Here’s a true story that happened to me recently. I was doing some grocery shopping and decided to treat myself to an individual pizza for “one”.
I found a nice-looking one in the freezer, and pulled it out to check its nutritional content. Sure enough, the calories, sodium, and fat were all reasonable, so I tossed it into my basket and went on my way.
Of course, when I went to cook it for dinner the next day, I happened to note that the serving size was only 1/2 of the pizza–meaning that the whole pizza had double the calories, sodium, and fat than I originally thought it did!
Needless to say, I was displeased with myself for missing this detail.
What’s the moral of this story? Be wary of the serving sizes on the package!
Nutrition information alone doesn’t tell you the whole story, and pictures of the food product can be misleading.
Make sure you are aware of the proper serving size for the food product so you have a proper idea of how much you’re supposed to eat!
WHAT THE SERVING SIZE REALLY MEANS
The “serving size” is basically just a way to standardize how much nutrition you’ll get out of a food product.
Statements like “1 bar”, “1/2 pizza”, or “1 cup” make it easy for a person to know exactly how much they need to eat to get the nutrition listed on the label.
“Serving size” does NOT always correspond to how much food you’ll need to eat to become full. Sometimes you’ll need to eat two or more servings of food to become full. That’s natural.
And for other types of foods (for example, potato chips or any other “snack” food), you should never eat enough to become full off of that food alone!
Of course, if you eat more than the recommended serving size, then you’re going to get more nutrition (both good AND bad).
Make sure that you’re keeping your portion size in check if you’re trying to avoid extra calories! Overeating is a sure-fire way to put on unwanted pounds!
IMPLICATIONS FOR MEAL PLANNING
Of course, not all food products are created equal. If you’re following some sort of weight-loss (or weight-gain) program, then you’re likely to be sensitive about the amount of calories you take in.
This means you’ll probably be planning many of your meals ahead of time so you don’t steer off-course.
Use the serving sizes of your favorite foods to help plan full meals in advance.
If you know how many calories your main course is liable to provide in one “serving”, then you’ll know whether it’s safe to double-up on servings, or whether you need to prepare additional side dishes to round out the meal.
STRATEGY FOR SNACKING
Let’s face it–most of us crave something unhealthy every once in a while.
If you must snack on something unhealthy, limit yourself to the serving size on the package, and no more. Don’t graze on potato chips straight from the bag; instead, portion out an amount equal to the serving size and put the bag away.
This will let you get your snack fix in while minimizing the damage to your diet.
The serving size is a pretty simple concept, but one that’s easy to overlook. But, don’t be careless, especially with foods that you haven’t had before!
Unfamiliarity (or nonchalance) with serving sizes is a quick way to lead to weight gain!
On the other hand, being familiar with the serving sizes of your favorite foods–and being proactive about your choices–can help you reach or stay at your target weight, and will help keep you healthy!