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Archive for the ‘ Portion size ’ Category

New food labels reflect how much we really eat

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post, “New food labels reflect how much we really eat.”

You can also read it HERE.

Food label servingsMay16

First Lady Michelle Obama and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced sweeping changes to the Nutrition Facts labels. According to the FDA, the new food label required on packaged foods will reflect the newest scientific information including the relationship between diet and obesity.

This is the first overhaul in over 20 years and most companies will have until July 2018 to revise their food labels. Some of the changes will help consumers become more aware of how much they are eating along with how many calories and added sugar are in their favorite foods. The hope to help us make healthier—and more informed—food choices.

As a nutritionist and portion size researcher, I applaud the changes.

Here are some of the changes you can expect to see.

1. Serving sizes will reflect how much we really eat.

As I wrote in my book The Portion Teller Plan and research articles, we are eating more—often lots more—than we were 20 years ago. Many of our portion sizes are two to five times larger than they were in the past. The serving sizes on the food label will now be reflecting the increase.

So you will see that the serving size for many foods typically consumed will be bigger. According to FDA, nearly 20% of the serving sizes will change to reflect more typical consumption. For example, the serving size for ice cream will increase from 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup; a serving of soda will increase from 8 oz. to 12 oz.; and your favorite bagel or muffin serving will increase from 2 oz. to 4 oz. After all, who eats just a half a muffin at a sitting? Too bad—but the yogurt serving size will decrease from 8 oz. to 6 oz. (Indeed, we are eating more of the unhealthy stuff!)

It is important to realize that the calorie and nutrient information will also be changing to reflect the new serving size.

According to FDA, “By law, serving sizes must be based on amounts of foods and beverages that people are actually eating, not what they should be eating.” The new serving sizes will be a reality check for how much we actually eat and may hopefully encourage us to eat less.

I recently reported on research that found that larger serving sizes on food labels will encourage us to eat less and may actually help fight the obesity epidemic. However, it is important that we do not view larger serving sizes for some (unhealthy) foods as a recommendation to eat more. Indeed, that is not FDA’s intention. While you may love ice cream, the feds are not suggesting that we eat more.

To avoid the unintended consequences of more typical serving sizes, I would have liked to see a footnote on the label to clarify that “the serving size is based upon the amount typically consumed, and is not a recommended portion size.” Let’s hope FDA follows up with an education campaign.

2. Calories, serving size, and number of serving per container will be in large font and easy to read.

Great news if you are among those who actually read the food labels. You will now be able to see how many calories are in your favorite foods along with the number of servings per container without needed a magnifying glass. This is so important especially since so many people do not pay any attention to the number of servings per container. Hopefully, now they will.

3. Your 20 oz. soda bottle will now be considered a single serving.

One of my biggest pet peeves from spending a life time counseling clients trying to lose weight was the food labels on packages usually consumed as a single serving—the 20 oz. soda bottle and the small bag of popcorn. A 20 oz. soda bottle, for example, was allowed to be labeled with 2.5 servings even though most people were not going to share it. Same for the small bag of popcorn or single muffin that was labeled 2 servings per package. Finally, this is about to change.

For packages that are between one and two servings, and typically consumed in one sitting, such as a 20 oz. soda, the food label serving size will be 20 oz. and the calories and nutrients will reflect that size. Previously, the serving size was 8 oz. (which contains 100 calories). While most people would drink the entire bottle, and guzzle down 250 calories, they may actually think they were just drinking 100 calories.

This is a big step forward for disclosure and may help people get a better understanding of how many calories they are eating.

4. If you polish off a pint of ice cream, you can see how many calories you just consumed.

A pint of ice cream along with a 3 oz. bag of chips and a 24 oz. soda bottle will now contain a dual column. Manufacturers will have to provide “dual column” labels to indicate the amount of calories and nutrients on both a “per serving” and “per package” basis for food products that are bigger than a single serving but could be consumed either in one sitting or in multiple sittings. This rule would apply for packages that contain 200% and up to and including 300% of the standard serving size.

