That bag of chips from the vending machine might have more calories than you think. It could easily be eaten by one person in one sitting, but the manufacturer might say it contains two servings, or double the calories you thought it contained after glancing at the Nutrition Facts label.
Now the Food and Drug Administration is testing new nutrition labels that would put more emphasis on calories per package for such foods, according to a study published in the February 2013 journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Researchers at the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition conducted online interviews with 9,493 consumers. Each was shown one of 10 labeling formats for a food item with a serving size of 1 cup and two servings (2 cups total) per package. The labels fell into three basic categories:
A single column providing calories for one serving, as the current labels do.
Side-by-side columns with per serving information in one and per-container information in the other.
A single column listing information for the whole container (so that one container equaled one serving).
Consumers who read the single-serving-per-package labels were generally better able to gauge the healthfulness of the food. The newer formats were also perceived as more helpful and trustworthy by those who read them.
Until the FDA makes a final decision on labeling changes (and manufacturers start implementing them), pay attention to the number of servings on packaged food and manage your intake accordingly. Snack food, caloric beverages such as sodas and juices, and packages of nuts are likely to have multiple servings per package.
Source: Consumer Reports on Health May 2013