Minuscule standard serving sizes considered harmful

Lazy Book Reviews has a great rant about serving-sizes and the genre of food/nutrition/health articles that breathlessly inform us that our intuition about servings is horribly wrong:

I'm sorry, a serving of bread should be two slices. You can run your mouth all you want about how in the 1940s cupcakes could only be seen with the aid of an advanced microscope, blah blah we're so indulgent blah blah portion control, but I have literally never seen a human being sit down to lunch and eat a single slice of bread. It's not plausible.

And you don't have to modify this to tell us to eat MORE, just tell us to eat FEWER SERVINGS once they've been brought in line with human standards.

Don't get me started with "you do know your protein is supposed to be the size of a deck of cards, right?" SAYS THE FUCK WHO? Oh, I'm so sorry, no one gave my salmon that memo. I'll just start ordering my chicken from the Hoyle factory, shall I?

So, Obviously, I'm Reading The New Issue Of O Magazine. (via Beth Pratt)

(Image: Food Pyramid, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from bethcanphoto's photostream)


  1. I have literally never seen a human being sit down to lunch and eat a single slice of bread. It’s not plausible.

    Just a single slice of bread? No. A single slice of bread with stuff on top of it? All the time.

    While I agree that serving sizes could be improved in most cases, 1 slice is totally reasonable for sliced bread; folks better be able to multiply by 2, geez. Where we really get into trouble is with produce, where a standard serving might be “1 medium potato” and medium is not at all the middle size found at a supermarket. However, I have no idea how to get around that without specifying per ounce/kg/lb nutritional information, but that’s not especially intuitive either. That said, if you really care that much, you’ll weigh your food and leave intuition to the rest of us.

  2. Well along the same lines I guess everyone needs to eat a Quad Baconnator? I mean they offer it right? Who cares if it’s 1200+ calories and all the fat and sodium you need in a day? That shit is tasty and that’s what matters…

    I’ll agree serving sizes should be more realistic as to how people use the foods, but saying everyone needs to eat a 12oz steak because that’s how they come packaged it dumb.

    It’s called self control/portion control.

    Your rant is one of the reasons why America is fat.

    -Even eating healthier food that 3x to much is going to be bad for you.

  3. One person’s “portion” is another person’s “Man vs. Food” and a third person’s “Where’s the Beef?” The author needs to get over the fact that regardless of the size of the unit of measurement, and what you call it, some people will find the recommended serving size ridiculously out of line with their cravings or eating habits.

  4. Assuming they must be fat because they only see people eating sandwiches isn’t very helpful guys. Some people really DO only eat bread in sandwich format. And I don’t mean McDonalds burgers either, that was completely uncalled for.

    The bread comment seems to be assuming “bread is for sandwiches”, not “bread is for chasing sauce around your plate” (or for making toast) – that’s a cultural difference, and this person may need to be reminded that other people use bread differently.

    I certainly don’t understand the pack of cards-salmon comment, though. Meat is easy and convenient to cut up.

    1. I certainly see the primary use of bread as for sandwiches. The main point is that recommended serving sizes are absurd. They assume people are eating a certain way, a certain number of meals, a balanced combination of foods. In sum, the recommendations are useless to the vast majority of us. When I eat a meal, I eat several decks of cards worth of meat. I’m not fat and could be in pretty good shape if I just got more exercise. If I followed the recommended serving sizes I can’t see how I wouldn’t be starving and thin as a rail.

      1. How are recommended serving sizes absurd? What should the recommended serving sizes be then? I mean, there has to be a standard serving size for nutrition labeling purposes right? This article seems silly; it’s a case of “you can please some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”.

        1. Well, I’m used to having the nutrition label be per 100g. Sometimes they have a second lable, like per 100ml or for the whole product (like a yoghurt cup or a candy bar).

          It’s much easier to compare different products that way, when every product has the same “per 100g” label. I never quite got the idea behind per serving size, as that easily is way too misleading and makes comparing different type of products quite hard.