The purpose of the dual columns is for consumers to see how many calories—and nutrients—they will get if they eat an entire package (which many of us often do.)

5. You will see how much added sugar is in your favorite foods and drinks.

For the first time, under new FDA label rules, food and beverage companies will be required to disclose added sugars on the Nutrition Facts label. FDA is requiring food labels to display grams along with a % Daily Value (DV) for added sugars. The DV for added sugar—to consume no more than 10% of calories from added sugar—is consistent with the recent recommendations set forth in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines.

This is great progress and I applaud the FDA for requiring food packages to list added sugars. Too much sugar is linked to obesity and chronic disease. The new food labels will hopefully help consumers to see just how much sugar is in their favorite foods.

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Size Matters! Simple Strategies to Overcome Portion Distortion

Below is my post for Huffington Post, Size Matters! 10 simple strategies to overcome portion distortion.

You can also read it HERE.

I’ve been convinced for years that oversize food portions are one of the leading contributors to obesity.

When results of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a federal survey assessing the health of Americans, were released back in the mid-1990s with the scary statistic that the average American adult gained 8 pounds, I immediately suspected that it was due, at least in part, to growing food portions. However, back then, virtually no one was talking about portion sizes, at least as it related to obesity.

So I decided to conduct my doctoral dissertation exploring U.S. portion sizes and trace the history of food portions. Indeed, my research found that American food portions began to explode in the 1980s continuing through the 1990s and into the present. This increase in portion sizes parallels rising obesity rates, and is a perfectly logical explanation to explain rising obesity rates in the U.S.

Now, 20 years later, a comprehensive report from researchers at the Behaviour and Health Research Unit (BHRU), University of Cambridge, analyzed results of over 60 studies involving more than 6,700 participants and found that larger portions and oversize tableware contribute to overeating. The study, published on Sept. 14, 2015, in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, found that people consumed more food and drink when given bigger portions, plates, or silverware. And they ate more food regardless of if they were thin or overweight, male or female, hungry or not hungry.

We know that eating too much can lead to obesity, which increases our risk for chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

As a long-time portion size researcher and educator, I believe that if we can make changes to our environment to reduce the availability and appeal of large portions and practice portion-control strategies on an individual level, we can make great strides to reduce obesity.

The University of Cambridge researchers concluded that efforts to reduce portion sizes could reduce caloric intake by up to 29 percent and (527 calories a day) among U.S. adults and up to 16 percent among U.K. adults. That is pretty significant and can make a huge difference in helping us all slim down!

As written in the University of Cambridge news release: “Our findings highlight the important role of environmental influences on food consumption. Helping people to avoid ‘overserving’ themselves or others with larger portions of food or drink by reducing their size, availability and appeal in shops, restaurants and in the home, is likely to be a good way of helping lots of people to reduce their risk of overeating,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Gareth Hollands, a behavior and health researcher at the University of Cambridge.

“There has also been a tendency to portray personal characteristics like being overweight or a lack of self-control as the main reason people overeat,” Dr. Hollands added.

The study suggests that legislation, price incentives, and marketing strategies may be needed to help bring about significant reductions in our food portions. As I wrotehere, I couldn’t agree more.

In the meantime, here are some simple things you can do to combat portion distortion.

1. Purchase single-serving portions.

2. Eat off of your grandmother’s dishes. They are sure to be smaller than your current plates.

3. Use smaller glasses and utensils too.

4. Avoid serving food family-style. Plate out your portion in the kitchen. If you are still hungry, you can get up for more.

5. Fill up half of your plate with nutritious fruits and vegetables. No one got fat eating too many carrots or berries.

6. When eating out, share an entrée with your dinner companion. Order an extra salad or vegetable side dish.

7. Wrap up leftovers. They make a great accessory.

8. Steer clear of all-you-can eat meals and deals. Resist the bargain. And remember, volume does not mean value!

9. Eat mindfully–sitting down, without distractions such as watching TV and talking on the phone. And do not straight out of the container.

