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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.

ARIZONA GREEN TEA WITH GINSENG AND HONEY
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.

11 Secrets the Food Industry Doesn't Want You to Know.

SNYDER'S OF HANOVER MINI PRETZELS
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."

POST 100% NATURAL GRAPE-NUTS CEREAL
Serving size: ½ 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.

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SENECA CRISPY APPLE CHIPS
Serving size: 12 chips
(2 ½ 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.

AMY'S NO CHEESE ROASTED VEGETABLE PIZZA
Serving size: 1/3 pizza
(3 servings per pizza)
Calories per serving: 270

"Regardless of what it says on the package, this smallish pizza is designed to feed one person," says Young. You aren't likely to think of cutting it into thirds. And who would ever guess that an all-natural organic pizza (without cheese!) could pack more calories (810!) and almost as much fat as half a Domino's medium cheese pie? Blame it on the dense crust and a copious amount of olive oil.

SUNKIST PREMIUM MANDARIN ORANGES
Serving size: ½ cup
(about 2 servings per container)
Calories per serving: 70

You could eat two whole navel oranges for the calories in this little container. The reason: These innocent wedges are soaking in a pool of pear juice concentrate, which is a sneaky source of added sugar.

UNCLE WALLY'S FAT FREE GOURMET CORN MUFFINS
Serving size: ½ muffin
(2 servings per muffin)
Calories per serving: 130

Looks like good old Uncle Wally is trying to pull a fast one on you. "Come on, who eats half a muffin?" asks Taub-Dix. And while the muffins may be fatfree, each one still has as many calories as three ears of corn.

TRIBE HUMMUS SNACKERS
Serving size: 2 Tbsp
(2 servings per container)
Calories per serving: 50
"This is the ultimate 'health halo' food," says Taub-Dix. "You think it's healthy, and because it comes in an itty-bitty package, you wolf down the whole thing." And you end up consuming an extra 50-calorie serving on top of whatever you're dipping into it.

The 18 worst lies about packaged foods.

BLUE BUNNY PERSONALS PREMIUM ICE CREAM (BANANA SPLIT FLAVOR)

Serving size: ½ container
(2 servings per bowl)
Calories per serving: 170

They come in tiny packaging and are called "personals," so why wouldn't you eat every last bite? Do it and you'll inhale a whopping 16 grams of fat and nearly 15 percent more calories than you'd get from a Haagen-Dazs dark-chocolate-covered vanilla ice-cream bar.

ANNIE CHUN'S GARLIC SCALLION NOODLE BOWL
Serving size: ½ bowl
(2 servings per bowl)
Calories per serving: 310

For those who struggle with portion control, this meal-in-a-bowl can seem like a savior. But read the fine print and you'll see it's actually two servings that pack 620 calories and a staggering 1,960 milligrams of sodium (dangerously close to your 2,300-milligram daily limit).

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