getty chocolate chunks

Sometimes it’s nice to know you’re not alone. In this context I am thinking portion sizes because of new research from Which? The consumer champion surveyed 1,265 people on portion sizes in May and, when they were asked to estimate how many servings popular supermarket foods contained, many got it wrong. And I know I would too.

I’ve never bought halloumi in my life (and I never intend to) but more than half of people surveyed thought a 225g pack of halloumi would constitute two to four servings, when the packaging information suggested it should feed seven.

I must confess I am on the right of the wrong ’uns. Many’s the time that I have bought a ready meal that supposedly serves two and polished the whole thing off rather easily. And don’t get me started when it comes to snacks.

Which? found that more than a third of people surveyed thought a tube of Pringles contained two to four portions, when the packaging suggests it contains six to seven, meaning you get around 13 crisps per person. Now I don’t know what they put in Pringles but I defy anyone to eat just 13!

Most forecourts offer meal deals so the next bit of the survey is really relevant. Most people (79%) in the survey thought a supermarket meal deal was designed to be the ideal portion size for one person. But Which? found that while the sandwich typically included in a meal deal is usually for one person, the drink and snack you get with it may be designed for two. It gives the example of a 300ml bottle of orange juice and a packet of nuts which both usually state they contain two portions. And I know myself that a 500ml bottle of Diet Coke apparently contains two servings – and I am not even sure what the point of that portion control is when the drink contains virtually zero calories.

Thankfully for us poor consumers, Which? came out on our side and described portion information on food packaging as often being confusing, inconsistent or unrealistic.

It also found that portion sizes on some products were inconsistent across pack sizes. For example, across different size bars of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, the recommended serving size varied from 20g to 33.5g – and I know which one I would follow. And when it comes to a 220g box of Quality Street, a serving is just two chocolates. That sounds like a Scrooge sort of Christmas to me.

I hate the saying ‘everything in moderation’ but it makes sense. I wonder who these people are who buy a bar of chocolate and look at the portion size before they start to eat it? I’m sure they do exist, but I don’t know any.

The only time I really measure portions is with rice and spaghetti. I know which mug to use to measure the right amount of rice for me and Mr West, and I have a spaghetti sizer so I measure the right amount of that too. It serves me well and cuts down on waste.

I know that all this portion control stuff is to help us with our health etc etc but do we really need to be told exactly how many squares of chocolate we should be eating? From what I’ve seen in forecourt stores lately, confectionery is selling as well as it ever has. Yes, forecourts are selling more healthy snacks, which is great for those who want them. But it seems many people still love slabs of chocolates and tubes of Pringles and meal deals (and will eat the whole thing ie the sandwich, the juice and the nuts that come with it). Long may that continue!