10. And, finally, wherever you are, eat slowly and enjoy your company.

For more strategies to avoid oversize portions, I offer tips here and here.

We would love to hear your tricks on how to overcome oversize portions.

Follow Dr. Lisa Young on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drlisayoung

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Will new food labels encourage us to eat…more?!

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post, Will new food labels encourage us to eat…more?!

You can also read it HERE.

In February 2014, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) along with Michelle Obama announced an overhaul to the nutrition facts label required on all packaged foods. Among the proposed changes includes updating the serving sizes.

As FDA states, “These updates would reflect the reality of what people actually eat, according to recent food consumption data. By law, serving sizes must be based on what people actually eat, not on what they ‘should’ be eating.”

The food labels have not been revised in over 20 years, and the current serving sizes are based on portions typically consumed in the 1970s and 1980s.

We eat larger portions than we did 20 years ago, so current serving sizes are smaller–often much smaller–than what people actually eat. As I’ve written in my book The Portion Teller Plan and research articles, these serving sizes may be confusing to people trying to follow dietary advice.

In a previous piece I wrote for Huffington Post, while I commended the FDA for using more realistic serving sizes, I also offered a note of caution: in particular, that FDA is not telling consumers to actually eat more.

“For the good news, as I discussed on CBS Morning News, the serving sizes will be more realistic and reflect what people really eat. Many people today just glance at the calories and think that whatever amount they eat is a serving. For the ice cream example, a consumer reading food labels will now see 400 calories displayed instead of 200 calories. This may mean that you would think twice before scarfing down the entire pint.

A note of caution: FDA is not telling us to eat more. At least, the agency is not advising us to eat a bigger portion of ice cream. Rather, the agency is informing us as to the calorie and nutrient content in a standard serving size which is more in line with what we really do eat…. It would be useful if FDA follow up with nutrition education materials to further educate the public on the relationship between portion sizes, calories, and obesity.”

While there are clearly benefits to FDA requiring that manufacturers use more realistic serving sizes, a new study, published in the journal Appetite, addresses some potential problems with larger serving sizes. The study explores how consumers interpret the new serving sizes, and how they affect the amount of food they would serve themselves.

In one of several experiments, the researchers showed subjects two different labels for mini chocolate chip cookies–the current label which states 3 cookies as a serving and the proposed new label which lists 6 cookies as a serving. The subjects exposed to the proposed label served themselves significantly more cookies than those exposed to the current label.

Results of all four experiments found that people misinterpret serving size information. The majority of subjects believe that the serving size on a food label refers to how much they should eat. The researchers also found that the increased serving sizes on the proposed Nutrition Facts label can lead people eat more and purchase more food.

Uh oh! This is troubling, especially in a society where many of us already eat too much.

The researchers write, “We found that people misinterpret serving size information, with the vast majority of consumers incorrectly believing that the serving size refers to how much can/should be consumed.”

Lead author Steven Dallas, a doctoral candidate at New York University’s Stern School of Business wrote me the following in an email message: “Our research shows that the increased serving sizes of the proposed label lead consumers to serve more food for themselves and others. Since excessive consumption is a key contributor to obesity, this is a worrisome effect of the proposed label.”

Results of this study confirm that consumers may incorrectly view serving sizes as recommendations. Hopefully, FDA will take these findings into account when finalizing its serving-size rulings for the new food labels.

The authors conclude in their paper, “FDA should be encouraged to consider ways to correct this misinterpretation, such as by mandating the addition of a serving size definition to the proposed Nutrition Facts label. The definition could inform consumers that the serving size refers to how much of the product a typical person consumes in one sitting, and does not refer to how much of the product can be healthily consumed in one sitting.”

I agree!

In my comments last year to FDA on the proposed serving-size change, I suggest that FDA should pro-actively address concerns about the possible unintended consequence that some consumers view serving sizes as portion recommendations. I wrote, ” I recognize that the RACCs used to calculate serving sizes are required to be based on the amount of food people customarily consume, and are not recommended amounts of food to eat. However, given the likelihood of confusion among some consumers, I strongly recommend that the FDA include clarifying language on the label by either: 1) denoting the serving size provided as a “typical” serving size or 2) including a footnote to clarify that “the serving size is based upon the amount typically consumed, and is not a recommended portion size.”

