Logical Labels = Good. Only doing it to “Fight Obesity” = *eyeroll*

FDA Weighs Update to Standard Serving Sizes: “Seeking a new weapon in the fight against obesity, the Food and Drug Administration wants to encourage manufacturers to post vital nutritional information, including calorie counts, on the front of food packages.”

Basic idea nugget (hidden within the proposed agenda to make us dumb fatties “realize” that we are obviously stuffing far too many chips into our gaping maws) is to get more accurate nutrition information available and easily readable for the public.  That basic nugget?  Brilliant.  I for one feel that having to look at any nutrition label and having to do all sorts of math gymnastics is an unnecessary waste of time. If I get a bottle of juice from a vending machine or if I am looking to buy a loaf of bread with enough fiber for my husband’s voraciously demanding fiber needs it is annoying to squint at tiny numbers located in the wrinkled portion of the packaging in order to find out that I need to then multiply whatever is given by what is actually normally consumed.  Bread info for only one slice? Needs to be doubled because who honestly uses one slice of bread to make a sandwich??  Bottles which one might think are one serving of a drink (soda, juice, bottled teas, etc) are actually 2 or 3 or, even more fun, 2.5 servings.  I think getting rid of this sort of frustrating ambiguity and getting such information boldly, consistently and easily distributed out there is a fantastic thing.  It will certainly make for fewer headaches for those of us who look to nutrition labels for our various reasons.

However (you knew there was a “however” coming, right?), I find it extremely irritating that this venture is all pegged as a way to enlighten us poor deluded and obviously unobservant fatties as to the true amounts we all are scarfing down at each sitting.  I mean, seriously?  Come on.  This once again plays to the idea that any Fat Person is either in complete denial of what they are eating or so unintelligent as to not understand those nutrition labels and what “6oz” or “12 average-sized pieces” or “a handful” might mean. Even the article will tell the reader, “On today’s food packages, many of the serving sizes puzzle even the experts. For ice cream, the serving size is half a cup. For packaged muffins, it is often half a muffin. For cookies it is generally one ounce, equal to two Double Stuf Oreos. For most children’s breakfast cereals, a serving is three-quarters of a cup.”

Perhaps we (you know, those of us not in the group of people unable to get fat) just (perhaps with reason) can’t or don’t want to understand what those ambiguous or too precise serving suggestions can mean. Well I hate to burst that deluded bubble there folks (okay, so no I really don’t hate it); but anyone who has ever been through the hell that can be rigid dieting is firmly and fully aware of just how large 6 oz of meat is (about the size of a deck of cards), how large a cup of pasta is (about the size of a closed fist), just how un-fulfilling a half cup of low-fat ice cream really is, etc. Those of us indoctrinated into a culture of fat fear (and you will be hard-pressed to find many who AREN’T) have no need to be reminded to look at those labels and nervously count, count, count, always count what is there (even reading between the lines to somehow mystically learn what might be hidden; lurking within any favorite treat that ever dares beg entrance to the food temple of your body).

We’ve spent lifetimes forever counting, measuring, weighing, gauging sizes and then even taking a bit away because we’re sure it is still too much (I mean, what if my closed fist is bigger than the average fist??!! Then I’m eating like a half bite too much!!!)

So to me when I hear that the FDA wants more visible and consistent labeling of nutrition with servings linked to actual real usage I want to cheer.  Yet when I read that this is all in an effort to scare us obese folks into nervously reconsidering that second handful of chips or cookies (because that’s all we ever reach for, natch); it makes me shake my head.  Listen, I’m just as capable of reading those silly freaking labels as the next, perhaps thinner, literate human being.  It isn’t a lack of huge lettering on the front of the package that makes me decide how much of it I think I can eat.

Already too, fear does seem to be lurking in the minds of those who already think that even adjusting serving sizes won’t affect obesity rates:  “If the serving size for cookies rose to two ounces, from one ounce, for instance, some consumers might think the government was telling them it was fine to eat more.” Do they really think I’m over here thinking to myself in the grocery aisles, “Oooo this bag of chips has “110 calories” written in bold font on the front; that must mean the WHOLE BAG is only 110 calories!! I’m just gonna scarf it all regardless of how my body feels or how hungry I am because that is Just How Fat People Are, right?.”

Look, I’m all for truth in advertising, especially about the products we are putting into our bodies.  Labels which are consistent, logical (1/3 of a muffin anyone?), and easily accessible make sense.  Not just for those millions who are still trying to diet their bodies into weight-loss submission but for folks who need to watch their fiber intake, or look out for gluten or other allergens.  However, transparency in labeling will not, as I think the FDA is hoping, scare people into changing their food choices.  Until actual problems to be solved are addressed; such as the lacking availability of fresh foods or safe spaces across the nation; there isn’t much difference to be made in accurately labeling those cheap but “bad for you” foods in large letters and yet not visiting concerns over how pricey other “good for you” foods really are.  Stop acting like all of this effort is going to somehow Make America Skinny!