  5. what we need is people smart enough to multiply the nutrition per serving size by how many serving sizes they’re going to eat.

    servings have gotten a lot more reasonable lately–now a can of coke isn’t two servings per, for example. i’m sure there’s more that can be done to make these things reasonable, but anyone who really thinks the serving size for listed nutrition of bread shouldn’t be based on one slice is their own special part of the problem.

  6. Its also the processed crap that the current and future obese cram down their gullets.

    I will definitely grant you that eating processed (sorry I can’t call that stuff food,) left me hungry and I didn’t know why…

    In 1997, I lost 50 pounds because I felt I had to. I had a severe MS attack and just couldn’t carry the weight anymore. I have weighed 175 pounds since then and, while walking is still a challenge, I can get around at least.

    Eating anything made with corn and high-fructose corn syrup NEVER satiates. You’re hungry all the time and you eat until you burst.

    “Earl L. Butz, who orchestrated a major change in federal farm policy as secretary of agriculture during the 1970s”* did far more harm to the American people than anyone could have conceived of.

    Until the changes in agricultural policy he wrought are reversed, you will keep on having people die of obesity, diabetes, high-blood pressure and other ailments related to the crap he foisted on all Americans at the behest of Richard Nixon to save him from political pressures caused by rising food prices at the time.

    *From NY Times obituary.

  7. This isn’t about being fat. It’s about overeating. Bodybuilders do the same thing.

    Being fat isn’t gross. Eating until your eyes bulge is gross. Eating as much as a whole family in another country is gross.

  8. Dear author: there’s a thing called multiplication that you should have been introduced to somewhere in primary school. This can solve lots of problems such as how much it’ll cost you in total to fill up your gas tank in your car.

  9. I personally avoid carbs like the plague, but I will stand by my “no one eats one slice of bread” statement to the death!

  10. I guess that I must have had someone hypnotize me and implant false memories of all the times I folded a single piece of bread in half to make a sandwich. And, yes, a deck of cards is a good rough guideline for a piece of meat; you don’t have to eat all of a ginormous, hormone-bloated chicken breast that’s probably bigger than the breast off a wild turkey just because they make them that size.

  11. I probably do eat as much as a whole family in certain countries do in a day. I know I eat around 3000-4000 calories, every single day. I also do a damn sight more physical work in a day than anyone that lives off a single slice of bread with a molecule-thick layer of low-fat spread and a piece of chicken the size of a matchbox does in a week.

    TL;DR – why do I eat so much? Because I spend all my time walking up and down 24-storey buildings carrying radio equipment that weighs as much as a small car engine.

  12. “Eating as much as a whole family in another country is gross.”

    Plenty of families don’t get 2000 calories a day between them.

    Eating until your eyes bulge? Why not? It’s a free country, no?

    1. Eating until your eyes bulge? Why not? It’s a free country, no?

      In Soviet Russia, average serving size cuts you in half.

  13. The blurb makes me not want to read the article, which misses the whole problem with portion control.

    There was a study done on how many M&Ms people would take when different size scoops were provided. Guess what, when people use a larger scoop, people take more candy. People aren’t thinking in terms of calories or servers or anything, they are usually thinking in the most convenient units to think about. So with the M&Ms, they were thinking in terms of “scoops”, not counting each piece of candy and calculating the calories.

    This is really where the problem lies: the shortcuts we make to simplify life aren’t working. It isn’t about the number of slices of bread in a serving, people are instead thinking “I ate a sandwich” not thinking too much if it was a 6-inch, footlong, or a crazy 20 inch sub a coworker of mine would eat for lunch. It’s all “a sandwich” to most people.

    We’re all lazy. If we wish to overcome the problems our laziness creates, we have to acknowledge our lazy nature. One solution I’ve seen all over the place is smaller packages which works with our lazy mental accounting. Otherwise, you’ll have to do what one of my friends does: keeps a diary of all the calories she consumes.

  14. When a majority of people are eating so much that it’s making them ill, “normal” is the last thing you want to be.

    I don’t give a fuck what you eat, but your children do. In much of the developed world, bad diet and obesity is the single leading cause of preventable death. It’s not a question of what size portions you want to eat. It’s a question of how prematurely you want to die.

  15. serving != meal

    Just because one slice of bread is a serving doesn’t mean that you’re expected to eat that and only that for lunch.

