Who else is aggravated by "deceptive" portion sizes?

So I found some NSA corn muffins at the local grocery yesterday and decided to give them a try. I ate one for breakfast and bolused for the number of carbs on the nutrition label. About an hour later, in the middle of mass, my dexcom alert went off because I was over 300. I took a correction bolus when I got home and the bg levels started coming down.

Here's what happened. The portion size for the muffin was one half a muffin. I know that manufacturers can set the portion size to whatever they want, but lets be real here. Who ever eats half a muffin? From my point of view, it seems like the manufacturers want to have a specific (low) value for carbs, fat or calories, so they back into the portion size.

So does this drive anyone else crazy, or should I just suck it up and make sure I read the labels more carefully?


Actually, manufacturers DON’T set the portion sizes - the FDA does. They are considering changing them, there’s a good article about it here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35268111/ns/health-diet_and_nutrition/

That said, I know that portion sizes are frustrating, and you do have to be careful to double check them all the time. On the other hand, for me at least, if I stick to the manufacturer’s portion sizes in a lot of cases, it’s enough food for me. Granted, I’m female, so I need to eat less than most guys, but in general I think that overeating is really easy to do, and maybe the problem is our perceptions of how much we should eat, not the serving sizes themselves.

What I really think needs to be done is that for food that comes in discrete pieces - muffins, candy bars, bread, etc - the serving size should be per piece. It’s a no brainer that way, no calculations needed, and women/children/smaller people can eat just one piece, guys/athletes/larger people can eat two or three, and none of us get hoodwinked by the nutrition facts not matching up with assumptions about serving sizes!

Thanks for the link. I especially liked the video of the author.


Thanks for the update. I always figured that the manufactuers set the serving sizes to their benefit. I should have known that the feds were in on creating serving sizes because they are so confusing. (I’m of the opinion that if you want something messed up, get the feds involved.)

I agree that discrete pieces is a good way for most foods. It does get messy with smaller pieces that are sold in multi-packs (I’m thinking crackers). But for items that are sold in a way that a reasonable person would expect one piece to be a serving, one piece is the way to go. Then there is the whole issue of bundling. Back when I could eat them, I loved Pop-Tarts. Now should one Pop-Tart be a serving, or two Pop-Tarts? I vote for two Pop-Tarts because they are wrapped together and appear to be meant to be eaten together. I just checked the website, and, of course, the serving size for Pop-Tarts is one pastry.

I learned a valuable lesson TODAY. ALWAYS CHECK THE SERVING SIZE!


Besides portion size, fat grams can take me by surprise. Even if I had noticed and bolused for the proper muffin portion, I could potentially see a high reading due to the fat. I am learning to take that into account.

Yeah, it IS tricky - just this thread is proof of that, because as I was reading your post I’m thinking to myself “oh, I’d only eat one Pop-Tart, the serving size SHOULD be one.” And then you said two… heehee, no matter what they do, they’re never going to get it right for everyone!

I guess if there’s two to a wrapper, I’d say the serving size should be two. It should be whatever sorta makes sense. But even then, we’d all still have to check the serving sizes!