Oh, and if you’re worried about your growing child eating more than a whopping 110 calories for breakfast (may even be eating 330!):

“When it comes to cereal, she said, many children probably eat two cups or more. Parents who glance at a box of Frosted Flakes and see that it contains 110 calories per serving may not realize that their children may be getting several times that amount each morning at breakfast.”

Then we have other huge concerns to address here, namely how devastating it is becoming to hear about the way food to children is being demonized to such an extent that 110 freaking calories is seen as a horrific glut.


17 thoughts on “Logical Labels = Good. Only doing it to “Fight Obesity” = *eyeroll*

  1. Serving sizes make me crazy.

    Do NOT try and sell me a tiny bag of food and then tell me there’s 2.5 servings in there. It’s NOT! It’s ONE serving! I am eating THE WHOLE THING!!!

    I eat a can of soup for lunch every day… servings in my can of soup are ALWAYS 2 to 2.5. Seriously, Campbells and Progresso? I am supposed to only eat HALF A CAN of your soup for lunch?! What the heck kind of lunch is that? Most of the soups I eat have around 150 calories in the “serving” – so that’s what the soup people think I should have for lunch? My “Serving” is 150 calories?

    If I didn’t have sense enough to eat the whole darn can, I would starve on what these companies try to foist off on us as “a serving”

    Nutritional information should be posted on packaging based on what people are likely to eat. A can of soup is a serving. A “fun size” bag of chips does NOT feed two people!

    • Yeah, along with the thing about soup someone else mentioned and this I have to say those little “100 calorie” packs make me nuts as well. It isn’t a real sized version of the cookie or chip, and somehow you’re supposed to buy these uber priced little baggies and feel you’re getting a treat. Please. In case people haven’t noticed; our minds and bodies inhabit the same space; our bodies KNOW when we’re trying to mind-fuck them with little calorie packs! But the one good thing is that at least those little packs DO (for the most part; some don’t) actually have One Serving as labeled. No matter how much they bother me I still cheer at the idea of honesty there!

  2. Word! This is a great analysis of these recent articles. It’s as if they think that I and my husband (who’s in the category of thin people who don’t gain weight) live in some sort of alternate universes.


    Anyway–the only times I find serving sizes at all useful in daily life is in a really limited way, in terms of recognizing that one serving size doesn’t fit all. I mean, my husband would *die* if I gave him one serving of pasta. Seriously, he’d faint dead away. He needs a lot more than that simply to keep going.

    And we’re now experimenting with dividing up a box of crackers into ziplock bags of one serving each and sticking those back into the box, but that’s just because my kids like crackers as an after school snack, but they’re *expensive* and we’d rather they had some and then move onto an apple rather than having both of them finish off a box in order to sate the after school ravenous hunger that comes with two growing kids (at least one of whom definitely seems to have my husband’s metabolism).

  3. ARG! The food labeling laws in the US are seriously effed up. Why can’t we have an HONEST, CLEAR account of what is actually IN the food? Having food allergies is hard enough without having to wonder if that “modified food starch” might have been derived from something I can’t eat. Honestly, that’s more important for me than knowing how many calories are in a food anyway…

    • Exactly! I know I’ve eaten enough calories when I’m full. But if it’s included in an ambiguous ingredient listing like “natural flavors,” I don’t know if something has MSG in it until I spend the next 24 hours feeling constantly out of breath and dealing with migraines.

  4. I can’t quite believe that a can of beans is 3.5 servings. (WTF?)

    Maybe if you’re the kind of cook that has 16 side dishes, this works, I’m just pleased when I get one dish cooked and on the table, maybe with some supplemental fruit or something. Which makes these things worse. Plus, if you live alone, it’s not like you’re going to use 2 oz from your can of coconut milk and stash it back in the fridge (along with 2.5 servings of beans, 3/4 a can of cranberry sauce, and half a chicken breast). If you’re like me, you will use the whole damn thing, and if there are leftovers, you will repurpose them the next day with some cornbread. (And not just 1/10 of the package of cornbread mix, either.)

  5. I was in a convenience store one time looking at those little packs of Fig Newtons – the ones with two super-long Newtons in a package. So, there was low-fat and regular. The regular listed 200 calories for one serving size: 2 cookies, i.e. the whole package. The low-fat listed 100 calories for one serving size, which I realized was ONE COOKIE, i.e. half the package. That was when I realized serving sizes were bogus.

