Large Portions Encourage the Selection of Palatable Rather Than Filling Foods1-3

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Abstract

Background:

Portion size is an important driver of larger meals. However, effects on food choice remain unclear.

Objective:

Our aim was to identify how portion size influences the effect of palatability and expected satiety on choice.

Methods:

In Study 1, adult participants (n = 24, 87.5% women) evaluated the palatability and expected satiety of 5 lunchtime meals and ranked them in order of preference. Separate ranks were elicited for equicaloric portions from 100 to 800 kcal (100-kcal steps). In Study 2, adult participants (n = 24, 75% women) evaluated 9 meals and ranked 100-600 kcal portions in 3 contexts (scenarios), believing that 1) the next meal would be at 1900, 2) they would receive only a bite of one food, and 3) a favorite dish would be offered immediately afterwards. Regression analysis was used to quantify predictors of choice.

Results:

In Study 1, the extent to which expected satiety and palatability predicted choice was highly dependent on portion size (P < 0.001). With smaller portions, expected satiety was a positive predictor, playing a role equal to palatability (100-kcal portions: expected satiety, β: 0.42; palatability, β: 0.46). With larger portions, palatability was a strong predictor (600-kcal portions: β: 0.53), and expected satiety was a poor or negative predictor (600-kcal portions: β: -0.42). In Study 2, this pattern was moderated by context (P = 0.024). Results from scenario 1 replicated Study 1. However, expected satiety was a poor predictor in both scenario 2 (expected satiety was irrelevant) and scenario 3 (satiety was guaranteed), and palatability was the primary driver of choice across all portions.

Conclusions:

In adults, expected satiety influences food choice, but only when small equicaloric portions are compared. Larger portions not only promote the consumption of larger meals, but they encourage the adoption of food choice strategies motivated solely by palatability.

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