Ooh don’t get me started on nutrition labels.
Some of my favorites that I just saw this week at the grocery store.
Jar of artichokes that’s nutrition label says 0g added sugar. But if you look lower at the ingredients list you can see that Dextrose has been added.
And we go on to our next example, with a different jar of artichokes.
I saw the jar on the right and was reading the label and I see it says that it’s 8 servings. Ok, seems like a little less than 8 servings, but ok. Then I look at the serving size and it says 1/2 cup. This is where that math we said we would never use comes in handy kids.
8 servings x 1/2 cup = 4 cups total
I have a very hard time believing there are 4 cups of artichokes in that tiny 7.5oz jar. So I put a traditional size can of vegetables next to it and see that is says it has 3.5 servings and each serving is also a 1/2 cup.
Yep, more math.
3.5 servings x 1/2 cup = 1.75 cups total
The world doesn’t make sense anymore!
What does the FDA have to say About “No Added Sugar”?
I am not anti artichoke here. That’s not the point.
This is just one example of many you can find in your local store of labels that don’t tell the whole story, or at the very least leave you with a fun little cliffhanger to figure out!
The FDA allows for food manufacturers to round. So any added sugar under .5 grams gets rounded to 0.
But wait, there’s more.
Serving Sizes Based on How American’s Eat and Not How They Should Eat
This one is a fun little conundrum. Try to follow along, good luck.
Here is a quote from FDA.com that says “The Nutrition Facts label on packaged foods was updated in 2016 to reflect updated scientific information, including information about the link between diet and chronic diseases, such as obesity and heart disease. The updated label makes it easier for consumers to make better informed food choices. “
Great news, and I really do like some of the improvements they have made.
But that still doesn’t mean that you no longer have to read labels.
You have to read them, dissect the information and make your own decision.
Just like with most things, you can’t rely on the government or anyone else.
Why? Well here is another quote on the same page,
“Some serving sizes will increase and others will decrease because by law, the serving sizes must be based on the amounts of food and drink that people typically consume, not on how much they should consume. Recent food consumption data show that some serving sizes need to be revised. For example, the reference amount used to set a serving of ice cream was previously ½ cup and now is 2/3 cup. The reference amount used to set a serving size of soda was previously 8 ounces and now is 12 ounces. The reference amount for yogurt decreased from 8 ounces to 6 ounces. Nutrient information on the new label will be based on these updated serving sizes so it matches what people actually consume.”
Summary: Increased portion size of ice cream and soda but a decreased portion size of yogurt.
Portion Size Effect
Before I became a nutrition coach I, like many of you, have counted calories to lose weight and with that I had relied on portion sizes to eat an appropriate amount.
Let’s tie this together now.
There is more information now linking chronic disease to obesity.
The FDA says people are eating larger portions.
The FDA changes labels to reflect larger portions vs doubling down on how much we really should be eating.
There is a study in the National Library of Medicine that studied the phenomenon known as the “Portion Size Effect”.
It reads: “Consistently, short-term studies have demonstrated that increasing portion size leads to increased food intake in adults and children, a phenomenon known as the portion size effect.”
So an increase in portion size will lead to an increase in consumption.
If you are eating based on the serving size on the label you very well may be over eating junk and under eating the healthy stuff.
What do I do with all this confusion if I am trying to watch What I eat?
These are a few of the steps that my most successful nutrition clients follow to see increases in energy, strength, and overall health:
- Plan, prioritize and prepare: It’s not just about eating the right food, it’s about making the process of eating simple. Plan your week, your workouts, your meals, and prioritize yourself. Do not rely on your job to care if you have a workout scheduled, you let them know. Don’t depend on your spouse to cook healthy if you are the one with the health or weight loss goals. You need to be in charge of you.
- Regulate Emotions and Eating: If you are snacking a lot. Analyze why. Are you bored? Are you starving because you are skipping meals? Are you anxious or sad or happy? No one needs a twinkie. No one needs a brownie. I’m not saying to not have those on occasion but if they are a part of your every day life then maybe you are missing nutrients in your other meals, or missing other meals in general or maybe you are trying to fill a void with food – that can’t be filled with food. You need to do the work to figure that out. Again – I am here, I have been through it all, I can help.
- Rethink portion sizes: Can’t trust the labels? First of all, buy artichokes (or anything) in the produce section. Just build the extra time you’ll need by using step 1. above. You can eat all the fresh vegetables you want if you haven’t prepared them the way some food manufacturers do. Use your palm as a good portion size indicator for lean meats, your fist for vegetables and your hand in the shape of a cup for starchy carbs like sweet potatoes. (If you want my free portion guide, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll shoot it out to you) Why do we portion size that way? Because on average if you are a bigger person your hands are bigger and if you are a smaller person your hands are smaller. Not to mention it’s easier to carry around your hands than it is a food scale!
- You want the rest, shoot me an email and I’ll answer your questions. (email@example.com)
I wrote this to open your eyes to the fact that your health, your progress, is in YOUR hands. You have to lean into it and start being intentional with your choices.
Reach out to me for help! Here is a link to schedule a 10 minute nutrition chat with me so we can get started on figuring this out together!