Some Fun with Bogus Serving Sizes

We always get a kick when we read nutrition labels and discover how manufacturers trick us into believing their product is manna from heaven. A great example is tiny the serving sizes for foods of problematic nutritional value. By decreasing the portion size to 3 year old consumption standards, the calorie count in junk food seems decent.

In real life, most of us eat slightly more than toddlers, and therefore the serving sizes need to reflect true consumption. Here are some examples of bogus serving sizes from a recent trip to the supermarket. Please add your sighting in the comments section.

Campbell’s Chunky Fully Loaded soup. The 19 oz can boasts “When you’ve got extreme hunger, go for the black can.” Well, it should say go for half a black can, because there are 2 servings in there. While a single serving is only 300 calories, wolfing down a whole can will cost you 600 calories, 1860 mg of sodium (over 75% of your daily maximum), and 22 grams of sugar (over 5 teaspoons).


Oreo Cookies - 3 cookies per serving?

Oreo Cookies - 3 cookies per serving?

Oreo Cookies. A delicious American classic from Nabisco. Each serving is only 160 calories. An 18 oz package claims to house 15 servings of…3 cookies each. Name one person who stops at 3 Oreos. Now think about the number of cookies you consume while snacking. 6? 10? you’ve upped your to almost a qurater of your daily intake for what is basically sugar, oil, flour, and additives.

Honey Nut Cheerios. Another classic. If you’ve ever tried to measure a 3/4 cup serving size, you’d notice that is a smaller portion that what you normally consume. Go ahead, add 50% to the 110 calories and 9 grams of sugar you thought you were getting.

Tazo Giant Peach Tea. A 13.8 oz bottle seems just about the right size drink for a hot summer day. It’s 90 calories and 20(!) grams of sugar per serving, but you’d have to stop drinking halfway, because the bottle contains 2 servings. Everyone gulps down the entire bottle, so why mislead the consumer? By the way, the 40 grams of sugar in the bottle are the equivalent of 10 teaspoons!


Lays poato chips - how many servings ina  bag?

Lays Classic Potato Chips - how many servings in a bag?

Lays Classic Potato Chips. An 11 oz bag boasts 11 servings, each with 10 grams of fat, 180mg of sodium, and clocking in at 150 calories. Lay’s defines a serving as 15 chips, but hey who’s counting. Many people polish off an entire bag with a friend or two. The real serving size is therefore at least twice as high. That works out to 300 calories and 20 grams of fat (a third of a day’s maximum).

We could go on and on, but you get the picture.

What to do at the supermarket:

If you are counting calories or sodium or whatever, make sure to inspect the serving size listed on food packages to make sure they match your expectations. If not, you’ll have to calculate adjustments.

Help us test our new food comparison tool:

  • Rhomboid

    Pretty much everything in the cracker/cookie/chips isle is going to be a ridiculous joke when it comes to serving sizes. Saltines: 6 crackers. Ritz: 5 crackers. Triscuit: 6 crackers. It goes on and on.

  • Christel

    It never ceases to amaze me.
    as someone who works in nutrition labelling I find the fact that the US does exactly that is EXTREMELY deceiving to the customer.

    In canada: we have regulations within CFIA to attempt to ensure this doesnt happen

  • galnoir

    What gets me are the products where the nutrition label is calibrated so that a “serving” has 0 calories. For example, my favorite taco sauce has 0 calories per teaspoon. But I probably eat a few tablespoons! I know I’m getting more than 0 calories, but I don’t know how many more.

  • Rhomboid

    galnoir, they do that with those butter sprays as well so that they can advertise them as 0g fat and 0 calories even though this is a TOTAL LIE. Take the hilarious “I can’t believe it’s not butter” spray. They have the nerve to claim that a serving size for cooking is 1.25 sprays, and that there are 904 servings (!!) in a container. Or, if used as a topping, a serving is 5 sprays and there are 226 servings. Yes, that’s right, they expect you to believe that an 8 ounce container of liquid margarine has between 226 and 904 servings depending on how you use it, and that there are no calories or fat to be found in those 8 ounces of margarine. These people need to be brought up on fraud charges.

    Another one is ice cream. A standard serving is a half of a cup or 4 fluid ounces, which is a woefully small amount, about the size of one generous scoop. If you eat the standard pint of ice cream in a sitting that’s 4 servings, and god help you if you suck down a tub (1.75 quarts), which equals 14 (!!) servings. Actually these days it’s a bit less as the traditional “Haagen Dazs pint” is now actually only 7/8 pint (14 oz) and the tub is 1.5 quarts instead of 1.75. But that’s still 3.5 and 12 servings, respectively.

  • casaga

    I assume that the corn used to make Frito Lay corn chips ‘Fritos’ is genetically engineered. Any suggetions how I might find out for sure?

  • Brent

    “…serving sizes need to reflect true consumption.” Or perhaps consumption needs to reflect true serving sizes. Either way, I agree that they’re out-of-sync (in the U.S., at least).

  • Mike

    Talk about ridiculous… the 5 calorie per serving packet of Crystal Light On The Go, Raspberry Ice flavored, has a serving size of 2/5 of a packet. So if you dump the whole packet into a 20 oz bottle of water you get 12.5 calories. Really? Is is it that hard to market these things that you have to claim 5 calories per serving and make the serving size fit your advertising?

    • Lisa Lou

      That’s just because there are 2.5( 8 ounce) servings of water in a 20 oz. bottle of water and 2/5 of 20 oz. is 8 oz.

  • Evan

    Inspect. Not insect.

  • Chris

    Just realized something else about the serving sizes for Campbell’s Chunks Soups. They are 18.8 ounces per can (which is 2.35 cups) The problem is that the servings are 1 cup each. (servings per container are listed as “about 2″)

    So the 300 calorie serving is actually 705 calories instead of 600 you would think by assuming “about 2″ is the same as 2 300 calorie servings.