When was the last time you purchased a bottle of soda, sipped exactly 8 ounces, and then capped it to enjoy later?
Probably never. Those 20-ounce bottles are a single portion for many Americans, even though it says right on the bottle that there are 2.5 servings.
That’s exactly why today’s news is such a big deal: For the first time in two decades, the FDA has proposed changes requiring food manufacturers to list the nutritional information on their labels in accordance to the portions people actually consume, not serving standards established years ago.
Here’s an Eat It to Beat It! cheat sheet about how to navigate the changes.
|What is a serving size exactly?|
A serving size is a unit of measuring foods in accordance with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The guidelines are overseen by The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Although they are reviewed every five years, many of the serving sizes recommended have not been updated since the 1970s and '80s.
That’s different than a portion size, which is the amount of food offered in a single restaurant entree, the amount of packaged food eaten on average, or whatever you grab while raiding the fridge.
|How will the labels change?|
They will more accurately reflect the amount that a consumer is likely to eat.
Let’s say you come home after a hard day at work and cook a small, frozen, store-bought potpie. You’re probably not going to split that potpie in half. Yet according to the labels of some of the most popular potpie brands, each pie has two servings. What you thought was 380 calories with 21 grams of fat is in fact 760 calories with 42 grams of fat per single portion. This will be made clearer on the new labels.
|Will this affect all my favorite foods?|
Pretty much. Let’s take that can of lentil soup you brought for lunch, as another example. The label currently says a serving is only 160 calories, with 30 grams of carbs, and 9 grams of protein. But the can itself contains two servings. This might confuse someone who assumes the entire can of soup has only 160 calories. In fact, it has 320.
Or ice cream. Have you ever met anyone who eats a ½ cup of ice cream, the recommended serving size? Or cereal? Three quarters of a cup to one cup is the recommended serving size for most cereal brands, and most of us pour at least double of that amount in our bowls in the morning.
|So will this help curb obesity rates?|
There is a proven link between what we are served and what we consume. In a study by the Department of Nutritional Sciences at The Pennsylvania State University , researchers found that peoples’ appetite increased as the serving of food they were presented with increased. Study participants were offered various sized meals, and inevitably ate more as the portion sized increased, but they still perceived they were eating a single serving.
Ready or not, label shock is coming. How will it affect the way you eat?
Dave Zinczenko, ABC News nutrition and wellness editor, is a No. 1 New York Times bestselling author. His latest book, "Eat It to Beat It!" is full of food swaps, meal plans and the latest food controversies. Here's where to sign up for his free newsletter.