Children’s portion sizes are associated with maternal perceptions of weight and hunger

The relationship between mother to child calories served and maternal perception of hunger

Stromberg and Janicke JHND Early View

Background

Research has examined self-serving portions in adults and children and has shown that larger portion size is related to more calories consumed. The present study examines factors that may influence the portion sizes a mother serves her child at a mealtime.

Methods

The present observational study included a community-based sample of 29 mother–child dyads. Dyads attended a 1-h session in which they shared a meal together. A buffet of food was provided and the mother was asked to serve her child and herself. The amount of food served and consumed by the child was recorded. Main independent variables of interest included maternal body mass index (BMI), child BMI Z-score, and maternal perception of personal and child hunger. The primary dependent variable was the total calories the mother served her child. Regression models and a moderated mediation were used to examine the relation between variables.

Results

Calories served to the child was positively associated with calories consumed by the child. Maternal perception of her own hunger was related to her perception of her child’s hunger. Furthermore, maternal perception of child hunger explained the relationship between maternal perception of personal hunger and total calories served to the child, although only for obese mothers.

Conclusions

Mothers may be serving their children larger portion sizes based on their personal weight and their perception of their child’s hunger. To help children obtain or maintain a healthy weight, obesity prevention and intervention programmes should help mothers serve more appropriate serving sizes to their children.

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