FoodFacts knows that for years consumers have been concerned with serving sizes as a way to control weight. If one serving from a package fits into someone’s caloric intake goals for the day, it can help make the decision to purchase a particular product.
But when you really look into a processed food product’s serving size, there are so many other issues besides calories to be concerned about. That’s especially true when we talk about “fun” foods. Those are the foods we usually limit in our diets because they aren’t incredibly good for us. We use them as treats … foods like ice cream, chips, cookies and cakes. FoodFacts sometimes wonders if the serving size information is a way to ease us into being comfortable with a food that might not be healthy for us.
Your average, nameless brand of peanut butter cup ice cream, for example, cites a serving size of half a cup. This weighs in at 150 calories, 10 g total fat (4 of which are saturated), 25 mg cholesterol, and 15 g carbohydrates. In order for this information to be correct, it would be necessary to physically measure out a half cup of ice cream in a measuring cup prior to consumption. In addition, it would require that you only have one serving of said ice cream. If you don’t stick to that one serving, you’ll be getting double the fat (20 g total). You might not even realize that while it’s happening.
Cookies are another of our favorite examples of the serving size dilemma. Chocolate chip cookies are probably the most popular cookies. Almost any brand of chocolate chip cookies carries a serving size of 3 cookies. Those three cookies carry a calorie count of 190, with 8 grams of fat (2.5 of which are saturated, but 0 g trans fat) and 22 g carbohydrates. If you didn’t read the ingredient list, you won’t realize that they’re made with partially hydrogenated oil. That one ingredient means that the product DOES, in fact, contain trans fat, but they can claim to be trans-fat free because there’s less than .5 g in a single serving. So, if you have 6 cookies, instead of three, you just consumed one gram of trans fat, no matter what the label said.
How about potato chips with an average serving size of 12 chips? When was the last time you ate exactly 12 potato chips? We couldn’t tell you if we had 12, or 24 or 36. It would probably depend on the desirability of the accompanying dip. And that could have elevated trans-fat consumption up to 2 grams. For that one food product.
When you realize that every food we consume has a suggested serving size and that the nutritional information listed is applicable to that serving size, you can see the opportunities we have all day long to turn foods that might not seem so bad into unhealthy items.
FoodFacts wants our community members to keep in mind how certain food items can appear innocuous on the food label, while in reality hold more serious implications for your healthy diet. It’s always about education. .5 grams of trans-fat might not make you uncomfortable. But 2 grams for two separate food items during a one day period might make you stop and think. So don’t just read the label. Understand how that food product fits into your day and your goals for diet and health.