Larger Serving Sizes: What They Could Mean for Dieters

sizeFor anyone trying to stick with a weight-loss plan — especially a stringent one — nutritional information, as well as portion size, is essential. “The New York Times” recently reported that the FDA will start to encourage manufacturers to post nutritional info on the front of food packages, as well as explore upping the serving sizes for certain foods — like chips, cookies, breakfast cereals and ice cream — based on how Americans really eat.

What would these changes mean for all of us measuring out our snacks, counting calories, and, well, just trying to maintain our weight?

“This can have both a positive and negative effect on dieters’ routines, portion size, and weight maintenance,” said dietitian and That’s Fit columnist Tanya Zuckerbrot. “Hopefully, seeing nutrition labels on the front of packages will increase awareness of the caloric content of what people are eating. In turn, this information may cause people to consume less, exercise more, and overall make better food choices.”

But increasing the serving sizes could still hold some less than ideal challenges for those trying to lose weight or keep it off. “Increasing serving sizes can make weight maintenance more difficult,” Zuckerbrot said. “Larger serving sizes means a greater intake of calories. People might not realize that the serving size of their favorite snacks and breakfast cereals have gotten larger or what the original calorie content and serving size was to begin with. This increase in serving sizes will end up increasing the calories in your food, too.”

For some people, a larger portion may help them be more accurate about their calorie counts. But for dieters who adhere to the current serving sizes, an overhaul may throw a wrench in the mix. Registered dietitian and American Dietitic Association spokesperson Keri Gans told us, “Since once the portion is larger the calories will increase. Dieters may not want to eat a particular food at all. We don’t necessarily want them to avoid foods, just watch portion size.”

And while the FDA’s latest move is likely to impact the millions of Americans who never turn to the nutritional information on the back of packaging, it does not help the fact that calorie counts on labels are allowed to be inaccurate by up to 20 percent.