    What about a nice salad? Get a couple servings of lettuce, a serving of carrots, a serving of tomato, and so on. Even though it’s small individual servings it can make a big meal.

  16. Isn’t this all beside the point. Surely the point is really balance. One could debate what the actual balance should be I am sure but even so there must be a reasonable balance (possibly even on an individual level) that results in a healthy diet.

  17. To answer the ranter’s question:

    “Standard serving sizes were created by the F.D.A. in the early 1990s, partly to make it easier to compare the nutritional values of different products. Congress required that the serving sizes match what people actually ate. To determine that, the F.D.A. evaluated data from surveys of Americans’ eating habits taken in the 1970s and 1980s.”

    One Bowl = 2 Servings. F.D.A. May Fix That.

    1. Agreed, this is really the only big problem, that food packagers don’t present nutrition information based on the amount of food in the package that would likely be eaten by someone.

      I think one good example is Pepperidge Farm’s Milano cookies. The bag comes with 15 cookies portioned in groups of 5, but the serving size is only 2 cookies, which not only makes the portioning system awkward, but it is unrealistic to think that someone will only eat 2 in a serving. Also, at the end of the day, the package contains 7 and a half servings.

      The customary example is the “grab bag” of chips, bags where someone is likely, or expected, to eat the entire contents in one sitting. Yet these bags could contain 2, 3, or more servings per container (along with atrocious servings numbers like 2.5).

      Admittedly, it looks great on the box when Calorie count appears lower because they are trying to comply with standardized servings. But it’s an imperfect system, and either the FDA can unrealistically regulate that all food must be sub-portioned into individual serving size increments, or food nutrition labels must represent what people will actually eat based on the package.

      To summarize, I will leave it to the incredible wisdom of Brian Regan:

  18. I only eat one slice with lunch. What you do is, cut the slice in half, put fillings, and tada! a sandwich with a single slice. If you have some fruit on the side, that’s enough for most people.

  19. I agree in part. Take most 99 cent bag of chips, the kind that they give you with a sandwich at many sandwich shops. Across manufacturers, bags can range from 1.5 oz to 2 oz., and serving sizes also range, usually resulting in 1, 1.5 or 2 servings per bag. To not hold up a line, you usually just have a second or two to make a choice from the rack of options. I constantly find myself having to quickly compare 97×2 vs. 135×1.5 vs. 202×1. Its not hard math at all, but keeping track of each number while simultaneously conversing with the cashier and not slowing down the line is annoying. I’m sitting there thinking, “ok, half of 135 is 67.5, now add that back to 135, and you get 202.5, wait, what was the first bag again? Oh, ummm…yeah, I’ll have a lemonaid, wait, what were those numbers again?” With some companies, its even more obnoxious and you have to figure out how many servings are in the bag yourself, adding another round of dividing the total amount in the bag by the suggested serving size, all while the person behind me is pissed off at the dumb ass (me) in front of him, who seemingly can’t instantly pick a desired flavor of chips and get the line moving.

    I’m going to eat the bag of chips, so just tell me how many calories are in the dang bag.

  20. Good gosh. The portion sizes aren’t there to tell you how much to eat, they’re there to tell you what amount of that particular food the nutrient figures are specified for.

    You want to eat two slices of bread, then do so. No one’s stopping you.

    If you want to know the total nutrient content of those two slices, then multiply by two. If you want to know about three slices, multiply by three.

    Geesh. “One slice” is a perfectly reasonable nutrient-label portion for sliced bread. Saves you from having to multiply by 1.5 if you eat three slices.

    The idea behind equal-size ‘portions’ for beverages was so you could fairly compare different drinks even if they came in different size containers. Is Coca-Cola more sugary than orange juice?

    But drinks don’t neatly divide into unit potions the way sliced bread does – and if you’re going to compare, say, single-serving containers of Coke and fruit juice, you might as well compare the whole container, no matter what size it is, because that’s probably how much you’re gonna have at one sitting.

    It would be silly, OTOH, to quote nutrients for a whole loaf of sliced bread.

    But if you want to have two cans of Coke with your meal, or a 32 oz Big Gulp, then have that.

