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Serving Size Education

How are serving sizes determined?

According to the FDA, serving sizes must be based on the amount of food people typically consume, rather than how much they should consume. Serving sizes changed to align a serving size with the amount people actually eat and to limit the tricks companies will play on us to lower calories or sugar. Other label changes include serving size and calories display, added sugar column and classification, and daily values. 

While this change may look like nutrition facts have increased, many changes are due to the updated serving size. Standardizing products to use a universal serving size for their food category is a win for the consumer. Now that we have discussed the FDA ruling, we will discuss common tricks we have seen with the new label requirements, specifically serving sizes and misleading marketing.

Common Tricks:

  • Companies will add two nutrition labels on the back - one with the traditional label and the second will either show two servings or add another product typically consumed with their product. We will use cereal as an example. You may see a second label on the back that shows one serving of cereal with milk, which gives it higher protein and misleading marketing.
  • Ambiguous food categories. What do we mean by this? Granola is a perfect example of this trick by companies. Granola does not fit into its own category. It can be labeled as granola or as cereal. The suggested serving size for granola is 28-30 grams. The serving size for cereal is 58-60 grams. We have seen companies label their granola as a cereal and advertise 10 grams of protein per serving but with a serving size of 60 grams. That is double the serving size of standard granola on the shelves.

When in doubt, never believe the claims on the front or back of the products. Go to the nutrition label and ingredients for the facts, and buy from companies you can trust. We all owe it to ourselves to be informed to make the best decisions for our health. We feel the label change was a step in the right direction but the suggested serving size does not indicate what is right for you. We recommend tracking meals in an app like MyFitnessPal for a couple of months to get a better idea of how macros, calories, and sugar add up throughout the day. That was an effective tool in our health journey.