Stay tuned.

In the meantime, we would love to hear your thoughts and recommendations on the new proposed serving sizes.

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A prize may encourage us to eat less

Below is my blog for Huffington Post, “A prize may encourage us to eat less.”

You can also read it here.

Portion sizes have grown over the past 50 years, and so have our waistlines. As I found in my portion-size research, the fact that Americans are eating too much is a perfectly logical explanation to explain the current U.S. obesity crisis. While there is some good news on the horizon suggesting that we are finally beginning to eat less, we still have a long way to go.

Researchers from University of Southern California (USC) conducted several interesting experiments encouraging both kids and adults to select smaller portions. The results, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, found that people will often choose a smaller portion when offered some kind of incentive or prize.

The researchers conducted three experiments, all offering some kind of incentive to choose the smaller portion.

As discussed in USC News, “In the first experiment, sixth-graders were offered the choice between a 9-inch sandwich and a 4.5-inch sandwich and inexpensive earbuds. The majority chose the latter. In a second experiment with adults, half-sized portions were paired with the chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card or the chance to win 10,000 frequent-flyer miles accepted by all major airline loyalty programs. The majority chose the incentive and made that choice consistently over three days. In a third experiment, the researchers got similar results in a real restaurant setting with customers who came in with the intention of buying a full-sized sandwich, but opted for the half-size and a chance to win a $10 lottery.”

As you can see, the incentive offered does not need to be anything fancy or expensive. And the subjects consistently chose the smaller portion-plus-incentive option even when it was priced the same as the larger portion.

And, best of all, at least from a public health perspective, the smaller portion will not leave you hungry.

The researchers tracked total calories consumed in the second experiment and found that subjects ate fewer calories when compared to their baseline day.

The research findings could be a great way to help reduce our calorie intake and fight obesity along with its associated health care costs.

USC marketing professor Deborah MacInnis wrote me in an email: “Incentivizing consumers to choose smaller portion sizes not only offers opportunities for lower daily calorie intake, it also has the potential to help consumers realize that smaller sized portions won’t leave them hungry.”

She also wrote, “As consumers, we value our freedom of choice. Laws and regulations remove freedom of choice and can backfire by creating resistance and reactance. Giving consumers the opportunity to choose between a full sized version and a smaller version with an uncertain incentive preserves freedom of choice while motivating policy-consistent (and health promoting) behaviors.”

Here are some take away messages.

1. As a nutritionist and portion-size researcher, what I found most interesting was that the subjects were not hungry after choosing the smaller portion. This lesson applies to all of us. We can usually be satisfied with less food. We can always order more food later if we are still hungry.

2. Consider leaving over some food, wrapping up leftovers, or sharing an entree next time you visit your favorite restaurant.

3. How about treating yourself to a reward? Perhaps splurge on a massage if you choose the smaller portion.

4. If you are a parent, try encouraging your kids to choose the smaller — healthier — portion, by offering a small non-food prize or reward. Your kids will probably prefer the prize more than the extra food.

5. It may be economically feasible for the food industry to sell smaller portions. If you are a restaurant owner, consider adding some kind of small incentive encouraging diners to choose the smaller portion. Just be sure not to offer them a free dessert, which would defeat the whole purpose.

Want to learn some portion-control tips and tricks without the reward? I discuss them here.

Follow Dr. Lisa Young on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drlisayoung

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Starbucks to mini size it!

Below is my latest blog post for Huffington Post, Starbucks to mini size it!

You can also read it HERE.

As a portion-size advocate, I was glad to hear about Starbucks plan to unveil the “mini” 10 oz. Frappuccino sugar-sweetened coffee drink, two ounces smaller than the “Tall” (also the smallest size sold by the coffee chain).

