Science Proves That Kids’ Eyes Really Are Bigger Than Their Stomachs

Adults around the world uniformly clean their plates at dinner time, but not kids

Photo: Image Source/Corbis

Many people have experienced the old "You can't leave the dinner table until you finish your food" treatment. That common parental treatment turns out to have left a mark. According to new research, adults from many different cultures around the world typically finish almost all of the food that's on their plates. 

Researchers from Cornell University analyzed the dinner eating habits of more than 1,100 people from the U.S., Canada, France, Taiwan, Korea, Finland and the Netherlands. So long as diners were allowed to serve themselves, most people, they found, finished nearly everything on their plate. On average, the subjects tucked away 92 percent of their food. 

Kids under 18 were the exception, however. The study also included more than 300 minors, who finished just 59 percent of the food they served themselves, on average. Adults are generally good at knowing how much they want to eat and serve themselves accordingly, while kids are worse at that skill, the scientists suggest.

Kids, apparently, grow into adults who do finish all of their self-servings, so the researchers point out that curbing the amount of food you dish out—whether it's because the plate is oversized, the ladle is large, or you're just really excited about eating—could help diners keep their waistlines in check. As the authors said in a release: “If you put it on your plate, it’s going into your stomach. Just knowing that you’re likely to consume almost all of what you serve yourself can help you be more mindful of appropriate portion size." 

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