    Make your own decisions and quit whining about people trying to offer you usable information in a user-friendly format.

    1. You’re right about the Coca-Cola, GlenBank. Nylund also touches on this issue.

      Regardless of what people actually eat, the companies that make packaged foods have influenced the size of portions so that they can make the nutrition labels deceptive in somewhat subtle ways. People will see the calories/fat/sodium PER SERVING on the label, but often fail to note exactly how tiny that serving is. Check that bag of chips — is 5 or 6 is really one serving? Who eats so few?

      While it’s possible to blame the FDA for being ridiculous, it’s also important to remember that when the regulations are being written, it’s representatives of the companies the FDA is supposed to regulate that help write the rules. Sometimes, as in the recent case of the FCC and NBC/Comcast, the rules-makers switch sides.

      Yes, it’s important to be able to multiply, but no, not everyone involved in putting food on your table cares to make it especially easy for you.

    1. “I am fat and so can you.”

      Dude, that’s not even a complete sentence.

      Stop posting until you have something to say and can actually say it.

  21. I usually prefer weight or volumetric measurements. At the very least, if you tell me the numbers for 1 slice of bread, make sure to tell me how much that slice weighs. I’m numerate enough that the exact size specified doesn’t matter; the mental math is no big deal.

    As for “no one eats 1 slice of bread,” has this person ever made french toast? Croutons? An open faced sandwich? Eggs over easy? Funny enough, it actually took me a while to realize that that comment referred to white bread. When I think of bread, my first thought is crusty French or Italian bread, where one slice is a perfectly normal serving.

    Frankly, I think there are 2 good arguments in favor of a small “official” meat serving. The first is this: if I am choosing among 10oz, 12oz, or 16oz steaks, a 2oz serving size makes the math easier. And if instead I’m making a stir-fry where rice and vegetables are going to be topped with a few strips of meat, same thing. The second is that with some ingredients (like eggs), there is a minimum possible amount you can use- when trying to make pancakes just for myself, I call it the “one egg limit.” Meat I can cut in any size I need. Ditto with flour. But bread, eggs, and many vegetables have a pretty much indivisible limit (without wasting food).

      1. Small, medium, or large egg? Even saying “one” isn’t specifying enough.

        Recipes assume “an” egg is one large egg. (Because that’s un oeuf.)

  22. “Don’t get me started with “you do know your protein is supposed to be the size of a deck of cards, right?” SAYS THE FUCK WHO?”

    Says my failing kidneys. Just sayin’.

        1. But I like my kidneys.

          Oh, you’re looking for a heart donor?

          That’s very different then.

  23. ‘there is a minimum possible amount you can use- when trying to make pancakes just for myself, I call it the “one egg limit.” ‘

    Then why is it that the USDA has one banana be two servings of fruit? I can hardly think of anything that keeps less well after opening.

    Really, I see all the public handwringing over an obesity epidemic as the same sort of moralizing that led to prohibition of various substances, to establishment of religion, to all sorts of invasion of personal freedom. It’s the moral panic over the latest fashionable sin. (The sin in question is seldom the one that endangers the social fabric the most. It’s merely the one that it’s most fashionable to be seen and heard opposing.) And under it all lies Mrs Grundy’s lust for power:

    Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
    — C.S. Lewis

    When the sin is “Communism,” we condemn the most original artists of a generation to unemployability. When it’s “drugs”, we stir up hysteria to the point where in some states I cannot purchase glassware of a certain shape without obtaining a license under the terms of which I consent for the rest of my life to the police searching me without warrant and without notice. When it’s “foreigners taking our jobs”, I find that I must consent to being detained and having my belongings searched anywhere within a hundred miles of a border or coast. When it’s “terrorism”, the search escalates to a demeaning strip search any time that I have the audacity to want to travel more than a few hundred miles even within the country. And I foresee that we’ll soon start to see the busybodies prying under color of law into what we choose to eat, when we choose to exercise, all under the justification that if we don’t lead our lives in the “healthiest” manner possible, we are stealing our productive labor from society and costing our fellow taxpayers in medical bills.

