It’s Official: Serving Sizes Are Totally Bogus

I feel like I have a pretty decent grasp on the correct portion sizes now, but what’s still been bugging me is the discrepancy that I’ve noticed between the serving size that’s listed on food packaging and the portion size that’s recommended by health and nutrition professionals.

After a little digging, I found this article from Slate about how food companies determine their serving sizes and I think I finally have some answers (answers that honestly kind of piss me off). Definitely read the whole article (it’s short), but here are a few of the key parts that stood out to me:

“The Food and Drug Administration provides an exhaustively detailed set of guidelines to help manufacturers set portion size based on the amount the average person is likely to eat at once. The agency arrives at this figure by factoring in survey data, recommendations from food and nutrition organizations, and customs in other countries. One reason official serving sizes seem so small is that the survey data comes largely from studies conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the 1970s and ’80s, when Americans consumed less food than they do now.”

“If a product comes in a “single-serving container”—individually sold products that contain less than 200 percent of the RACC (reference amount customarily consumed)—companies can simply list a serving size as “1 container” or “1 package” or “1 can.”

“For simplicity’s sake, the FDA encourages manufacturers to label a container as a single-serving “if the entire contents of the package can reasonably be consumed at a single-eating occasion”—even if it’s more than twice the RACC.”

…Did you get that? Let me summarize: Sometimes serving sizes are based off recommendations from food and nutrition organizations, but often they’re based off what manufactures, not health professionals, deem reasonable to consume in a sitting—regardless if it’s 2 or 3 times what a healthy portion would be. 

Does that bother anyone else? That the servings listed on packaging aren’t always telling us what we’re supposed to eat, but what’s probably ok for us to eat, even if it’s way more than a nutritionist would recommend? 

Then I found this video that talks about a lot of the same things—including how they may up serving sizes because Americans eat way more than they used to. Great idea, let’s formally make it acceptable to eat twice as much as we should.

I’m not asking the government to hold my hand, but the least they can do it point me in the right direction–especially in a country where one-third of it’s population is obese. 

I’m about 3 seconds away from writing to Michelle Obama. Someone egg me on…


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