Don't Trust Your First Look

My husband did the grocery shopping yesterday, which was a relief to me since I was focused on getting all the tax papers together.  Unlike with many spouses I've heard about over the years, I trust that the list I send will be completed, and plenty of fruits, veggies and whole grains will arrive home. Occasionally, a Edy's light ice cream or a bag of Lay's Baked Cheddar chips will sneak in, but, for the most part, he's a great, healthy shopper.

After the groceries were unloaded, he sat down to put his snack crackers into individually portioned bags.  He takes these to work to keep in his snack basket, along with apples, nuts and granola bars. To make this easy, he uses a food scale for a quick, easy measure of 1 ounce for each serving.

This week he found a different brand of whole grain cracker that was on sale.  (He's learned  to look for the word "whole" as the first word on the ingredient list!) As he was bagging up the Special K Multi Grain crackers, he noticed something interesting on the box.  On the front label, a broad red patch declares that there are 90 calories in 17 crackers.  OK.  That's definitely fewer calories than most other crackers out there.  But, on closer inspection of the side panel, it states that a serving size is actually 24 crackers, approximately 1 ounce. This 1 ounce serving contains 120 calories, 3 grams of fat, and 3 grams of fiber.  Right next to that column is the listing for just 17 crackers:  90 calories, 2 grams of fat and 2 grams of fiber. Why the discrepancy?  They explain: "Why 2 servings? We suggest a 90 calorie serving for a satisfying snack to help you stay on track."  Cute trick, especially since most every other cracker out there uses the standard one ounce serving size.  Hey, why not a 60 calorie snack?  Just eat 12 crackers! It's amazing how this works...

Special K's cracker box grabs our attention hoping to stand out from the cracker crowd.  What they have really done is to offer a smaller serving as an option.  It's misleading. Any cracker would have fewer calories if we decide to have a smaller serving. This same trick is used by manufacturers who want their foods to be labeled as low-fat or trans-fat free.  I am not impressed.

As consumers who are concerned about our health, we need to be aware of what we are buying.  Read the nutrition info panel.  Look at the ingredients.  Make note of the serving size listed.  And remember...some day soon, one of us will find a loaf of bread that declares in very tiny letters that one serving size is 1/2 a slice---and that will take the cake.