    And we will eagerly embrace it. Because for all our talk of “rugged individualism,” we are a nation of conformists. Our culture demands conformity – more so than anywhere else on Earth with the possible exception of Japan.

    1. Great C.S. Lewis quote: I often fear do-gooders more than evil-doers. Do-gooders have self-righteousness that gives them extra energy to bother others, as they think they act for the betterment of all…

      That can often times be quite annoying, as shown by your examples above.

      But our ‘culture’ of comformity compared to Japan? Woosh, they win hands down. True, that our freedoms are being chipped away, and the zeitgist thinks the ‘new normal’ is status quo, still the American vibe of ‘leave me alone, I’m going to do this thing regardess if you like it or not because Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves!’ remains strong.

      Thus when a box of matzo is opened by me: no less than half a box can be consumed. Even if one serving is two crackers; that would still be about 25% of my desired intake.

      Such gluttony would no doubt have had me banished from the wandering tribes of Israel those many years ago, still, my American contrarian behaviour cannot be denied.

      It also leads to a constant shortage of matzo at my house.

    2. “Then why is it that the USDA has one banana be two servings of fruit?”

      I, for one, like to share my bananas! Perhaps, so does the USDA.

      1. Four days ago my girlfriend and I were hiking in the mountains. On this particular trail we like to sit out on the large rocks in the middle of the river to eat our lunch. We started that meal by sharing one large banana.

    3. The banana thing is admittedly true. I think the official explanation for that is to help compare different fruits to one another, but I find that unconvincing as well. A large apple would also count as two fruits- and apples don’t keep well once cut, either.

      @Rob: I use large eggs. Defined to be 2 ounces each.

      @jere7my: Maybe you do a better job scrambling than I do, but for me the whites tend to not want to separate in two parts so easily. Still, this is worth a try.

    4. @kevin: -Wonderful- quote. I may have to revise my estimate of ‘Mr. Screwtape’ a bit.

  24. Oh, I dunno, I’m somewhat enamoured of the More Pie’ camp’s platform here.

  25. My favorite serving size notice, on an individually-wrapped single piece of jawbreaker candy: “Serving Size: 2.” Because a sphere of hard candy is just the thing to split and share with a friend.

    1. You have it backwards. “Serving size: 2” means that a serving size is two candies per individual, not half a candy. So if you see “Calories/serving=100, Serving size=2”, that means that each candy has 50 calories, and they expect that you’ll consume two as a reasonable minimum.

    2. I was on a flight, once, where my seat mate was a 12(?) year old kid. He had a large jaw-breaker sphere of hard candy.

      He had very carefully, meticulously, obsessively licked from one side only and had worn it down to perfect flat-faced semi-sphere showing all the coloured layers. It can be done.

  26. Why is it that people get all Patrick Henry when the government labels portion sizes but go all zombie-slack and docile when corporations instruct them to consume larger quantities of fried dough and syrupy liquids?

    1. “Why is it that people get all Patrick Henry when the government labels portion sizes but go all zombie-slack and docile when corporations instruct them to consume larger quantities of fried dough and syrupy liquids?”
      It’s because of all the fried dough and syrupy liquids.

  27. When I was a kid I’d only eat a single slice of bread with stuff in it as lunch. Two slices was too much for me. PJ sandwiches for example, I’d slap some jam/jelly then some peanut butter on a single slice and fold it in half. That was lunch.

    If I had to eat two slices, I’d only eat half the sandwich.

    I was definitely not the fat kid.

    Grant the article wasn’t about that. But still, a single slice is still 1 serving, thank you.

  28. Actually, there’s a much more basic reason why serving sizes related to nutrition are unrealistic… there’s quite a bit of size variation between people.

    Then, of course, you have the serving sizes listed on packaging which are invariably undersized, even for somebody like me who’s of average height and weight, but usually has a small appetite.

  29. People aren’t thinking in terms of calories or servers or anything, they are usually thinking in the most convenient units to think about. So with the M&Ms, they were thinking in terms of “scoops”

    Indeed. You’ll notice that every box of Kellogg’s Raisin Bran contains “two scoops” of raisins, no matter the size of the box.

