods were a major determinant of portion selection in middle childhood. The findings that liking influenced portion selection even for low-energy-dense foods such as vegetables and fruits, and that children consumed more of these foods when they were served in larger portions, have implications for promoting healthy eating habits in children. Taken together, these results suggest that food liking is an important predictor of both portion selection and food intake in middle childhood. Strategies should target improving children’s liking for nutrient-rich, low-energy-density foods so that serving them in larger portions promotes their selection and consumption.


Hanim E Diktas, Kathleen L Keller, Liane S Roe, Barbara J Rolls, Children’s Portion Selection Is Predicted by Food Liking and Is Related to Intake in Response to Increased Portions, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 152, Issue 10, October 2022, Pages 2287–2296,

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