The new “mini” size would be considered a “regular” size by the 1970s standards, a time before the era of supersize portions and oversize people. But in today’s food environment of Venti, Trenta, and Big Gulp size drinks, it seems like progress for the food industry.

Americans rarely want less of anything. We are a nation attracted to bargains and deals, and that certainly includes big portions of foods and drinks. And the food industry has been wonderful at selling us cheap food in mega sizes.

Just a few years ago, back in 2011, Starbucks introduced the “trenta” size iced coffee, a 30+ oz. size, still available today.

Why the introduction of a “mini” size now?

Starbucks said it was responding to customer requests for the smaller Frappuccino size. According to Business Cheat Sheet, “Katie Seawell, senior vice president of category brand management at Starbucks, told the AP the mini Frappuccino helped lift overall store sales in the regions where it was tested last year… Seawell added it attracted new customers and got existing customers to come back more frequently.”

Are consumers interested in health or are they hoping that a smaller size would cost them less? It looks like the former. According to the Associated Press (AP), the “mini” size will only cost 20-30 cents less than the Tall size.

But the smaller size will contain fewer calories than larger sizes, and therefore, will be good for the waistline.

According to AP, “For the regular coffee with no whipped cream, Starbucks says it’ll have 120 calories and 24 grams of sugar. That’s compared with 180 calories and 36 grams of sugar for a small (tall) and 240 calories and 50 grams of sugar for a medium (grande). A large (venti) Frappuccino has 350 calories and 69 grams of sugar.”

Seems like progress. I hope this trend continues.

The soda industry has aggressively responded to anti-soda activists (including me) by selling smaller 7.5 oz. cans of sodas. Smaller sodas are lower in sugar than the larger sizes, better for health, and certainly selling points for parents. (Never mind that the 7.5 oz can costs more than the 12 oz. can, and that kids should be drinking water instead of soda.)

It is my hope moving forward, that as a food manufacturer introduces a new smaller size, it gets rid of the largest size. That would be the best way to reshape societal norms about how much food and drink constitutes a reasonable portion.

Mike Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City, tried this by attempting to cap the size of sugary drinks sold in chain eating establishments to 16 oz. But his attempt failed. (Not surprisingly, the soda industry sued the city and court system called the portion cap an overreach of power.)

In my opinion piece for the NY Daily News, I supported Bloomberg’s efforts.

As I wrote,
“Bloomberg is not banning the sale of soda. Nor is he telling consumers that they can’t drink soda. Rather, he is calling attention to how much is a reasonable amount to drink at a time. Sixteen ounces is certainly more than reasonable — a full pint of sugar water. Instead of viewing this as a ban, let’s see it as an attempt to reset the norm for how much soda truly constitutes an appropriate portion.

And while one policy alone will not solve the problem, encouraging New Yorkers to watch what they consume is a much-needed step toward reversing the obesity epidemic. It is time to return to the more reasonable sizes of the past, when obesity rates were lower.”

Perhaps the former mayor was ahead of his time. Maybe now. It’s not too late.

Let us remember, when it comes to portion sizes and attempts to lose weight, size does matter.

Kudos to Starbucks. And I am hoping that the coffee chain considers dropping its large venti size Frappuccino in the not so distant future.

Follow Dr. Lisa Young on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drlisayoung

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5 Easy Weight Loss Tips That Really Work

Below is my latest blog post for Huffington Post, 5 Easy Weight Loss Tips That Really Work.

You can also read it HERE.

As a nutritionist, I often get clients at this time of year concerned about summer — fitting into a bathing suit, getting some new clothes and navigating holiday eating and parties. I am not a fan of rigid diets, which restrict entire food groups for a short time, but rather I advocate for healthy eating and developing simple strategies which clients trying to lose weight can stick to for the long haul.

Below are simple strategies, which I have seen work for clients trying to lose weight in time for summer and more importantly, help them keep it off and be able to enjoy meals and treats with family and friends.

1. Make smart swaps.
I am a big fan of offering clients simple substitutions for their favorite foods rather than cutting foods out entirely and leaving them at a loss for what else they can include in their eating plan. As I previously wrote here: “What I have found in my private practice is that small action-oriented steps and simple substitutions tend to work a lot better.”