While it is true that the FDA sets the portion sizes and is considering changing some of them a more realistic approach would be to keep the existing portion sizes (which a lot of people are already used to) and, just as they do on cereals by listing totals with and without milk, add another column to ALL foods called AVERAGE AMOUNT EATEN which would apply aptly to the product mentioned above. This would help people who can’t (for example) eat just 1/2 a muffin. I say this because it could then be applied to fast food (such as Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonalds, etc. for those that eat there) and because items such as muffins vary in size even in supermarkets. You have the “jumbo” size muffins and you can also get “normal” size ones in many supermarkets. The portion size for a normal muffin is one while for the jumbo is half. This is similar to unit pricing on the store shelf. When portion sizes were introduced by the FDA for food labeling there was an outcry but the reasoning was that by making manufacturers adhere to certain rules for a portion size the public would have a consistent set of rules to go by. But this means that each of us has to take the responsibility upon ourselves by being aware of this. As diabetics many of us already carb-count. It’s not that big a deal to take one more step and read the entire label. BTW - When I have a muffin craving and end up buying one of the super muffins I DO only eat half and if I end up buying it at a fast food place I only eat the muffin top since I don’t have a way to gauge the full carb count. It takes self discipline but being a diabetic you either learn that or face the music. And yes - I know there are a lot of diabetics out there - none on these forums of course :slight_smile: that don’t do that. They eat breakfast lunch and dinner as fast food and the ER is their second home. I see them up here where I live a lot. But it is their choice to not listen to the doctors, endos, etc. Anyway that’s another post / rant. Brad - one last thing - I think it may well be mostly a “guy thing” about not reading the labels. When the consistent labeling first came into being I remember thinking what a PITA it was going to be. It very rapidly became second nature. Really - all you have to read is: Serving Size; Servings per container/unit; Calories; Calories from Fat; Total Fat (and breakdown); Total Carbs (and breakdown) to keep a general handle on things. The rest do count but are not IMHO as important. So I guess the proper answer to your question is yes - just suck it up and read the labels more carefully.

really? I don’t know what you mean? Can you elaborate a bit more on this? Thanks!

Yeah, it’s irritating when they do this with beverages. My friend was telling me how much she liked this bottled tea, so I saw 6g of carbs and thought, “that’s not bad, I’ll try it!” Later with high bg, I got the bottle out of the recycling to see that there were “2.5 servings per bottle” what? I can’t even figure out then how much a 6carb portion would be from that, unless you get out a measuring cup and measure the ounces! Who doesn’t drink the whole bottle! Silly!

Thanks for the background info. It helps me understand how the labeling works. It makes sense to have standard sizes for comparison among products. Now that I know how it works, I can work with it.

While the labeling works for comparison purposes, it requires calculations to figure out what the values are for a predefined portion. It’s frustrating for example, that one English Muffin is a portion, but for muffins it’s only a half. I learned my lesson the hard way today and hopefully won’t make that mistake again.


Brad -
The most important thing is to not beat yourself up over it. There are times that things will happen and your BG will skyrocket. Stress can add to higher BG and you might blame it on something you ate - but don’t because it may not be that at all. You might go out with friends to a restaurant and think you are doing OK by ordering what appears to be a “diabetic-friendly” meal but not know that the restaurant either a) uses pre-made foods from a supplier or adds other ingredients that they don’t consider essential for customers to know about - i.e. added fats, added sugars and salts etc. to make it taste better. Note that even vegetarians can be fooled. Many restaurants will serve a dish made with chicken broth or beef broth and lie that it is indeed a vegetarian version of what they ordered - and the vegetarian won’t necessarily know the different. Coffee is another culprit when you go out - many places will just make regular coffee within 2 hours of closing and when you ask for decaf just bring you a cup and say that it is. (Although some restaurants are smartening up and reversing that - serving only decaf before closing so they don’t get sued if someone who is really sensitive to full strength has a reaction…) And so on. We live in a world filled with boobytraps. We can and should take steps to protect ourselves as much as we can but we can’t get upset when our best laid plans go awry. I’ll have weeks where my sugars run low (55 to 90) all the time and then there are weeks where my sugars run in the 120-170 range. Once in a while something will happen (medication/antibiotic reaction, stress or whatever) and I’ll zoom up to somewhere between 200 and 300. It then can take a day or two to come back down to normal levels. I don’t sweat it - I accept it and live with it. I don’t use a pump - I do use insulin (U-500 humalog -extremely concentrated - on a sliding scale 3x/day) Since starting on the U-500 my A1c’s have gone from 9% down to anywhere between 6.4% (lowest to date) to 7.1% - I’m striving for even lower and hopefully will get there. OK - Have a great night and best of luck. BTW - Learn a few breathing techniques. That way when your bg goes up and the reason isn’t food then it may help you bring it back down quicker.

