Formative evaluation of a portion control and calorie reduction campaign: Insights from focus groups with target audience

Sarah Gonzalez-Nahm, Meghan L. Ames, Sara E. Benjamin-Neelon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Healthy eating campaigns can increase awareness of healthful foods and eating patterns and prompt behavior change. Portion control can be a useful strategy in weight management efforts, and new, innovative campaigns can help invigorate messages related to portion control and weight management. This qualitative study presents results of formative testing of portion control and calorie reduction messages and infographics for a proposed campaign. We conducted 17 focus groups with 113 adults ages 18–65 years in 3 US cities. We conducted separate focus groups by weight status (overweight/healthy weight) and gender (male/female) and analyzed coded data and categorized emerging themes. Participants, especially those with healthy weights, gravitated toward specific, and achievable messages to encourage portion control and calorie reduction. Men with overweight and women with healthy weights preferred messages that had a positive, supportive tone. Participants favored messages that addressed overeating and allowed for autonomy. In particular, women and those with healthy weights preferred messages that encouraged calorie budgeting. Many participants, in particular men, provided positive feedback on messages encouraging a “fresh start” on Mondays. Additionally, participants preferred messages that were colorful, informative, realistic, attractive, and relatable. With regard to message dissemination, participants suggested that messages and infographics be positioned in high-traffic areas and men generally suggested places where food decisions are made. Moreover, participants suggested message dissemination through trusted health professionals and credible research organizations. Health organizations planning a portion control or calorie reduction campaign should consider these factors early in the development process to help ensure acceptance and success.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101614
JournalPreventive Medicine Reports
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Calorie reduction
  • Formative research
  • Health communication campaign
  • Portion control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health Informatics


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