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Serving Sizes - Beneficial or Bollocks?



Many of us are label readers. Maybe it’s the calories or fat that we scrutinise, maybe it’s the sugar or protein? Maybe it’s just reading the list of ingredients to ensure they are ‘natural’. We may look at the grams of sugar, fat or calories in a serving but how often do we actually look at the amount that a serving size is?


If you look at a food label you’ll see two columns in which they calculate amounts of sugar, fat etc. One is the amount for a recommended serving size and the other is per 100g. Sometimes a serving size will be more than 100g and sometimes it will be less.



For this article, I want to hone in on the recommended serving size which are meant to reflect just that – a ‘recommended’ serving size.


These are determined by the manufacturer. There is no regulating authority here in New Zealand anyways, that overseas what the recommended serving size amount will be. Because of this, they can be different between two of the same product. For example you might have two different tubs of Greek Yoghurt with completely different recommended serving sizes.





So, are serving size recommendations beneficial or are they complete ‘bollocks’? I’m going to sway towards the latter.


Firstly, who are these recommendations for? A teenager? A middle-aged woman? A man? A marathon runner? A 10-year-old? An elderly person? How can one serving size be recommended for every human on the planet? We’re all different! Who are these people telling us that every human on the planet needs to eat X amount of cereal?

Even if they were trying to represent what they felt a suitable serving size would be, the actual amount would vary greatly from human to human.


They are also unrealistic, are we eating too much? Maybe, but is a tablespoon of peanut butter on two pieces of toast reasonable? No, just try to spread that and reach the corners. Coconut Yogurt is another good example. A standard serving for one popular brand is 50g. That’s just about ¼ of a cup, if that. It would end up being more of a ‘would you like some coconut yogurt with that muesli?’ rather than the other way around.

Meanwhile, my Greek Yoghurt container says that a serving size of that is 160g. You can see how it can get very confusing, especially if we’re reading labels and think that the servings would be about the same between different styles of Yoghurt.


Another issue with recommended serving sizes is that they can mislead us into thinking something is ‘healthier’(and I use that term loosely) because it has very little amounts of sugar or calories etc. when actually, the serving size isn’t enough for a small child to be satiated.


One of my biggest issues with serving sizes is that they can make us feel guilty if we eat more than the serving sizes (which is almost 100% of the time). Maybe the muesli package said 50 grams was a serving and you ate 100g. Suddenly you’re stressing out worrying that you’ll get fat, that you suck at this healthy eating thing that you’re a bad person without willpower etc. etc. You get the idea! None of this is helpful for long term health.


If we actually ate the recommended serving sizes all day, we’d be incredibly hungry, if you eat more than the recommended serving size, you may feel guilty. You just can’t win.

What I recommend:


Generally, I would avoid using serving sizes as a measurement of how much to eat and instead us it as information for educational/observational purposes only. And if you can, make it easy on yourself and just eat more foods without labels, fruit, veggies, whole grains, meats etc. The more we cook from scratch and learn to listen to our bodies, the less we need to rely on Jim the muesli maker to tell us how much to eat.


You’re probably now wondering how much you should eat and I am sorry but I don’t have a straight answer for you, we’re all different! I do however have a starting place.

Start with what you think is a reasonable amount FOR YOU. Most of us will have a general idea. This amount of food should satisfy you and keep you satisfied for a while. If you find you’re hungry you might need more. If you find you’re uncomfortable, you might need less. We’re all different and we all have different activity levels as well.


Remember, the goal of eating is to FEEL GOOD. If we eat too little we don’t feel good and if we eat too much we don’t feel good. If we eat things we think are ‘bad’ we don’t feel good (because of the guilt and fear not because the food is actually bad.


That’s why I teach people how to use the hunger scale, to eat more mindfully and to listen to their body in my Empowered Eating course. So that you can get rid of counting, measuring and cut and paste serving sizes and learn what’s just right for you without being hungry all the time or feeling guilty.


Sound good? JUST CLICK THE IMAGE BELOW TO LEARN MORE!


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© 2018 Michelle Yandle Nutrition

Please Note: I do not provide the services of a licensed dietician, information received should not be seen as medical or nursing advice and is not meant to take the place of seeing licensed health professionals. Read the full health disclaimer here.

 

Michelle Yandle Nutrition

Waitara, New Zealand

michelle@michelleyandle.com