Nutrition "Sort Of" Facts

cans of soup
--Photo by the GiantVermin
Something that’s been bothering me for a long time is deceptive nutritional information.

Grab a bottle of soda or a can of soup from your kitchen. Or better yet a bag of potato chips. It’ll tell you how many calories it’s got, and the percentage of the daily recommended amounts of fat, sugars, cholesterol, etc. that it has.

Now, anyone who gives about nutritional information knows that these values are for one serving size. Most of us don’t bother calculating exactly how many servings are in the bag of potato chips, or how many are in the number of chips we just ate. In fact, most of the time, it’s easy to assume that the values represent the nutritional information for eating the whole bag.

Unfortunately, these serving sizes are usually much, much smaller than you’d expect. A serving size can be as little as six potato chips. Who buys a bag and eats just six chips? It doesn’t happen. It just doesn’t. I don’t think it’s possible.

They need to write the nutritional information for the amounts that most people would actually eat. Take a can of soup, for example. Who eats half of it, and saves the rest of the can for another day? No one that I know. Instead, you eat the whole can, and guiltily realize that you had two serving sizes, not one, which means you had 50% of the daily recommended values of sodium, not 25%. That’s a big difference. And 25% is bad enough.

People who pay attention to their nutritional intake know all this already, and the simple calculations may be no big deal. But why not just make it easier? Why make it misleading in the first place? Most likely because food-producers don’t want to put a big number 50 next to the sat fat label. But if that’s what people are actually eating, then they should know (and be scared by it).

According to this NY Times article, it seems the FDA wants to encourage the labeling of foods with more realistic serving sizes. It’d certainly be one less inconvenience if the FDA go with their plan. Go FDA.

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