Dear Amanda,

Okay it’s time I know the truth. Should I really be following the serving size on food labels?

Thank you,

-Gretchen M.


Hi Gretchen!

The food labels serve a very important purpose for letting us know how many nutrients are in the foods we eat. This is great because we end up having some sort of way to look at our food “receipts” when we want to know about a specific nutrient. However, this can be pretty mentally exhausting if we start using the food labels to dictate how much we can enjoy. The food labels include a percentage of certain foods, for example, the Crunchy Peanut Butter Cliff Bar contains 14% of your daily value for dietary fiber. However, those percentages are also very dependent on how much you eat in a day.

On many (not all) food labels, there is a disclaimer saying the percentages are taken from a daily value based on an intake of 2,000 calories per day. Some people, as it indicates, eat more and will need to adjust the percentages accordingly. My point is that food labels are mostly about the food itself and not how it fits in your body. Additionally, some foods may not even have a cap (there is no official upper limit for fiber, for example) or we may not even get that exact number from the Daily Values every day.

Another thing about the serving size on food labels is that it doesn’t dictate how much you can eat at that particular meal! Very often I eat multiple “servings” of pasta, rice, potatoes, etc., but it fills me up and keeps me satisfied, energized, and happy. The most important indicator to “servings” you can eat are your hunger and fullness signals and whether or not a food helps you feel good or not.

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