  30. The second is that with some ingredients (like eggs), there is a minimum possible amount you can use- when trying to make pancakes just for myself, I call it the “one egg limit.”

    When making pancakes for two, I frequently use half an egg. Just scramble it, take away all but half by weight, and freeze the other half.

  31. It is a sad mark on the human time line which denotes the period when the species became confounded by the most basic act of preparing and eating food.

  32. I find it telling that all the examples proving the ridiculosity of the American Serving Size involve foods at the candy/pastry end of the spectrum.

    1. I won’t argue that it tells something. But there are other oddities outside of just snack foods. 4oz of fruit juice is a single FDA-approved serving of fruits, while juice packaging typically marks serving sizes as 8oz, yet the typical glass or individually packaged bottle that gets used for drinking is more along the lines of 12oz, and the customary “Medium/Regular” size of drink from just about any food location is 20oz.

      The serving size of meat is 3oz, but good luck finding prepared meat *anywhere* outside of lunch (or “deli-sliced”) meat in 3oz or less partitions. And then, just for fun, even lunch meat packages typically portray serving sizes of 1oz, not 3.

      I’d argue snack foods get used often as the primary example due to the general disparity. And snack foods have some added cognitive desire problems (if you say a serving size is 90 Calories, the person will probably indulge more, but if you say a serving size is 270 calories, you might just get them to eat less). But the problem isn’t just junk food, all foods have some consistency issues with displaying serving sizes and nutritional information and how that matches with general intake.

  33. it seems like the vast majority of these comments have to do with the serving size of junk food, if you are trying to loose weight or get healthy your serving size of chips or cookies or chocolate cake should be 0 every time

    am i trying to loose weight?, nope
    do i eat junk food?, you bet

  34. If I had known there was going to be a lazy self-indulgent blogger ranting about how nobody eats a single slice of bread, I would have photographed the slice of toast I had with breakfast.

    The problem with a lot of dietary discussions in the US is that they try to be universal as much as possible and avoid the insistence that the subject do things like maintain a diary or do basic mathematics to properly discover their BMI or BMR.

    In this situation, a person who is naturally 6’6″ inches tall and weighs 195 pounds probably requires his calorie intake to exceed that of a playing card-sized serving of meat. To insist that the lazy and self-indulgent do math to split the difference in their daily calorie intake is asking a lot. These people don’t want to do a sit-up much less basic arithmetic, so these dietary books try to keep things as simple and math free as possible.

  35. For those of you who cannot fathom finding a cut of meat that is the same size or smaller than a deck of cards, buy a decent steak knife and cut your own.

    Seriously, it is not rocket science.

  36. Hi – I thought I’d chime in here because I’m one of those people that really needs the nutritional information on the side of food packages, including what the manufacturer considers a portion size.

    You see, I have Type 1 diabetes. We’re only 5-10% of the diabetic population and our version of this illness isn’t preventable and isn’t due to lifestyle issues such as diet or lack of exercise. Part of the treatment protocol for people like myself (we no longer make insulin thanks to our immune systems going haywire and killing off the cells in our pancreas that make it) involves injecting the hormone several times a day to be able to process the food we eat. This is called ‘intensive insulin therapy’.

    The tricky part of intensive insulin therapy occurs before mealtime. This is the time when most Type 1 diabetics (or their parents, since most of us acquire this condition as children or teenagers) turn into human calculators against our will. We’re required to practice we called ‘carb counting’. We have to match every gram of carbohydrate we eat with a corresponding amount of rapid-acting insulin, anywhere from half-an-hour before we eat to just before we chow down. Most of us have a calorie and gram counter food book (Calorie King publishes a good set that covers grocery items as well as restaurant items for various food chains)to make this process a little easier. Type 1 diabetics need to have an idea of what a ‘portion size’ is if we are going to dose ourselves correctly with the right amount of insulin to ‘cover’ the carbs in the food we’ll be eating. As far as prepared food goes, having an idea of what the manufacturer considers a ‘serving’ size is very important. We can’t go by pictures in ads, or on the box or by what everyone else in the room has heaped on their plate. For us, food data is of paramount importance. While cereal box might show a heaping bowl of cereal and strawberries, a glance at the side of the box lets us know that a ‘serving’ is really only 3/4 of a cup to a cup (8oz.) in most cases. If we poured ourselves a bowl that looked like the one on the front of the package, we’d have to increase our dosage of insulin to correspond with the real number of carbs we took in. We might even look at the amount of carbs per serving of a particular cereal, such as Captain Crunch (as an example of a high carb cereal) and decided that for the same amount of carbs, we could have a larger portion of a different cereal with fewer carbs per serving and that had more fiber (such as plain Kashi) and forego buying the Captain Crunch. We have to do this for every meal and snack we eat, no exceptions, for the rest of our lives.

