What's up with serving sizes?

I am on a diet. Not a real, knock-em-down, drag-em-out diet, but I’m trying to watch what I eat. As I write this, I’m eating a bowl of popcorn. As I was making the popcorn, I happened to look at the nutrition information on the side of the jug o’ Orville Reddenbacher we have. Calories - 120 per serving. Thinking to myself, “That’s not so bad!” Then I looked at the serving size. Three tablespoons! Why bother making three tablespoons of popcorn? I made half a cup. That’s eight tablespoons (I think - I admit I didn’t check up on this in the cookbook before posting), almost three times a single serving size!

I look at a normal size can of Campbell’s soup. I always eat the whole can when I make it. “Servings per can: 2[sup]1[/sup]/[sub]2[/sub].” Does anyone out there actually split a can of Campbell’s that way?

Those are just two examples. My question: Who decides serving sizes, and why does it always seem as though they’re completely unrelated to the way most people choose to eat whatever it is?

<grumbling as I finish the popcorn, knowing that I won’t have any more for a while.>


Did you know that one bag of microwave popcorn is four servings?

My mom happened to read this on the bag one day, and was amazed to learn this little factoid. On a whim, she started asking around at work to see if anyone else knew. 15 out of 15 people she asked said that a bag of microwave popcorn was one serving. That’s what I thought, too.

Kind of the opposite, but I have a problem with french fry serving sizes at fast food joints. I always felt french fries were a side item. Now with the super-size fries, biggie fries, etc. There are more fries than the main course. I’m sorry, but I don’t want that many french fries at one sitting. At McDonalds, you can get medium size fries, which when I was younger used to be large size fries. I don’t want that many fries, or I too will become super-size.

I did the dieting thing for quite some time, and noticed a lot of wacky serving sizes. The only one that really tripped me up was a Stouffers Pot Pie. I was thinking it was unusually healthy, given the butter and lard in the crust. Then I noticed it was 2 servings! Who eats that as 2 servings? Any frozen meal with a plate built in is one serving. No exceptions! Potato chips and Doritos are horrible too. 11 chips for a serving of Doritos? In what world is that?

Campbell’s soup is a good example too, but I don’t mind, since even 2.5 servings are still way lower in calories than most things (if it’s not cream based of course).

They make the “serving sizes” so small so that the calories, fat, etc. per “serving” seem more reasonable.

Not to sound like some smarmy size two society chick (which I most cetainly am not), but…

I think the problem is that the serving sizes reflect the amount of food that should be consumed for an average person. Unfortunatly, in the bigger-is-better America of the last 50 years, portion sizes have been gradually increasing (as have Americans themselves)to the point that people now think a 12 oz steak, a 1/2 pound baked potato, a bowl of soup, a salad, some veggies and maybe a slice of pie (1/6 of a pie, BTW) is a normal size dinner. As xizor mentioned, what used to be a large fry at Mc Donald’s is today a medium, with sizes ranging up to the obsene.

I would also prefer that a pot pie be one serving, but I think the way to do that is to make the damned thing smaller. I agree completely, however, with the 2 1/2 serving complaint on the soup. 2 1/2? C’mon. Let’s at least deal in whole numbers.

IMHO, most American’s have a very skewed sence of appropriate portions. I blame the marketers for this. Take chips, for example. Why in god’s name do Doritos come in those huge bags? When this is sold as a normal amount of a snack product to have in one’s home, people will eat more of it. If the standard “family size” was one of those 99 cent bags, people might begin to realize that one should not sit down and eat 50 Doritos. Of course, I do not put all the blame on advertisers. People most certainly must be responsible for thier own choices. I am just saying that by marketing products in such large quantities, people get used to seeing larger sizes as appropriate when they are not.

If the microwave popcorn came in smaller bags which represented two servings, I think most people would just eat the two serving bag and would not pop 2 bags. Instead, we eat the whole thing–and not just popcorn. People do this with everything, get used to eating such large portions and then spend millions of dollars on diet products.