For example, drinking seltzer instead of soda and starting your day with bran cereal or a Greek yogurt instead of a doughnut or an oversized muffin can make a huge difference in terms of both losing weight and eating healthfully.

2. Keep a food diary
I recommend that clients keep food diaries, at least for a month or so. Writing down what you eat helps raise your awareness about exactly what and how much you are really eating. It is an excellent behavioral tool to help you practice eating mindfully. And these days, there are so many ways to keep food records. You can stick to the old-fashioned way of writing down your food habits in a spiral pad; you can keep records in your computer or iPad; or you can download an app for your smart phone.

3. Stick to regular meal times.
One way to avoid overeating is to eat at regular intervals throughout the day and not skip meals. If you are not that hungry on a particular morning for example, it is okay to eat a smaller breakfast rather than eat nothing at all. It is best not to allow yourself to get too hungry that you will just “let yourself go” and grab anything you can find.

4. Choose single servings.
Research has found that single-serving packages can help overweight individuals lose weight. I often recommend them to dieters to help them gain awareness about portion control. While we will often take several handfuls of chips or other snack foods without paying attention, we tend to think twice before opening that extra bag of chips.

Most people tend to eat more when they are served more food and drinks or when they are given food in larger packages. A review of nearly 90 studies confirms why oversize portions may contribute to obesity: We eat more when we are served more.

As the researchers from Bond University in Australia write in the Journal of the American Marketing Association, “For a doubling of portion size, consumption increases by 35 percent on average.”

Choosing single-serve packages can certainly help to decrease consumption.

5. Make half of your plate fruits and veggies.
Dieters can actually eat more of certain foods to help them lose weight. Fruits and vegetables are a perfect example as they are relatively low in calories and rich in nutrients. Because they are high in fiber, they will help you to feel full. Adding fruit to your yogurt or cereal is a great way to add fiber, color and volume to your breakfast. Starting your dinner with a tossed salad or a veggie-based soup enables you to eat more food so that you don’t feel deprived. I suggest including at least one fruit or vegetable serving at each meal.

We would love to hear some of your weight loss tips.

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Want to eat less? Choose single-serving packages

Below is my latest blog post for Huffington Post “Want to eat less? Choose single-serving packages.”

You can also read it HERE.

New research published in the online Feb. 18 issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reports some promising findings for overweight individuals. Eating foods packaged in single servings may help overweight people eat less. Eating less means fewer calories, and hence the opportunity to lose weight.

University of Tennessee researcher Holly Raynor and colleagues wanted to know if single-serving packages would give people cues about what is considered an appropriate amount of food to eat (aka an appropriate portion size).

As reported in Reuters Health:

Half the participants received a box of 20 single-serving packs of pretzels, each just under one ounce. The rest received two standard-size bags of pretzels, each 10 ounces. Researchers told everyone to take the pretzel bags home for four days, eating as much or as little as they preferred, then return them. Participants were also asked to fill out a form detailing when and where they ate the pretzels.

Overweight subjects who received the single-serve packages ate considerably less than those receiving the large packages.

The findings make perfect sense. People tend to eat more when served more and when eating from bigger packages. Single-serve packages offer built in portion control.

It is important, however, for consumers reading food labels to be able to understand what they are actually consuming. With the food labels getting a makeover, this will hopefully be possible.

As I’ve previously written here,, FDA has proposed that single-serve packages generally consumed in one sitting — small bags of snack foods, a 20-ounce soda bottle — be labeled as one serving. This will enable consumers to see the calories and nutrients found in the entire package, which most people eat.

I’ve been a big fan of single-serving packages and have recommended them to dieters trying to lose weight and gain an awareness of portion control. They have a built in stop sign which signals us to stop; this is important especially in today’s world of supersize portions.

Take home message: Divide and conquer!

