Serving Sizes are Silly

I’ve been paying close attention to the serving sizes listed on food packaging. This started because I stepped on the scale and found that I had reached my peak weight. I was skinny until I turned 40. Since then, my weight has been steadily creeping upward. When the scale read 184 pounds, I decided enough was enough. I started working out again. Kelly pointed out that better nutrition would help more, and she is almost always right about these things. So I’ve been paying attention to serving sizes.

I’ve decided that serving sizes are patently ridiculous. Does anyone actually follow these recommendation? If so, how? Half the time the serving sizes are listed in fractions of a cup, or in tablespoons. Sometimes a serving size is listed in ounces. Do you measure these out each time you prepare your food?

I like a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. So I looked at the serving size for bread. It turns out, for the bread we buy, the serving size is one slice. Forget that a sandwich usually consists of two slices of bread.

Serving size of bread

The serving size for peanut butter is two tablespoons, which works well with one slice of bread, since two tablespoons wouldn’t cover two slices. The serving size for jelly is half an ounce. Why is the serving size for peanut butter measure in tablespoons, and the serving size for jelly measured in ounces? If I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich based on these serving sizes, I’d have a slice of bread with a thin skim of peanut butter covered by half an ounce of jelly—whatever that is. I wouldn’t be able to put it in a sandwich bag without making a mess.

Who determines the serving size? Does each manufacturer have a nutritionist who carefully evaluates the ingredients in the product and comes up with the serving size? You would think that bigger serving sizes would be in the interest of the manufacturer; they would sell more products that way. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. I checked the pantry for serving sizes of thing that were in there. Here is some of what I found:

  • Honey Nut Cheerios: 3/4 cup. How are you supposed to measure this? Do you eyeball it in a cup? Or do you fill a half cup and quarter cup and dump them into the bowl? That’s too much effort for me.
  • Nilla Wafers: 8 wafers. Will I go to nutrition jail if I accidentally count out 9?
  • Red Roasted Pepper soup: 1 cup
  • Penne pasta: 2 oz., or about 1/6th of a box. Neither of these measurements are helpful.
  • One tomato: unknown. There is no serving size information that I could find on the tomato in my refrigerator.
One tomato
What is the serving size of a tomato?

It seems to me that the best way to make serving sizes work is to make them convenient. Package the food in serving sizes, this way, I don’t have to take the time to measure it out myself. And for goodness sake, make the serving sizes rational. No one I know eats a sandwich with just one piece of bread.


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