Ridiculous serving sizes

What’s up with the ridiculously small serving sizes on food labels? I’ve been examining these lately and sometimes what they list as a serving size is ridiculous. The can of clam chowder I’m eating now is apparently 2.5 servings. Who the hell could eat 40% of this can and be full? (It’s one of the little cans too.) I admit I’m a fairly large eater but I could eat at least two of these if I wanted. Seems like they’re cheating their way out of displaying reasonable nutrition information.

Maybe this should go in the pit, but I’m not upset enough to cuss much, so I figured it should go here. Move if necessary.

Well, duh, you’re in Texas! Obviously that particular clam chowder was meant for us out here in California!

I’ve been noticing that since I started paying closer attention to labels over a year ago, when I decided that maybe it was time I try and lose some weight and watch what I eat. The serving sizes are rather ridiculous most of the time. It is at least partly understandable for packaged items like chips or nuts or something, because you aren’t going to eat the whole back. Even then the serving size is absurd – like, “serving size: 20g (10 chips).” Who considers 10 chips a “serving?” That’s a handful, and almost always one of several.

On items you generally don’t split, it’s absurd though. I chalk it up purely to marketing. Taking a quick glance and seeing 100 Calories per serving is much more attractive than realizing that a serving is 1/8th of the entire product, which itself is only half a pound. People who read the labels are going to be less inclined to scarf down that Wings 'n Fries dinner when the little 350g box reveals it has 900 Calories in it. Far more attractive to the untrained eye to show 100 Calories per serving, despite the fact that there are 3.5 servings of something that no human being is going to save some of for later.

I actually do the math when shopping – both because I want to know the real story, and partly to spite the misleading labels.

My pick for worst serving size goes to a jar of pickle spears I saw once. (Each spear is, of course 1/4 of a pickle, cut lengthwise.)

The serving size given on the label was 2/3 of a spear! Not a pickle. Not even 1/4 of a pickle. 2/3 of 1/4 of a pickle. What are you supposed to do with the leftover third of a spear? Just leave it floating in the brine?

I seriously doubt anyone ever actually ate just 2/3 of their pickle spear.

I fully support this rant. The serving sizes are not only ridiculous, but as Lord Il Palazzo points out, seemingly arbitrary. And they don’t stay the same for the same foods from different brands - how the hell do I compare cereals when one has a serving size of 100 g, the other has 75 g, and the third has 5 oz? I can certainly figure this stuff out, but I ain’t gonna, and I shouldn’t have to.

The UK often has nutrition facts per serving next to nutrition facts per 100g, which I think is pretty nifty. While that doesn’t necessarily make the serving sizes less arbitary, it makes it easier to do the math for the package. The joys of living abroad :slight_smile:

Hm. My Lay’s brand KC Masterpiece brand allows 15 chips in the “Nutrition Facts” label. I like the trivia or silliness - since the lable is a federal requirement. Such as on a gallon of Water - contents: Water; Calories: 0. Milk is almost as brief except for the addition of Vitamin D.

That is pretty much absurd. Undoubtedly it is to make the sodium and total fat figures look almost reasonable.

I like the ones that are in microwave ready packs so that you can just heat the whole thing for lunch, however 2 or 2 and 1/2 people are then expected to eat this single pack.

But everything in Australia also has the same facts per 100 gms so comparison is simple.

While I can’t find the cite to support this. I read a news article sometime back where your gripe was shared by a manufacturer. It seems that the serving size is mandated by the FDA (or whatever the relevant organization is) Not sure what the criteria for the size was though.

Boy, I don’t know. The serving sizes that most (American Influenced) restaurants serve around here are grotesque. Perhaps the suggested serving sizes you see are more realistic wrt the rest of the planet.

I usually don’t have an issue.

I am an obsessive label reader and I find that (at least with most of the stuff that I consider buying, and therefore read labels on) the serving size usually makes sense – such as being an oz of cheese or a tablespoon of mayo or whatever. Sure, a serving of chips is usually an oz – ranging from 10 - 15 actual chips – that is reasonable and it is how we eat in my house. My family usually gets weird looks and the constant “oh my gosh, is everything ok with your food?” from waitstaff when we eat out because we will eat a normal, healthy portion of our food and ask for boxes to bring the rest home. When eating out, serving sizes are ridiculously oversized and that, I think, is why people see the suggested serving sizes on things like chips as “too small” or whatever. Just my two cents’ worth for the night.

Wow! You’re right. I just checked the label on a microwavable bowl of soup and one of Chef Boyardee pasta-like material. Each of the bowls contains two servings. Who is going to eat half of a microwavable bowl of soup and save the rest for later? Whether the food companies of the government is responsible, these serving sizes are ridiculous and often arbitrary.

I will be one of the first to admit that overeating is a common problem, but these labels should try to reflect reality, not an ideal that goes widely ignored (and it’s debatable whether 40% of a bottle of juice and 2/3 of a quarter of a pickle are even close to ideal any ways.)

I seem to recall the opposite; that it’s the food companies idea. IIRC there was a lawsuit about it a while back; some company was accused of lying about serving sizes for advertising reasons.

It’s a soup - presumably one course of a meal. I don’t think it’s meant to fill you up by itself. Though if you want to eat 2.5 servings by yourself and call it a meal, that’s your business.

Serving sizes are NOT supposed to be a portion.

Don’t ask me who’s the genius who came up with the notion of something that sounds like it means “portion” but does not. But if you take a look at the Food Pyramid (for example here) , you’ll see that it adds up to 15-26 servings.

Of course, if we start counting that in a bologna sandwich you have two servings of bread and one of bologna, then I guess the math works - but who the hell counts like that?

That sounds more credible, although “lying” might be a bit overstated— the size of a “serving” being more or less subjective, after all. But it is pretty obvious that a lot of companies manipulate the serving size down to make the item seem, at a glance, healthier than it really is.

“Wow, this jumbo gyro with grilled onions and tzatziki sauce is only 150 calories and 9 grams of fat! Servings per gyro: 28!”

I do. Ten chips would be plenty for me, served with a sandwich for lunch. I bet most of those $0.25 bags of chips have about that many.

My trick is to do calories per gram. It’s usually simple because a serving is almost always translated into grams as well. So just look at the grams and look at the calories. If the calories is less than the number of grams, that’s really good (at least for me). If it’s about 1-2x the number of grams, that’s reasonable. 3x is pushing it, and 4x or more is junk.

Of course, this is a bit simplified, and doesn’t deal with water percentages, but I figure it does the job. It ends up being pretty much the same thing as the 100g servings in England/Australia mentioned above, just to a different scale.

Okay. Now you’ve done it. Made me go and do research. Hope you’re happy.

Couldn’t find the original article I referenced, but I did find this, straight from the horse’s. errr… government’s mouth.

You’re on your own making sense of it though.

Here’s the Q&A link .

My guess would be that it’s like vanity sizing or pricing things $-.99

Most people who check the labels just kind of glance at the calories and go, “ooh, that’s not bad! only 100 calories!” and don’t ever realize that the whole package is 400 calories.