FDA Revamps Nutrition Label, Serving Size Humiliation Ensues

Alex Van Buren
Food Features Editor
Yahoo Food

Courtesy of the Food and Drug Administration; illustration by Business Insider

Today in harsh reality checks: The FDA has officially proposed an update to its nutrition labels, featuring larger, bolder, more in-your-face calorie counts and actual serving sizes. Read: the serving sizes people actually consume. Because let’s be real, you do not only eat 15 tortilla chips at a time. No human does.

This marks the first update to packaged food labels in 20 years. Suffice to say that in that time, eating habits have changed. (We coined the term “obesity epidemic,” and some reports indicate that 42 percent of us will be obese by 2030.)

So it makes sense that the Obama administration wants, as First Lady Michelle Obama writes in the press release, “that you as a parent and a consumer should be able to walk into your local grocery store, pick up an item off the shelf, and be able to tell whether it’s good for your family.”

Photo credit: Food52

But the reality is that no one eats only half a cup of ice cream (the Haagen Dazs suggested serving size), so there’s no way you’re only consuming 290 calories at a sitting. (Did no one else have the pint-a-day ice cream plan in college? Anyone?)

For years we’ve been in the delightful position of ignoring proposed serving sizes and calories, and happily scarfing a whole bag of something that purportedly is supposed to be split into two portions. 

Herewith, a few of the worst offenders in nutrition label lies: 


Photo credit: Nissinfoods.com

Did you know that your bowl of ramen was supposed to last you two meals? No? Well, welcome to TruthTown, USA. FYI: One bowl comprises 72 percent of your daily sodium intake

Mac ‘n’ Cheese

How much of that boxed mac ‘n’ cheese do you eat? Half? The whole thing? A third? You have some crazy self-control over there, because those little boxes from Kraft are supposed to deliver three 1/3-cup servings of 400 calories apiece.


Photo credit: fritolay.com

Thanks for spelling this one out for us, Lay’s; each serving is a mere 15 chips, so there’s actually one and a half servings in each of those tiny little bags at the deli. Yowza.


Dig the enchiladas at Trader Joe’s? We do, too. But we tend to wolf down the whole, well, enchilada. Turns out the serving size for those babies is one enchilada at a time. Doh. 

Photo credit: Flickr/Chia777

Packaged Kale Chips

Speaking of the Trader, if you are downing supposedly healthful kale chips, know that, again, a serving size is only an ounce of kale, so each little 2 oz bag has two servings. That brings the fat tally up to 18 grams, rather than 9. Sadface.


We’ve talked about Oreos before. We all grew up eating them. Did you know that a serving size is two cookies? Two Oreos? TWO. That’s it. Not 10, not 6, not even three, which is where a sane person would stop.

Apparently this new proposal is a good thing for people like us. We’re gonna take a walk around the block and breathe deeply now.