Single course ad libitum meals are recommended for the assessment of energy intake within appetite research. This represents the first investigation of the comparative sensitivity of two single course ad libitum meals designed to differ in palatability. Two experiments were completed using a preload study design. All protocols were identical except for the energy content of the preloads (Experiment one: 579kJ and 1776kJ; Experiment two: 828kJ and 4188kJ). During each experiment, 10 healthy men completed four experimental trials constituting a low or high energy preload beverage, a 60 min intermeal interval, and consumption of a pasta-based or porridge-based ad libitum meal. Appetite ratings were measured throughout each trial and palatability was assessed after food consumption. Preload manipulation did not influence appetite (P=0.791) or energy intake (P=0.561) in experiment one. Palatability and energy intake were higher for the pasta meal than the porridge meal in both experiments (palatability P≤0.002; energy intake P≤0.001). In experiment two, consumption of the high energy preload decreased appetite (P=0.051) and energy intake (P=0.002). Energy compensation was not significantly different between pasta and porridge meals (P=0.172) but was more strongly correlated with preceding changes in appetite at the pasta meal (r=-0.758; P=0.011) than the porridge meal (r=-0.498; P=0.143). The provision of a highly palatable pasta-based meal produced energy intakes that were more representative of preceding appetite ratings but the moderately palatable porridge-based meal produced more ecologically valid energy intakes. Ad libitum meal selection and design may require a compromise between sensitivity and ecological validity.