  6. Yeah, serving sizes are seriously screwy. If the nutritionally correct amount of soup to have is a cup, then package it in a cup. I too do not want to seperate the contents of the can.
    Honestly, I feel like the whole country is becoming pro-ana. Back in the deepest throes of self starvation, I would only buy the Smart Ones shrimp marinara or the lean cuisine garlic chicken because they were the only ones under 200 calories. I only bought campbells selects because they were only 80 calories – because I was trying to keep my 2 meals a day under 300 calories, and these companies obliged me by putting the calorie counts – all that really matters in a piece of food to an anorectic – right in front. Thanks!
    These “experts” still seem to equate thin with healthy despite all the evidence to the contrary. Thin does not equal healthy – or unhealthy for that matter – all it really dictates is what size clothes you wear. As long as whoever is in charge (who is in charge, anyway?) keeps counting our wellbeing in terms of calories and BMI, arbitrary numbers really, eating disorders and body hate will still run rampant. Which I guess suits the diet industrial complex just fine.
    Sorry for the rant. What I meant was: here here!

  7. Nice theories and expressions of the “common wisdom”. Too bad it appears that you all, so far, appear to be missing key points. They are as follows:

    I.) The reason “serving” sizes are screwy is that they are NOT meant to equal the amount that the person is expected to actually eat in a sitting.

    And never were.

    II.) Instead, the “serving” sizes on the label are nothing more than laboratory test units.

    That’s right, lab test units! How in the heck do you expect they come up with the nutritional value figures on those “Nutrition Facts” labels?

    This is how:

    1.) The manufacturer tests a large number of samples of the food in the LABORATORY. Like the ones you saw in “lab” in science class in school, only fancier.

    2.) The sample sizes are usually chosen to be convenient for the use of lab techs and/or experimentation (such as 100grams, 25 ml, and the like).

    In other cases, these test portions may also be based on traditional (the 8oz glass of a liquid)”servings” that are easy to standardize and/or poorer people of the past could afford.

    3.) The data resulting from of hundreds, if not thousands, of tests for each nutrient are then averaged and that’s the figure that is published (likely it’s the mean value of the aggregate data for each item tested).

    4.) Hence you get those “interesting” serving sizes in the “Nutrition Facts” of, let’s say, 1/3 of a muffin or 2.5 “servings” of juice in the “single” bottle.

    III.) NONE of these “servings sizes” are intended to be used by healthy people to actually portion out anything, and the manufacturers know it. That’s why the “singles” are often quite big and/or they provide the full information for the actual contents of the container along with the “one serving” data.

    IV.) Even if someone has to watch their exact nutrient intake as part of treatment?
    All that can be said is that the best that can happen is an educated guess.

    1.) The “serving sizes” on the label (or in that reference book) in this case? They cannot be understood to be anything but the equivalent composition data for individual units of the raw materials for the “dosages” of “medication” which is “compounded” as needed by the patient.

    2.) In any case–basic nutrition or as part of medical therapy–these nutrient data figures are averages. Not exact figures; they can’t be due to the unavoidable error that results in preparing raw foodstuffs and/or packaging the prepared items for distribution.

    3.) In fact, a 10% or even more variation in either direction from the stated value is acceptable from what I have read.

    That is a lot of error and is why we should take all nutrient facts labels with a big grain of Kosher salt.

    • Thanks for the bit of history “observer”. Now that you bring it up I do remember, from the hazy days of Chem class, that the numbers given aren’t fully accurate anyways and am pleased you took the effort to bring it up here so well the “key points” we all seem to be missing.

    • That . . . makes total sense. So perhaps they want to use a word other than “serving” to talk about their laboratory test units. You know, the same way that I don’t use the word “pets” to talk about the petri dishes of bacteria I grow in lab.

    • One final flaw in the process. You can assume that the equipment used to test these samples is calibrated to avoid variation between test devices, as far as possible. Human bodies vary a great deal more. There’s no way of knowing if you and any other person are actually getting the same nutrients from identical portions of food.

    • “NONE of these “servings sizes” are intended to be used by healthy people to actually portion out anything…”

      Yes, except the problem is when you’re “doing” Weight Watchers or other such nonsense, you sure as HELL are expected to portion out the food according to the nutrition label. If one “serving” is 1/2 a muffin, then by GOD you better only eat 1/2 a muffin.

      • And be satisfied by it! Because if you eat half a muffin and a cup of milk and are still hungry, that’s just proof of how gluttonous you are.

  8. “Then we have other huge concerns to address here, namely how devastating it is becoming to hear about the way food to children is being demonized to such an extent that 110 freaking calories is seen as a horrific glut.”

    Amen sister. The 2000 calorie a day rule isn’t there because we’re all fatty, fat fattys. It’s because our bodies are machines and they need fuel to run.

    I also love the idea that we fatties are just too stupid to understand a serving size. I know damn well how many calories I consume during the day, but I choose not to care or obsess about it because I LOVE myself. If my body is hungry, I’m going to feed it, end of story. Now excuse me, I’m going to go eat a huge Bartlett pear. ALL OF IT.

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