Portion distortion - how many calories are in the food you eat?

20 September 2010

How many calories are you cramming in your top hole? Chances are you haven't a clue, and that's despite most foods carrying a wealth of detail on their packaging.

Providing nutritional information is still voluntary in the UK, unless a claim is made about the food ("low-fat" or "no added sugar"). Manufacturers have been pressured into providing the information by consumer groups and the public, but the lack of mandatory rules means it's easy to avoid telling consumers how many calories are in a sample, or the whole product.

Nutritional information is usually provided for a 100g portion (though not always) and for a typical serving size - but then the typical serving size may not bear any relation to overall size of the product - or how much you're likely to eat. Some examples of portion distortion are below - let us know what others you find:

Bitterwallet - Ben and Jerrys

Ben & Jerry's don't provide a serving size, but do provide information for a 100g serving - or a fifth of a tub. Because you're only likely to eat a fifth of a tub on a Saturday night in, aren't you? Eat half a tub, ladies, and you've devoured over a third of your calories for the day. And that's why you're fat.

Bitterwallet - Bounty

Clever Mars. The Bounty makes you feel as if you're getting a treat - two bars for the price of one! Except there isn't really - together they weigh less than a standard Mars bar but pack in more calories. So for the sake of the nutritional information, the portion size is given for one half, not both.

Bitterwallet - Sainsbury's Basic Pizza

Sainsbury's is of the opinion that you'll only want to eat a quarter of their cheese and tomato pizza (which, if you've tasted it, might be a fair assessment). The whole thing weighs in at 495g, but the packaging offers you nutritional information for a quarter portion (124g), and 100g - for those who fancy only cooking a fifth of it.

Bitterwallet - Galaxy Minstrels

Cinemas mean fun times. Not only is your wallet burgled on behalf of bullshit-baffles-brains from Hollywood, but you'll shovel an unhealthy amount of calories into your gob. Again, Mars seems to reign supreme at the flicks, selling their sugar pouches to all and sundry. In the case of Galaxy Minstrels, the 170g bag found at most cinemas suggests a serving size of just 42g - less than quarter of the bag, or barely 15 minstrels. Not bloody likely, is it?

Hat-tip to [Fooducate]

