Portion control is crucial in the war against weight gain. But are the serving sizes on labels a help or a hindrance?
You’ve just polished off a small tub of yoghurt, thinking it was a single serve. However, on closer inspection of the label, you are surprised to discover that the tiny tub actually contained two serves, so you’ve unwittingly eaten twice the kilojoules. Sound familiar?
Food manufacturers tweak their products’ serving sizes to suit whatever claim they want to make on the label. Take breakfast cereal, for instance. A standard serve of any given brand may be 30g (about two-thirds of a cup), whereas another brand’s is 50g. Now 30g is probably much less than the amount most of us pour into our brekkie bowls, but the nutrition information panel makes the cereal seem like a healthier choice. Why? Because a smaller serve provides fewer kilojoules and less sugar. Meanwhile, the other brand’s more generous 50g serve lets its label boast “more fibre per serve than other breakfast cereals”, which is entirely true, simply because you’re eating more of it.
Size up your serves
Years ago, serving sizes were much less varied. A slice of any bread weighed 30g, conveniently giving you 15g of carbohydrates (one portion of carbs) and making carb counting much easier if you had diabetes. Today, a slice of bread can weigh anything from 30 to 48g. Fruit bread, or raisin toast, is a particularly tricky trap.
A traditional loaf gives you 65g in two slices, while a café-style loaf gives you 65g in one supersize slice, a doorstep of bread that’s 2cm thick.
Even the same product can have different serving sizes; it all depends on the size of the packaging. Yoghurts and desserts are among the most misleading products because you’re buying one little tub, so you think you’re eating a single serve; however, one tub often contains two serves.
The bottom line
To ensure you’re eating only one serve, weigh your usual portion of a food to see how it compares with the serving size on its label.