10 Label Fables

Want some fiction to read at the beach this summer? Look no further than your cooler. With cans of iced tea that are meant to serve three people and "individual" snack packs that harbor extra servings, it's no wonder the FDA's latest Health and Diet Survey found that consumers are skeptical of food labels.

Fortunately, the FDA is taking steps to clear up some of the misleading information and pushing for clear, user-friendly front of package labeling. In the meantime, we're exposing some sneaky diet wreckers.


Serving size: 8 ounces
(approximately 3 servings per 23-ounce can)
Calories per serving: 70

Most of us overlook liquid calories entirely, so you may not notice that this can supposedly serves three. "When you buy any drink in a can, you assume it's a single serving," says Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D., author of Read It Before You Eat It. And while antioxidant-rich green tea has a virtuous rep, this particular one packs almost 12 (12!) teaspoons of sugar per can.


Serving size: 20 pretzels (about 3 servings per bag)
Calories per serving: 110

The small bag these come in is emblazoned with the words "fat free," but if you polish off every last pretzel, you'll have consumed about a third of the carbs you need in a day. The diminutive size of these salty snacks doesn't help matters either. "It's easy to overeat miniature items, because our minds equate the small size with fewer calories," says Lisa Young, Ph.D., R.D., author of The Portion Teller Plan, "even if that isn't necessarily true."

Serving size: ? cup
(12 servings per 24-ounce box)
Calories per serving: 200

"Cereal in general can be confusing because the serving sizes are based on weight, not volume, so they tend to vary a lot," says Young. "And when you have a small, dense cereal like Grape-Nuts, people always seem to pour at least double the amount they're supposed to." Adding to the problem: Your average cereal bowl is large enough to hold more than the recommended serving, and people are inclined to fill it to the brim. The end result? Your breakfast is way more than you bargained for—and that doesn't even include the calories from the milk.

The healthiest foods you can eat.

Serving size: 12 chips
(2 ? servings per bag)
Calories per serving: 150

You wouldn't eat four apples in one sitting, but that's the caloric equivalent of what's in this bag. Because we don't often think—much less eat— in fractions, "small bags of snack foods that contain 'half' servings are the ultimate visual deception," says Young. You'd be better off with potato chips, which have, ounce for ounce, just as many calories and almost seven teaspoons less sugar.
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