    Which brings us to my second point: if a Type 1 diabetic makes a mistake in matching the amount of carbs they eat with an insuling dose, things can go incredibly wrong and get incredibly ugly, very, very fast. And there are lots of ways to screw up. Take for instance, the presence of fiber in a ‘portion’and how it can lead to an overdose. Fiber slows down the absorbtion of carbohydrate by the digestive system and when we measure out a dose of insulin, we have to keep in mind EXACTLY how much fiber, carb and calories are in a particular portion size in order to compensate. Let’s use the bread example. Let’s say there are two large slices of bread a diabetic can choose between for his or her toast: white bread and multigrain. Both pieces of bread, due to the size of the slice, have about 12.85 grams of net carb. The multigrain slice also has 2 grams of fiber, while the white slice has only .07 grams of fiber. Both slices, according to the packaging, have 80 calories, but if the diabetic chooses the whole wheat slice, he or she will have to back off on the insulin they take to account for the fiber in the portion size. If that diabetic took the same amount of insulin that they would have had to take had they chosen the white slice with less fiber, the diabetic would end up with an insulin overdose.

    Why go to all of this trouble? Well, insulin therapy, while somewhat effective, isn’t what I would call ‘safe’ and if a Type 1 diabetic makes a mistake in dosing with his or her fast-acting mealtime bolus, they can overdose or underdose. And an overdose of insulin can, if the miscalculation is large enough, lead to severe hypgoglycemia, which means an expensive ride in an ambulance with some nice paramedics to the local ER if we’re lucky. If we aren’t lucky, then the paramedics show up and pry us out from behind the wheel of the car we were driving when we blacked out, ran off the road and narrowly missed another car in the lane next to us.

    For those that think the above scenario is funny or who are rolling their eyes, this happened to me. It is why I no longer get behind the wheel of a car without a blood test first to get an accurate blood sugar reading. If I’m too low, I have to eat something sugary and then wait until it’s come up to an acceptable level to drive.

    For people like myself who rely on accurate information regarding portion sizes and calorie and carb counts posted by restaurants and food manufacturers, the issue of portion size isn’t about who is a fatty and who isn’t, or who has the authority to tell us how much to eat, what our portion sizes should look like and whether or not they are ‘realistic’ given the average American appetite. For Type 1 diabetics, having an accurate portion ‘benchmark’ helps us deal with an illness that turns every meal into a frustrating math quiz. If the portion sizes listed on the side have shrunk, so what? All I care about is that the nutritional information on the side or posted on the website is accurate so that I can get my bolus dosage right and spare myself the effects of hyper- or hypoglycemia and the other drivers around me a possible car crash.

  37. In the old days people actually used to eat more than we do now. We don’t exercise those people did. Those people didn’t have to excercise, they worked in fields they WALKED and WALKED and WALKED. We sit. The ranter is right about portions. We all go wrong sitting around making comments on the internet, channel surfing and sucking back calories.

  38. Thank you for providing your experiences living with diabetes. I’ll freely admit that my opinions on this particular topic are all pretty much looking out for my own convenience. So, I’m glad you’ve contributed your needs here, which are much more important than my own self-centered pedantry.

    Considering this is health and nutrition, your story makes me realize there are probably others who have similarly important needs for the information we’re provided. It’s folks like you, with real needs, that this should be as convenient for as possible. And if it already is so, then it can stay that way. Thank you for teaching me something today; I’d gladly do more math if it can make things easier for you.

