5 "Healthy" Foods with Misleading Serving Sizes
Savvy shoppers watching their calorie budgets know that ice cream, pizza, and cookies could push them over their daily limit. But you may be surprised at how foods that have a reputation for being “healthy” pack a surprisingly high amount of calories in a single serving. As you consider how to make better food choices in the New Year, consider the standard serving sizes of these health foods before you take in too much of a good thing.
You’ve heard the advice to stop using oil when cooking and instead use cooking spray. While this is good advice to avoid the 100+ calories you can get in just one tablespoon of many cooking oils, don’t be fooled by the nutritional label that lists no calories and no fat for the aerosol version. Manufacturers get away with doing this by choosing an unrealistic serving size. Some cooking sprays have serving sizes as little as a quarter of a second spray. If you’re like most, your spray will be much longer. Say 2 or 3 seconds. That’s eight to 12 times a serving. An article published by the non-profit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) points out that a 6 second spray would have 6 grams of fat. You can always make your own cooking spray for peace of mind. The bonus to this is avoiding the propellant, emulsifier, and anti-foaming agent usually present in cooking sprays.
CSPI recently blasted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration(FDA) for not updating serving size rules. A study they conducted about the serving size of soups reveals a serving size that is largely unreasonable when compared to actual soup consumption. A can of soup generally has 2 to 2 ½ servings, however CSPI’s survey results, as revealed to the FDA, show 62% of consumers eat an entire can of soup in one sitting. Multiplying a can of soup’s nutrition facts by 2 could mean consuming over a day’s worth of the recommended intake of sodium. CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson had this to say about their findings, “The FDA should define serving sizes to reflect what consumers actually eat, as the law requires, not what the soup industry pretends that they eat.”
You’ve been urged to add it to yogurt or eat it like cereal, but either way, granola is far from being a low-calorie food. With serving sizes hovering around ½ to ¾ cup, a typical serving of granola could run around 200 to 250 calories per serving. Added raisins, sugar, and nuts, all contribute to the high amount of calories in this seemingly healthy food. While the fiber from the rolled oats granola contains is desirable, you could just as well eat a bowl of oatmeal with no added sugar, and have a fresh piece of fruit as well for a similar amount of calories.
Whether you’re ramping up lycopene in your diet, or simply having pasta and salad instead of burgers and fries, be weary of prepared pasta sauces. While tomato sauce with no added salt stands at only 40 calories per ½ cup serving, pasta sauce at the same serving size packs around 100 calories. The added oil and tomato paste help multiply the caloric content. Instead take the tomato sauce with no added salt and add Italian seasonings to it. It won’t be as tangy as the prepared pasta sauces, but you’ll cut calories significantly if you go this route.
Before my calorie counting days, I used to pack a bag of trail mix in a sandwich bag and nosh on it throughout the day. Little did I know my nut-loving tendency was adding about 600 calories and over 40 grams of fat, albeit healthy fat, to my diet each day. A typical serving size for nuts such as pecans, cashews, almonds, walnuts, and sunflower seeds is an ounce. That’s about 20 kernels of almonds or about 20 pecan halves. That serving, though small, will cost you about 160 for almonds to almost 200 calories for pecans. Sticking to a half a serving of nuts might be the way to go to keep the calories from adding up.
What seemingly healthy foods have you had to limit because of their unrealistic serving sizes?