The purpose of this study was to test a comprehensive model of meal portion size determinants consisting of sociodemographic, psychological and food-related variables, whilst controlling for hunger and thirst.
Using cross-sectional nationally representative data collected in 2075 participants from the Island of Ireland (IoI) and Denmark (DK), eight separate hierarchical multiple regression analyses were conducted to examine the association between food-related variables and meal portion size (i.e. pizza, vegetable soup, chicken salad and a pork meal) within each country. Stepwise regressions were run with physiological control measures (hunger and thirst) entered in the first step, sociodemographic variables (sex, age, body mass index (BMI)) in the second step; psychological variables (cognitive restraint, uncontrolled eating, emotional eating, general health interest (GHI)) in the third step and food-related variables (expected fillingness, liking, expected healthfulness, food familiarity) in the fourth step.
Sociodemographic variables accounted for 2–19% of the variance in meal portion sizes; psychological variables explained an additional 3–8%; and food-related variables explained an additional 2–12%. When all four variable groups were included in the regression models, liking and sometimes expected healthfulness was positively associated with meal portion size. The strongest association was for liking, which was statistically significant in both countries for all meal types. Whilst expected healthfulness was not associated with pizza portion size in either country, it was positively associated with meals that have a healthier image (vegetable soup; chicken salad and in IoI, the pork meal).
In conclusion, after considering sociodemographic and psychological variables, and the food-related variables of liking and expected healthfulness, there may be little merit in manipulating the satiating power, at least of these type of meals, to maintain or promote weight loss.