  39. They could post a table with multiple sets of numbers:
    by weight/volume so one can compare across brands
    per reasonable portion for the product (1 cup, 1 bar, 10 chips, 20 candies) – preferably something other than 2.5 or 7-1/3
    per package. The whole package. Bag of chips, box of cookies, loaf of bread.

    Maybe add a next-to-last “per section” column for food that comes in sleeves within a larger package, like saltine crackers

    Put it all in a table; people can figure out which numbers work for what they need.

    Takes up lots of packaging room but should make things much easier for dieters, diabetics, people in a hurry, and kids.

  40. In New Zealand, food labelling has nutritional information per 100g of food and per serving (can also be slice/package/tablespoon, depending on what it is and how you’re likely to be using it).

    It sounds like this sort of approach to food labelling in the US would solve a few of the problems raised in the comments – if you want to compare different brands/flavours of a product, you can easily compare kj/fat/salt/carbs per 100g across all products. If you need to know the average serving size and the nutritional information for that (say for health reasons such as type 1 diabetes), you can use that too.

  41. OK now, first of all, I just had a single slice of bread with some cottage cheese and a cup of coffee for breakfast. So don’t tell me it’s “not plausible”. I don’t always eat a single slice of bread for breakfast, but on general I do it quite frequently.

    Second, You can’t have an article title along the lines of “X considered harmful” as if it were some medical study and follow it up with a post by someone who says “fuck” a lot.

  42. To the person who said the excerpt put them off reading the article- don’t worry, the excerpt WAS the article.

    I was expecting more past the ‘eff you, guidelines’. Something…you know…concrete? Scientific? Factual? Something that was based on logic instead of on the author’s bad mood?

    People are saying serving sizes should more realistically reflect what people will actually eat, but as many have mentioned before, we all take different portions. Go by grams! That’s the only reliable information source. If a serving size is increased to what you think is appropriate, and you overeat, you’ll still be overeating. Remember that some people consider a whole large pizza one ‘realistic serving’ .

    By the way, my preferred serving of bread is two fat sourdough slices slathered with butter. But I weigh them, and know how much I’ve consumed.

  43. Quality matters, not quantity.

    Eat as much good quality meat you feel like. Then as much good quality vegetables as you feel like. Calories and serving sizes are irrelevant when protein tells you to stop eating and keeps you satisfied.

    If either meat or vegetables are is not so good, substitute by eating more which ever is better quality. If both are crappy and you are mostly healthy, don’t eat. Eat grains only when necessary for chosen method of enjoying meat (pizza/burger). Fruits are candy.

    Paleoish diet; When you are not neurotic enough to really care, but want to piss off vegetarians.

  44. *sigh*

    Stephen Colbert would have me flogged.

    “I Am America”, not American.

    Although, I am American. And so can he.

  45. When I was a boy I ate two dozen eggs
    every morning to help me get large
    now that I’m grown I eat five dozen eggs
    and I’m roughly the size of a barge!


  46. I just moved to France from the US. Everything has nutritional information for 100g. Makes way more sense. I think the problem with portion size and control is it makes things seem like an allowance. It tells you how much you “should” eat to get a “serving.” There is a subtext in that portion/serving kind of word, especially when you couple it with the idea of how much “average people eat”. Now a serving becomes something to skip or something to indulge in. No one needs to tell anyone how much they should eat, or at the very least the nutritional information should not take that into account. Tell me what the nutritional value of the food is for the package, for 100g, and for individual items like slices if it’s possible i.e. 1 slice is 2g.

    The type #1 diabetes person and the 24 story radio guy are perfect examples. The person sitting next to me at work telling either of them what they should eat and how much is ridiculous, as is applying an “average” based on people 30 years ago.
    If you apply the portion system to either it makes it sound like they are mutants potentially. You ate 5 servings!!! You only ate .5!! Oh noes. Instead of actually looking at your nutritional needs based on lifestyle, lean body mass etc, activity, etc…

    It would be like selling gas based on portions. The average American drives 4.6 miles a day @ 23mpg, made up figure. So I go to the gas station and I need how many servings of gas to fill my 18 gallon gas tank? It’s a ridiculous system.

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