Have you ever wondered how accurate the serving size is? Many people may quickly glance at the amount of calories per serving, but what’s the point of knowing the calories per serving if you don’t know how much a serving is?
As to what the food is measured in, there are three possible options:
- The serving size is expressed in common household units (cup, tablespoon, teaspoon). This is used for bulk items like cereal, flour, sugar, ice-cream tubs, pancake mixes, nuts, etc.
- In the case of foods that are not sold in bulk but still have multiple servings (like pizzas, cakes, and pies), fractions of the product can be used (1/4 pizza, 1/2 cabbage, 1/3 melon).
- For foods that are clearly divided into units, household measurements are not necessary. You will find something like “1 bar,” “2 cookies,” “1 container,” “3 slices,” “2 muffins,” or “6 peppers.”
For all three of these options, the amount is shown again in the metric quantity directly after (fluids in milliliters and other foods in grams).
See also: Get to Know Your Nutrients
Manufacturers can also choose to declare the ounces / fluid ounces or any of the other choices listed above along with the the unit customarily used, as shown on this jar of jalapeños.
Now that we are familiarized with the units, what can be rounded, and how much can it be rounded by?
- First, in the case of “Option 1.” above, cups should be in 1/4 or 1/3 increments. Tablespoons are shown as 1, 1 1/3, 1 1/2, 1 2/3, 2, or 3. Teaspoons can only be displayed 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, 1, or 2 teaspoons.
- When using “Option 2.” the fraction can be just about anything.
- When using “Option 3.” as explained above, numbers are rounded to the nearing whole number (rounding up to 7 at 6.5 and down to 8 at 8.4). An exception to this rule is if you are dealing with numbers between 2 and 5. Those can be rounded to the nearest 0.5 increment.
- Ounce measurements are expressed in 0.5 increments.
- When using a gram or mL quantity equivalent to the measurement, it is expressed in 1 unit increments at 5 and up, 0.5 increments between 2 and 5, and 0.1 increments when below 2.
See also: How are Nutrients and Calories Rounded?
Long story short, look for the serving at the top of the nutrition facts panel. It may be smaller (or larger) than you think. And don’t forget-measurements are made with a flat and even top. A heaping spoonful can equal 2 or more tablespoons.
Thanks for reading!
Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. Title 21, Chapter I, Subchapter B, Part 101, February, 2016. http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=0811a061720528cac7d88e839b14cb5c&pitd=20160216&tpl=/ecfrbrowse/Title21/21cfr101_main_02.tpl. Accessed September 9, 2016.