Hi Bradley,

You’re gonna hafta suck it up!!

Ha! I had some of those grocery-store muffins once. The serving size said “1 oz.” ONE OUNCE?! WTF?! I would’ve been happy with “1/2 muffin” or “1/4 muffin” or “muffin top” or something useful…so I pulled out my food scale, sucked it up and quit whining, and got on with devouring that delicious muffin!

Cheers, Mike

here’s something that recently ticked me off about portion sizes:

i’ve been eating the same cereal for breakfast for a long time (Banana Nut Cheerios). They’re delicious and pretty good as far as carbs go. 1 cup of cereal was about 23 grams. So, with milk, I always bolused for 30 carbs. I’d been doing this for months and months and never had a problem with post-meal bgs. One day, though, I had a 180 post-meal bg. I was shocked! I had no clue what I did wrong. I ate the cereal once again, and the same thing happened. I came to the conclusion that my body just hated Banana Nut Cheerios… and that I’d have to stop eating them.

HOWEVER… I just happened to look at the nutritional information on the side of the box. The carb count was still 23 grams. BUT, the serving size changed from 1 cup to 3/4 cup of cereal. I was shocked! WHY??? so… I have no clue why that happened. But it did. and it makes me sad that I don’t get the full cup of cereal (one of the reasons why I originally liked the cereal).

Unfortunately they probably upped the amount of something in the cereal itself. If you have an old box around you might want to do a comparison. If this was recent and you don’t - do a mad dash tomorrow (kidding sort of) and see if you can find an old box at a supermarket or small grocery store so you can do the comparison (and maybe stock up if you find any…) But you raise a great point in that we can never become complacent about our food intake and have to constantly check the nutrition labels. And that’s not just true for diabetics but for anyone who relies on them. That said I would make the following suggestion - when you purchase items that you rely on regularly (like Emily with her Banana Nut Cheerios) cut out the nutrition label and put it on a page in a looseleaf binder with the date. Then you will always have some sort of check for yourself. And it really is no different than cutting out recipes from a magazine if you think about it. You can also scan the nutrition labels and put them in a folder on your computer if that’s easier or more convenient… Just a thought FWIW.

Foods with fat in them raise my blood sugar regardless of the carbs…protein also, but to a lesser degree. I have read that fat in cheese is one of the issues with the dreaded pizza, for example. I use an extended bolus to deal with it as it seems to be a delayed reaction, but I don’t have the ratios down yet…I am still experimenting. Fat can cause a delay in absorption so it is tricky. If I am eating a high fat meal or treat, I bolus ahead, but don’t feel the need to wait a full 20-30 min, add a few grams and extend a small percentage an hour or so. There are people here who do have it down so I should do some research of past discussions. If you haven’t noticed it, fat may not effect your #'s. (Sorry to be off topic)

EJ, you could also call GM and ask them…maybe they’d tell you why the change. If there is a new ingredient, you would know that it raises your #'s and to watch for it.

That’s not really off-topic when you think about it. I had heard a long time ago that while you could eat a sandwich of bread with cheese and tomato, when you made pizza the combination of the cooked ingredients actually could have a big rising effect on your bg. I’m not the world’s biggest pizza fan and actually will only have it rarely and then only during the day when I’m physically active so I’ve never noticed it.

Those grocery store prepared foods labels make me crazy. Some of them are seemingly out of touch. Since the serving size is mandated by the FDA, I want the package size to be a multiple of the serving size. Instead you see something like serving size 3 oz and the package size is 16.3 oz. I guess it could be worse. The serving size could be in oz and the package size in grams! Hopefully I didn’t just give the manufacturers and idea of how to drive me totally insane.


That’s actually a wonderful idea. They probably won’t do it because the first manufacturer that does will lose marketshare as the average consumer just sees that the product costs more. They would have to round up because most people only notice and complain when product sizes get smaller! But you are right - it would make life a lot easier…