Graduate Program

Nutrition and Dietetics

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Tamatha (Lisa) L. Brooks


Title: Pre-Meal To-Go Boxes: Implications for Portion Control

Authors: M. J. Schuster, BS; T. L. Brooks, PhD, RD; J.E. Painter, PhD, RD; C. Honselman, PhD, RD

Introduction: Obesity rates are increasing and seem to be correlated with increasing portion sizes of restaurant meals because of consumer desire for value. The purpose of this study was to determine if using a pre-meal to-go box has an impact on customers' total food intake of a restaurant meal.

Methods: Subjects were a convenience sample of adults (n=49) at a spaghetti dinner. Subjects were randomly assigned to receive approximately 18 ounces of spaghetti and sauce on their plate with a to-go box offered after the meal, or receive approximately 9 ounces of spaghetti and sauce both on their plate and in a to-go box before the meal. Meals were served on numbered plates and to-go boxes. The weights of the plates and to-go boxes were recorded before and after the meal. Subjects completed a survey measuring satisfaction with portion size, satiety, and meal quality following the meal. The university's IRB approved the study.

Results: Subjects who received pre-meal to-go boxes consumed significantly less (p =0.01) than those who received a to-go box after the meal. There were no significant differences in self-reported satiety ratings, satisfaction levels, or perceived overall quality among participants who consumed less.

Conclusions: A greater amount of food initially served on the plate resulted in a greater food intake. This study supports research that suggests that consuming smaller portion sizes does not affect satisfaction, satiety, or perceived quality of the meal. Dietitians can recommend that consumers request to-go boxes and portion part of the food out at the beginning of a restaurant meal to encourage lower intake in a single sitting.