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Reducing the energy density of an entrée decreases children’s energy intake at lunch

journal contribution
posted on 2008-01-01, 00:00 authored by K Leahy, L Birch, B Rolls
Background: Strategies need to be developed to reduce preschool children’s energy intake.

Objective: To test the effect of reducing the energy density of an entrée on children’s ad libitum energy intake.

Subjects: Subjects were 2- to 5-year-old children (37 boys and 40 girls) in a university day-care facility.

Intervention: In this within-subjects crossover study, children were served a test lunch once per week for 6 weeks. Two versions of a macaroni and cheese entrée were formulated to differ in energy density while maintaining similar palatability. Each version was served to children three times. The higher-energy-density entrée had 2.0 kcal/g and the other entrée was 30% lower in energy density. Lunch, consumed ad libitum, also included broccoli, applesauce, and milk.

Main outcome measures:
Food intake and energy intake were measured.

Statistical analyses: A mixed linear model tested effect of energy density of the entrée on food intake and energy intake. Results are reported as mean±standard error.

Results: Decreasing the energy density of the entrée by 30% significantly (P<0.0001) reduced children’s energy intake from the entrée by 25% (72.3±8.3 kcal) and total lunch energy intake by 18% (71.8±7.9 kcal). Children consumed significantly more of the lower-energy-density entrée (10.1±4.2 g; P<0.05). Children’s sex-specific body mass index–for-age percentiles did not affect the relationship between energy density of the entrée and children’s intakes.

Conclusions: Decreasing the energy density of a lunch entrée resulted in a reduction in children’s energy intake from the entrée and from the total meal. Reducing the energy density of foods may be an effective strategy to moderate children’s energy intake.



Journal of the American Dietetic Association






41 - 48




New York, N.Y.







Publication classification

C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2008, American Dietetic Association