On The Table

A collection of knowledge-based articles to inspire overall wellness.

Serving Size Scams: Don't be Fooled by Tricky Labels

Many products are marketed as healthy or better for you than others based simply on manipulated serving size information. Here's what to look out for next time you shop.

Serving Size Scams: Don't be Fooled by Tricky Labels

You're the kind of person who reads labels at the grocery store. You don’t buy any foods with more than 500 milligrams of sodium, 500 calories, and you carefully watch the saturated fat in each serving. But are you paying attention to the serving itself? Many labels have tricky ways of wording things and hiding servings per container to make you think you’re consuming the amount of calories listed. Don't be fooled by these common serving size scams.

If you’re like most of us and you eat the whole bag of Ramen noodles, not one half of it, then you’re consuming twice the calories, fat, and sodium listed on the back.

Same with a bottle of your favorite soda. Perhaps you may have noticed this, but it’s still worthy of a reminder. One bottle of soda has 2 ½ servings. Do you share your Coke with 1 ½ other people? Probably not. If you’re finishing that on your own you’re consuming 250 calories, not 100 like the label says.

What’s the meaning of the word personal? Private? Individual? That’s why you would assume Boboli’s personal size crusts are for one person. You’d be assuming wrong. They’re meant for two people to share. This means if you eat a whole “personal” size crust on your own, you’re consuming 800 milligrams of sodium, not the 400 listed on the nutrition panel.

Three original Chips Ahoy! cookies make up one serving while only one peanut butter cookie is deemed a serving. If you’re thinking you can eat three peanut butter cookies and only consume the 80 calories listed on back, you’re thinking wrong. Multiply that by three.

The list of tricky label techniques and serving size scams goes on and on. It’s time to whip out your reading glasses and examine carefully. Don’t assume a serving of peanut butter cookies is three cookies because that’s what makes up a serving of chocolate chip cookies. Just because it seems to make sense doesn’t mean it’s true. Why would companies make labels tricky? Because they have the power to do so. And if customers think a product is healthy, they’ll be more likely to buy it.

Many people are fooled by labels and most of them are going around thinking they’ve chosen the healthiest foods for their families. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as reading the numbers listed on the back; a lot of the time it requires some math. Now that you know this, the next time you visit the grocery store, you’ll be equipped with powers all your own.