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Open AccessArticle

Quantifying Actual and Perceived Inaccuracy When Estimating the Sugar, Energy Content and Portion Size of Foods

Department of Psychology, University of Konstanz, P.O. box 47, 78457 Konstanz, Germany
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Nutrients 2019, 11(10), 2425; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11102425
Received: 2 August 2019 / Revised: 6 October 2019 / Accepted: 9 October 2019 / Published: 11 October 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Portion Size Effect and Strategies for Portion Control)
In order to adhere to dietary guidelines and manage health risks, consumers need to be able to estimate with some accuracy the sugar and energy content of foods. The present study compared how well participants could estimate the sugar and energy content of foods, the weight of foods, and approximate portion size (using a hand measure estimation aid). The study had three aims. First, it aimed to investigate differences in accuracy across the four measures. Second, it aimed to examine whether these differences in accuracy between estimation measures were accurately perceived by the participants. Third, it aimed to test if estimation accuracy was related to food journaling experience, body-mass index or gender. One hundred and ninety-seven participants took part in an estimation task and filled in a questionnaire. While the participants were inaccurate when using all four estimation measures, inaccuracy was most pronounced for sugar content (ds ≥ 0.39), which was consistently overestimated by between 62.1% and 98.5% of the sample. None of the other measures showed a consistent pattern of under- or overestimation. Participants’ perceived accuracy did not match their actual accuracy (rs ≤ |0.20|, ps ≥ 0.005). Actual accuracy showed only marginal covariation with food journaling experience (ts ≤ 2.01, ps ≥ 0.049, ds ≤ 0.14), body-mass index (rs ≤ |0.15|, ps ≥ 0.041) or gender (ts ≤ 3.17, ps ≥ 0.002, ds ≤ 0.46). It is particularly challenging for consumers to estimate the sugar content of food, which might have negative consequences for health and well-being. Thus, more education about sugar content and misperceptions is needed to support consumers so that they can make healthy food choices. View Full-Text
Keywords: sugar; estimation; energy; calories; weight; food; nutrition; portion size; accuracy; perception sugar; estimation; energy; calories; weight; food; nutrition; portion size; accuracy; perception
MDPI and ACS Style

König, L.M.; Ziesemer, K.; Renner, B. Quantifying Actual and Perceived Inaccuracy When Estimating the Sugar, Energy Content and Portion Size of Foods. Nutrients 2019, 11, 2425.

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