Honestly, who but a small child only consumes half a brick of instant ramen? Do they expect me to break it in half before I cook it? Or am I supposed to get out the scissors and measuring tape after the noodles are soft?
While Maruchan instant ramen recommends that a single serving is half a brick, they’re at least honest enough to list this nutritional information alongside that for the entire brick. It makes me wonder, though, why exactly these labels are so hellbent on wishful thinking. Ramen is just one example — a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream was previously listed as four servings, while a single serving of Ritz is an astounding five crackers.
I mean, who decides this shit?
Well, the food companies do, but it’s up to the FDA to approve it. The FDA requires that serving sizes be based upon what a person actually eats in one sitting, not what they should eat. However, many of these standards are derived from surveys conducted in the late 1970s and 1980s. And given our nationwide struggle with obesity, we clearly eat a lot more than we did several decades ago. We’re also terrible at measuring exactly how much we consume. To that end, previous studies have found that we underestimate our caloric intake by an average of 30 percent.
In recent years, the FDA has at least attempted to address the discrepancies. In 2016, it unveiled new standards for a variety of foods with unrealistic serving sizes. In particular, ice cream and soda got an overhaul. While ice cream container sizes have remained relatively stagnant over the years, the quantity we typically consume at once has definitely grown. So whereas a single serving was previously listed as half a cup, we’re more likely to consume around three-fourths of a cup. Ice cream nutrition labels have been modified accordingly, with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s now defined as three servings instead of four.
Soda, meanwhile, has increasingly been sold in larger containers — from a 12-ounce can to 20-ounce bottles. Nutrition labels now better reflect those increases, too.
That said, not everything has been overhauled yet, so there are still some egregiously small recommended serving sizes out there (a la Ritz crackers). More often, though, manufacturers are offering information for the “recommended” serving size as well as the entire package. That way, they can still promote themselves as being seemingly low-calorie without entirely duping everyone.
Where you look, of course, is totally up to you.