In summation, I don’t thing the nutritional labels need to be changed as much as do our ideas about food.

Americans don’t eat too much… Americans are hampered by a very hateful body image aesthetic that tells them to look like Callista Flockhart and Kate Moss is an ideal.

This has only been the case in the past 70 years.

Female movie stars like Marilyn Monroe and others of her fame were not tiny women. They had hips, curves, breasts, and an actual ass. They were considered voluptous sex goddesses.

Now we’ve got the anorexic aerobics nazis telling us it is better to suffer, not enjoy food, and look ‘attractive’ rather than be healthy or happy.

This is why there is the evil nutrition info panel on food.
If you look at it, any truly normal amount of pre-processed food that you buy is laden with so much fat and calories that you feel guilty eating it in this climate of your health and looks being everyone else’s business.

A pint of ice cream is a SERVING. 1/4th of a bag of Doritos is a SERVING. A row of Oreos in a four row bag is a SERVING. 1 stalk of celery and 4 oz of peanut butter is a SERVING.

If you want to eat like a gnat and be insubstantial, fine. I’ll eat as I please, be as substantial as I want to be, and joyfully outlive you.

Kate Moss and Marilyn Monroe have the exact same hip to waist ratio.

Yes, but so do 2:4 and 4:8, but that’s not the same, now is it?

I agree with Hastur. Food is meant to be eaten. I don’t care about nutritional information. I will look at the information and either be impressed, or disapointed, and keep eating either way.

Of course, I’m eighteen, have a fast metabolism, and excercise now and then, so who am I to talk?

Coke and Pepsi used to be listed as 2 serving a can in order to cut down on the calorie count. I think that the government eventually made them stop that sort of thing.

I remember that serving size on Otis Spunkmeyer(sp?) muffins listed as 1/2 of a muffin.

IIRC, the FDA requires that anything packaged as a single serving be labeled as such.

I will agree with Lucky here. The intention is not that we should eat anything, be it Brussels sprouts or Breyer’s, until we are bloated, unable to move without inviting immediate disaster.

I will also note that “serving” means “serving in the context of a meal”, not “serving in the context of grabbing a package of chips off the shelf and stuffing one’s face until hydrogenated shortening oozes from one’s pores”. Whether or not one should expect to ever, in one’s lifetime, sit down to an actual meal is a separate thread (perhaps one better suited to GD or the Pit), but I will note that the menu planner in my *Encyclopedic Cookbook * suggests that dinner be composed of an appetizer (even one so simple as a glass of fruit juice), two or three vegetables, usually some sort of meat, salad (yes, you are supposed to eat the salad after the main course), dessert, and often coffee, tea, and/or milk after or with dessert. Have a third a cup of six different things, and you are likely to be as full as if you gobbled down a bag of Doritos®.

Hijacking this thread slightly, I will further note that the popular misconceptions of the “food pyramid” are mostly those perpetuated by greedy little children who wanted the whole box of Twinkees®, and for whom growing up was a purely physical and financial process that allowed them to buy the whole box and consume it at a single wallowing. A certain amount of second-level arithmetic (see, it says three eggs per week, not per hour), combined with what used to be called “common sense”, but now apparently requires a graduate-level course in logic (“one pint of milk” means “one pint of milk”, not “one pint of milk plus all you can drink out of the carton whilst Mom’s not watching”), puts paid to the more outré distortions by both sides.

Let’s see a cite on that.

A serving of coke is 8 oz. The serving size is the same for a can of coke (12 oz), a bottle (8 oz), an airplane lip-moistener (3 oz), a liter, a gallon, a bathtub etc. Each prints “8 oz.” as the serving size. Coca-cola is not telling you to drink less of their product, they just figure people don’t want to get confused when comparing labels (“but a serving of BOTTLED coke only has ____ calories!”). Cans of coke also state “very low in sodium,” then list the 8 oz amount of sodium.

I think a serving size may have something to do with the recommended daily intake of food. If I’m really supposed to have __ servings of bread (or whatever. It always seemed really high), it makes sense to have a standard weight per serving.