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Chelsea at Crunch Gym

Forty Weeks of Fitness!

Chelsea, our pregnancy fitness expert, is a certified personal trainer at Crunch gym in San Francisco, California. She gave birth to her daughter, Madeira Re, in July 2006. Read more

Healthful Snacks for the Chip-and-Dip Crowd

by Ruth Papazian

Real-Life Serving Sizes

"Before the new food label regulations went into effect, a serving size was whatever the manufacturer said it was--and many packages did not even list this information," Diekman says. "For instance, people used to assume that a small bag of potato chips contained a single serving. That wasn't always true before, but it's true now. The label also alerts consumers that a bag containing more than 2 ounces (60 g) of chips contains more than one serving." Knowing the number of servings in a package is important because the amount of fat, sodium or calories listed on the label is based on serving size, she adds.

You can find the serving sizes and number of servings per package on the Nutrition Facts panel. Serving sizes are listed in both household and metric units--for example, 14 chips (28 g)--and are more uniform across product lines to enable you to compare the nutrient profiles of, say, baked potato chips and fried potato chips.

In addition, serving sizes must be based on values from government food consumption surveys, so they bear a closer resemblance to amounts that people typically eat. "But keep in mind that if you eat more or less of a snack food than the serving size listed on the label, you'll have to adjust the fat, sodium and caloric content accordingly," Diekman cautions. That means if the serving size is 14 potato chips and you eat 28, you'll have to take into account that you've munched and crunched twice as much fat, sodium and calories as the amounts listed on the label.

Although it seems counterintuitive, keeping track of portion size may be especially important when a food is low- or no-fat. Two recent studies indicated that people who know a food is low in fat tend to either eat more of it, or to eat more throughout the day to compensate.

"Fat-free is not calorie-free," warns Diekman. "For some reason, people seem to think they can eat as much as they want of a food that is low in fat or fat-free." She points out that if you cut out every ounce of fat from your diet, but consume three times the calories, you will gain weight.

Kulakow agrees, and points out that fat-free or low-fat versions of snack foods often contain high amounts of added sugars or sodium to compensate for the loss of flavor that occurs when fat is removed. So she cautions consumers to examine the amounts of these nutrients on fat-free and low-fat products, and to pay close attention to the calories in a single serving to avoid concluding that fat-free is synonymous with low in calories.

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