Does Reducing Calories in Foods for Preschoolers Affect How They Eat?

Researching and testing an intervention to improve access to healthy lower-caloric foods for preschool children

Beginning in mid-2005, researchers at Pennsylvania State University College of Health and Human Development conducted a series of tests of the effect of changes in foods provided by day-care centers. The tests focused on whether reductions in caloric density—a measure of the calories in a given quantity of food—would affect how much children consume.

Key Findings:

  • Reducing the caloric density of an entrée reduced children's caloric intake from the entrée and the entire meal.
  • Reducing the caloric density of an entrée by simultaneously increasing vegetable content and decreasing fat content increased children's vegetable intake.
  • Altering the portion size of an entrée had no significant effect on caloric intake at a single meal.
  • Reducing the caloric density of foods and beverages over multiple meals led to significant reductions in caloric intake that were sustained over two days.

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