Encouraging your kids to self-serve may teach them independence but not necessarily portion control, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows. While it has been previously believed that allowing children to decide how much they want to eat may lead them to eat less, this new study offers an entirely different scenario.

With 63 three- to five-year-olds participating in the study, researchers set out to test their theory. During one lunch break, the kids were served 400 grams of macaroni and cheese. In another, the food was served family-style, allowing the kids to eat as much or as little as they want. Based on the results, all of the kids roughly consumed an average of 200 grams. Apparently, the idea of kids eating less does not hold true in this case. In another experiment, researchers gave the kids pre-plated macaroni and cheese in different serving sizes. According to the result, kids who ate more when they were given more were also more likely to serve themselves larger portions.

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Despite the negative findings, the idea of teaching kids to self-serve is not without merit. What is lacking, perhaps, is awareness. Young kids don’t exactly know the difference between being full and being able to control themselves when food is made readily available. According to Jennifer Savage Williams, associate director of the Center for Childhood Obesity Research at Penn State University and the new study's lead author, "If you're going to allow children to self-select (food portions), it may be important for some children to give guidance in how to do this healthfully."

(Photo by Dennis Wilkinson via Flickr Creative Commons)

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