TOPICS:   Advertising

25 comments

  • CompactDistance
    500ml bottles of Coke have the nutritional information for a '250ml serving', no doubt to disguise the astronomical sugar levels.
  • PokeHerPete
    Hah, had a conversation with my other half the other day about this. Was looking at the calories in the McVitie’s Lyle’s Golden Syrup Cakes. It looks quite healthy saying 87 calories a slice, until you notice thats for 1/10th of the cake. You know what, Im gonna eat what I want and be obese.
  • Umbongo C.
    i noticed this a while back. what got me was that they do the same thing for diet stuff like salads. tesco sell packs of salad/pasta/etc that look like they are designed for one persons lunch, packed with a single spork, and it reads 300 calories or something, until you notice that's "per serving of 100g" or whatever and it's a 200g box. who the hell would buy a salad box for lunch and just eat half? likewise with pizzas in tesco that look like 550 calories, but that's for just half if you turn the pack over and spend half an hour trying to read it. they need a big white sign on the front that says "2000 calories - you will get even fatter if you eat this - you fat bastard"
  • Gunn
    Labelling from Sains is pretty decent but just need to read the portion size as it can be very small. I hope that eventually you will be able to get this information at all eateries, as I'm sure most restaurants cook everything in butter but you've no idea how much.
  • Mark H.
    Asda just did a funny thing. They use the traffic light system on their own brand food - a good idea. Except, on their sandwiches at least, they've just redesigned the packaging and ditched the traffic light colour for the calorie value. What's more they've increased the amount of calories in the newly packaged sandwiches (they had the same sandwich side by side in the new and old packaging and the new packaging showed a higher calorie count but without the 'red' colouring). Way to go Asda!
  • Paul S.
    Yeah, the traffic light system of providing nutritional information on the front of the packaging is also voluntary, despite all the concerns of public, the health authorities and campaign groups, no food manufacturer has to participate in these schemes. It's all a little odd.
  • Nick T.
    What about the chicken in a can?
  • MrRobin
    This is one of my key annoyances about food packaging, particularly supermarket brand stuff. You've absolutely hit the nail on the head about the portion sizes thing being utter nonsense. Given a choice between various products I will often try and chose the healthier option but it becomes a bloody maths challenge half the time. I bought a pasta salad from Tescos the other day and on the front it had the nutritional info (in Tescos colours, not in the industry accepted traffic light colours) by the SPOONFUL! I kid you not! Needless to say, it appeared that it was very healthy with only 2% of my daily fat allowance etc etc. I wish I kept the packaging now having read this article.
  • David
    "eat less move more" You don't need a traffic light system for that beautifully simple message. Easy isn't it, fatties?
  • MrRobin
    Here it is: http://www.tesco.com/groceries/Product/Details/?id=266078172 Nutritional info per tablespoon (50g) Pack is 220g so if you eat the whole thing you have to multipy by 4.4. What a fucking joke!
  • David
    It isn't upto Tesco to manage your weight. Take personal responsibility. Chocolate, sausages and pies make you fatter. Vegetables don't. It doesn't matter what is written on a side of a bar of chocolate. It isn't going to magically make your spare tyre disappear whether you eat half / 100g or the whole lot. Get out and get some exercise, eat the right things and you don't need to look at labels at all!
  • Paul S.
    Calories and fat and sugar aren't "bad things", David. The body needs lard. It needs salt, it needs sugar. It needs calories. It just doesn't need too much of them. And that's sort of the point.
  • David
    The body does not need pizza, chocolate and ice cream. The point is not carefully balancing micrograms of these foods. The point is if you are watching your weight then you shouldn't be eating them at all. I take your point but it amuses me when people think they can "misread" a label and it makes them fatter.
  • Tom
    I agree David, but what if i am trying to loose wieight by looking at packages. I look at the salad box from Tesmolopoly and see that it's not too bad so i eat it all, now i am even fatter...
  • Tim
    Pizzas are a classic example. Look closely at the label and it's often per 1/4 or even 1/8th of the pizza which ensures they don't go into the red traffic light. Okay some people only eat a slice, but most of us scoff half or the lot, and typical supermarket pizzas are 2 or 3 days worth of calories and fat. I wouldn't even look at the saturated fat figures!! Takeaway pizzas are even worse and they rarely tell you at all. Thing is though, pizza can actually be pretty healthy. Just eliminate the cheese or replace it with much lower fat cheese. I make my own with very low fat cheese and you would be pushed to be able to tell the difference. It's melted cheese on pizza, not some fancy cheese & wine evening. The other I notice is with supermarket curry. The same supermarket and branding will vary the portion size on the labels to ensure the traffic lights are in their favour. One curry will say "per product" and the next will say "per half". But, just go for Jalfrezi. Surprisingly low fat. Just avoid the stuff heavy on butter.
  • qwertyuiop
    You'd probably only get 15 minstrels in a full sized bag anyway - half of the fucker is filled with air! Seriously, make the fucking bags smaller or fill them to capacity.
  • James D.
    Get some exercise fatties. Alternatively, look on the back at per 100g because the traffic light system is a farce.
  • Barry M.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/sep/19/exercise-dieting-public-health Or why exercise won't make you thin
  • Zeddy
    I give my missus some portion control every night.
  • Boris
    I've been giving your missus much biger portions while you're out to work Zeddy.
  • SJ
    It's obvious why they don't as it would ultimately work against them, but all supermarkets should adopt a system that simply states "this pack contains x calories". It could apply to any type of product and so on the spot conversions of grams, table spoons etc.. wouldn't be necessary. The products that do comply at the moment are half-way there what with the calories, fat etc on the front of the packaging, they just need to be sensible with the portion sizes and stop manipulating them to keep the figures low. Hopefully if this all becomes compulsory that kind of shenanigans will stop.
  • Gareth
    I really can't stand it when they do this!
  • Kevin
    What is worse is when they say the amount per 100g but then don't have the weight on the packaging! With some products they definately need to say half a packet instead of 100g though. But it does all come down to common sense and making your own decisions.
  • Ten B.
    [...] distortion – how many calories are in the food you [...]
  • Hemi (.
    Thanks for the mention! It seems like portion distortion is a worldwide problem of epic proportions...

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