Try buying single-serve packages when you can. Since many single-serve products cost considerably more than oversize packages, if you prefer to purchase a large package, I suggest repackaging the contents into single-servings. For example, when you open a large bag of pretzels, divide the contents into 1-ounce single-portions (approximately a fist full) and place them in small baggies. This way, when you crave a snack, you just grab a small baggie and resist the temptation of overeating.

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FDA proposes larger–more realistic–serving sizes for food labels

Below is my latest blog post for Huffington Post on the new food labels:  FDA proposes larger–more realistic–serving sizes for food labels.

You can also read it HERE.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just released its proposal to update the Nutrition Facts label found on packaged foods and beverages. If approved, the new food label will update serving sizes. The label has not changed much in 20 years.

FDA is proposing to change the standard serving sizes to reflect what people actually eat. The FDA defines the current serving sizes as amounts of foods commonly consumed based on dietary intake surveys conducted in the 1970s and 1980s.

We eat larger portions than we did 20 years ago, so current serving sizes are smaller than what people actually eat. As I’ve written in my book The Portion Teller Plan andresearch articles, these serving sizes may be confusing to people trying to follow dietary advice.

The new serving size will, most likely, increase for most foods. By law, the standard serving size on a food label is supposed to reflect what people actually eat, not what they should eat. Therefore, the new serving size standards are not meant to be interpreted as recommendations for how much to eat.

With larger serving sizes on food labels, that would mean that a pint of ice cream that currently has four servings per pint (each serving is ½ cup), will have two servings for the new proposed label (each serving size will increase to 1 cup). The calories listed will, therefore, also increase. If a 1/2 cup serving of ice cream contains 200 calories, with the new 1 cup serving size, the label will now display 400 calories.

For the new label, the number of servings per package and the calories per serving will be more prominently displayed.

FDA is also proposing a makeover for single-serve foods and drinks. For example, a 20-ounce bottle of soda, which is typically consumed in one sitting by one person, would be labeled as one serving instead of 2.5 servings. After all, are you going to share your soda with 1.5 other people? Probably not. Other foods marketed for one person that often contain multiple servings per package include muffins, cookies, and small bags of chips.

What can we make of this?

For the good news, as I discussed on CBS Morning News, the serving sizes will be more realistic and reflect what people really eat. Many people today just glance at the calories and think that whatever amount they eat is a serving. For the ice cream example, a consumer reading food labels will now see 400 calories displayed instead of 200 calories.

This may mean that you would think twice before scarfing down the entire pint.

I also think it is excellent that FDA is finally addressing packaged foods and drinks marketed for one person but that have multiple servings listed on the package label. This may clear up some confusion regarding the calorie content of what we are actually eating.

A note of caution: FDA is not telling us to eat more. At least, the agency is not advising us to eat a bigger portion of ice cream. Rather, the agency is informing us as to the calorie and nutrient content in a standard serving size which is more in line with what we really do eat.

It would be useful if FDA follow up with nutrition education materials to further educate the public on the relationship between portion sizes, calories, and obesity.

FDA is accepting comments for 90 days.

We would love to hear your thoughts.

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Hawaii to cap sizes of sugary drinks

Below is my latest blog post for Huffington Post “Hawaii to cap the sizes of sugary drinks.”

You can also read it HERE.

In New York City, we are patiently awaiting the court decision on whether or not a 16-ounce soda will become the default “large” at eating establishments including fast food restaurants delis, and movie theaters.

I am pleased that Mayor Bill de Blasio said that he would move forward with many of former Mayor Bloomberg’s initiatives, including a cap on the sizes of sugar sweetened beverages.

Now, it looks like Hawaii may cap the sizes of sugary drinks. The Hawaii State Senate recently introduced a bill that would prohibit the sale of sugar-sweetened drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces anywhere in the state.

As written in the bill:

The purpose of this Act is to promote the consumption of healthy beverages by ensuring that healthy options are available and accessible, and to reduce incentives to purchase and consume excessively large sugar-sweetened beverages.

Kudos to Hawaii!

Perhaps Bloomberg’s proposal initiated back in May 2012 was on to something. I recently wrote about the United Arab Emigrates’ proposed cap on super size beverages.

