Here's What Serving Sizes Actually Look Like

Categories: Wake Up Call

serving-sizes.jpg
Still from video
You probably know that most packaged foods contain more than one serving size. But have you ever stopped to think about what a single serving size actually looks like? Here's a hint: really, really small. Watch this video and, if you're like us, you'll quickly realize you've been eating enough for, like, three people.

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It's understandably hard to visualize just what a serving size should look like. Who can eyeball three-quarters of a cup of cereal or two tablespoons of peanut butter? That's not even enough to make a respectable PB&J.

Well, part of the problem may not be American's eating habits but rather that the Food and Drug Administration's guidelines are based on data from the 1970s and '80s. When the labeling on packages became standardized in the 1990s, the government used national surveys to approximate how much an average person consumes in one sitting. That data became the guidelines we still use today to determine serving size.

The problem is that even in the '90s, that data was relatively stale. It was gathered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the 1970s and '80s, when Americans consumed less than they do now. . That's right, the serving size on your lunch is based on the eating habits of people some three decades ago.

The big issue isn't so much that the serving sizes don't accurately reflect how much we eat, but that the nutritional information -- which are based on serving size -- could be misleading to consumers. If people have a hard time understanding how many servings they're consuming, the nutritional data means little to nothing. The FDA has been considering changes since 2010, but there's not a firm plan to update food labeling practices yet.

Guess we'll just have to count our chips a little more carefully.

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1 comments
dominiquechatterjee
dominiquechatterjee

With a little time and attention, it is possible to eyeball 3/4 cup of cereal or 2 tbsp. of peanut butter. A great tip for meat is that 3 oz. (a common serving) is the size of a deck of cards. Filet mignon is often 6 oz., equal to about two decks of cards.

I'm the weirdo in the kitchen measuring out most of the food I eat at home, and now that I've kept the habit for over a year, I often eyeball servings. When I second-guess my estimations and pull out the measuring cup, I'm almost always dead on. Being mindful of portions is just like anything else in life: Practice makes perfect.

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