What New Food Serving Sizes Mean for Your Kids
January 9, 2023
By Megan Boyle, Editorial Director
Last month the Food and Drug Administration announced new changes to the Nutrition Facts Label we see printed on packaged foods.
Among the updates are new serving sizes for many common foods. Last set in 1993, serving sizes will now reflect the realistic amounts we actually eat and drink at a time. A serving of ice cream will rise from ½ cup to 2/3 cup, and a serving of soda will climb from 8 ounces to 12.
The new sizes could mean significant changes to what you know about your family’s favorite foods, particularly one of the most popular packaged foods for kids: breakfast cereal.
The standard serving size of breakfast cereal will increase from around ¾ cup (30 grams) to a little over 1 cup (40 grams). So what does that change mean for your family?
1. Don’t worry: It does not mean that your kids will (or should) start eating more cereal.
They’re probably already eating about 1 cup per serving anyway – or more. The previous standard serving size reflected the average amount of cereal people were eating in 1977. Now the information you read on a cereal box will be closer to how much we’re actually eating – as much as twice the serving sizes on current labels.
2. You won’t need a calculator to figure out how much added sugar is sneaking into your kids’ breakfast.
Not only will the Nutrition Facts Label reflect an amount closer to what your kids are actually eating, it will begin listing “added sugars” in both grams and percent Daily Value. An EWG analysis found that children who eat cereal every day take in five to nine pounds more sugar a year than their parents can tell from the label. Now, parents will have a clearer picture of how much sugar is hiding in their children’s breakfasts – and can do something about it.
3. Your kids may start seeing fewer advertisements for sugary cereal.
Under the Children’s Food and Beverages Advertising Initiative, the cereal industry has voluntarily agreed not to market breakfast cereals to children under 12 if the cereal contains more than 10 grams of total sugar per serving. When the official serving size increases, none of the 10 most frequently advertised cereal brands will meet this limit, leaving manufactures with the choice to reformulate their product, change their marketing strategy or abandon the voluntary standard.
Read more in EWG’s report: In Kids’ Cereal, Mini Servings Hide Mountains of Sugar
The FDA has given food manufacturers until January 2018 to comply with the new label regulations, but we believe that’s too long to wait to protect children’s health. EWG is calling on cereal makers to bring the new serving size information to families online immediately and to product labels as soon as possible, rather than wait until the compliance deadline. Read EWG’s letter to cereal industry leaders.
As more changes get underway, you can visit the Healthy Child Healthy World blog to learn about good cereal choices for your family and more healthy breakfast tips for your kids. And check out EWG’s Food Scores database for a new, personalized Nutrition Facts panel that shows just how much sugar cereals are adding to your kids’ diet.