After all, does anybody really need to drink more than a pint of soda at one time? With obesity a major public health crisis in the U.S. and abroad, sodas that come in half-gallon containers may certainly be adding to the problem. Indeed, these jumbo sodas contain nearly 800 calories and 50 teaspoons of sugar, are pure liquid calories and contain more than a third of the calories many people should consume in an entire day.

And, as I’ve written before, obesity rates have increased in parallel with growing soda sizes and calorie labeling alone will not solve the problem. Consumers need an environment that encourages healthier choices. And the healthy choice must be the easy choice.

In the meantime, the NYC Department of Health continues to highlight the risks of drinking too many sugary beverages for children and adults. As part of its Pouring on the Pounds advertising campaign, the department recently introduced a new catchy ad, “A sip in the right direction.

In a continued effort to promote healthier New Yorkers, the health department is urging consumers to replace sugary drinks with water, seltzer, unsweetened teas, fat-free milk and fresh fruit.

Certainly a good idea!

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Bloomberg’s Cap on Supersize Soda May Be Contagious

Below is my latest blog post for Huffington Post “Bloomberg’s cap on supersize soda may be contagious”.

You can also read it HERE.

As Mayor Bloomberg prepares to leave office, his controversial proposed cap on the size of sugar-sweetened drinks may be contagious. While we wait for the courts to determine whether or not a 16-ounce soda will be the default “large” at eating establishments such as fast food restaurants delis, and movie theaters, the United Arab Emigrates (UAE) has decided to ban supersize sodas.

According to Arabian Business:

The UAE has banned supersized fizzy drinks as part of a raft of new health measures announced by the government, as the Gulf state looks to reign in burgeoning obesity and lifestyle disease rates. The federal cabinet came to the decision following the second day of what it described as a “brain-storming” session at a Sir Bani Yas island, and comes on the back of a similar idea being introduced in New York City earlier this year by mayor Michael Bloomberg. According to a recent United Nations report, more than one third of the UAE’s population is classified as clinically obese, while a separate study said that 20 percent of adult Emirati citizens suffer from diabetes.

In Europe, James Quincy, the president of Coca-Cola Europe, acknowledged that many soda sizes are too large. Appearing on BBC, Quincy said that the size of some of the large cups that Coca-Cola is sold in “needs to change” and that “the bigger cups need to come down.” And the sizes of European portions, including soda, are not nearly as large as our portions.

Meanwhile, back in New York City, at a recent roundtable sponsored by the Museum of Food and Drink debating the proposed cap on sugary beverages, I debated the merits of Bloomberg’s proposal. As discussed in Food Navigator, one of the reasons I support the proposed portion cap is that the marketing of supersize sodas has become the norm. In the movie theater, for example, a 32-ounce quart size soda is labeled “small” and a 44-ounce soda is labeled “medium.” Since when is a quart of soda considered small? I also discussed that obesity rates have increased in parallel with growing soda sizes and that calorie labeling alone will not solve the problem. Consumers need an environment that encourages healthier choices. And the healthy choice must be the easy choice.

As I further discussed in the debate and previously wrote in the NY Daily News:

Large portions contribute to obesity because they obviously contain more calories than small portions: A small soda (16 ounces) at KFC contains 180 calories, while the Mega Jug (64 ounces) contains nearly 800 calories — and is more than one-third of an entire day’s recommended calories for some people … Bloomberg is not banning the sale of soda. Nor is he telling consumers that they can’t drink soda. Rather, he is calling attention to how much is a reasonable amount to drink at a time. Sixteen ounces is certainly more than reasonable — a full pint of sugar water. Instead of viewing this as a ban, let’s see it as an attempt to reset the norm for how much soda truly constitutes an appropriate portion.

You can listen to the entire debate complements of Heritage Radio Network.

I hope that the courts favor Bloomberg’s proposal and that when we visit a concession stand at a NYC movie theater later in 2014, the largest single-serve soda is 16 ounces as opposed to the 50-ounce size available now.

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