It’s my sons’ favourite treat; a staple reward for a job well done. It’s a little something to spoil them from grandma, or a candy surprise at the movies or just because. It’s SMARTIES, of course. And until recently, I simply assumed a package was an appropriate portion.
Spoiler alert: it’s not.
How many of y’all grab a chocolate bar or a pack of SMARTIES from the variety store and simply tuck into it until it’s gone? Yeah, I’m guilty too. And I’m guilty of serving my children treats in the same fashion, erroneously believing that the portions were already calculated for me. The thing is, in some cases it’s fine to polish off the entire chocolate bar or bag of candy. But other times, a portion is actually a fraction of the product… even if you’ve probably been eating the whole darn thing all along.
In keeping with its global commitments to nutrition, health and wellness and its leadership in providing treats in a more permissible way, Nestlé Canada has given its SMARTIES packaging a refresh. The new innovative packaging takes portion control a step further by making it more intuitive, by providing portion guidance indicators.
So, you can now choose how much of the colourful treat you want to consume, while being mindful of portion size.
“We are motivated everyday by our nutrition, health and wellness commitments, and within those commitments is our goal to educate consumers and empower them with helpful information and guidance,” said Terri Tinella, President, Confectionery, Nestlé Canada. “These changes are all about giving Canadians the treats they love while empowering them to make informed choices.”
The changes, which encourage consumers to enjoy some treats now and save the rest for later if they choose, include:
1) SMARTIES regular box is now physically divided into three compartments, all containing a smaller single portion; 2) SMARTIES cello bag is now a recyclable canister with a custom lid, allowing consumers to measure out a portion; 3) All seasonal large, hollow SMARTIES figures and packages have been reduced to a single portion.
Hands up if you love the new packaging! Me too. When I introduced the new SMARTIES portion control options to my boys, they understood very quickly what was “allowed” (recommended) and actually felt quite proud of themselves for saving the rest for later! It’s a great way to teach kids about serving sizes and daily limits when it comes to confectioneries.
Now I’ve thrown a few terms at you throughout this post – portion, serving size, recommended daily allowance, etc – and you may have more questions. I know I did! Thankfully, I had the opportunity to chat with Kate Cole, Food and Nutrition Insight Manager at Nestlé Canada, and I’m pleased to share our Q&A with you!
1. Is there a difference between serving size and portion size?
Health Canada defines a serving size as a reference amount of food. On the other hand, a portion size is the amount of food that you plan to actually eat in a single sitting – this can be viewed as the amount of food you put on your plate. Depending on the food product, a portion size may be one or more servings according to the Canada Food Guide.
2. How does Nestlé determine serving sizes?
In contrast to popular belief, serving sizes are determined by Health Canada, not by food manufacturers such as Nestlé. Essentially, Health Canada issues serving sizes as a range to the food industry, allowing manufacturers to determine an appropriate serving size based on a variety of factors including product weight, size, and intended consumption. It’s important to keep in mind that with Canadian regulations, a serving size is not a recommended portion on behalf of a manufacturer, but simply a quantity of food that can be reasonably consumed by an individual at a given time.
3. Are portion sizes different across the globe?
Portion sizes vary greatly in different countries based on factors such as labeling regulations, and cultural and/or social norms.
4. If nutritional information is not available, are there tips to help Canadian parents eyeball portion sizes?
Using your hands and fingers as measuring devices is an easy – and fun – way to determine adequate portion sizes. Although measuring cups and scales are most accurate, the below chart can help you gauge portion sizes in a pinch.
Palm of hand = one serving of meat, chicken or fish
Computer mouse = one serving of pasta, rice or a medium potato
Tennis ball = one serving of yogurt, hot cereal or tofu
Thumb tip = one serving of butter or oil
2 Thumb tips = one serving of cheese
Both palms open = two servings of vegetables
5. How can Canadian parents teach their children about portion control?
There are many ways to introduce portion control to your children. Here are some of my top tips to teach your kids how to become portion pros:
1. Break out the Canada Food Guide: Educate your kids on what a balanced plate should look like by providing nutritious meals and snacks representing a variety of foods from Canada’s Food Guide. Know the amount of servings recommended for your child’s age group, and talk to your children about the Guide’s importance.
2. Ditch the “Clean Your Plate” Rule: Allow your children to listen to their internal cues to alert them when they’re full. Serve smaller amounts. They’ll ask for more if still hungry.
3. Serving Sizes are Guides, not Facts: Serving sizes are a quantity of food that can be reasonably consumed by an individual at a given time, not a recommended portion. Be mindful that serving sizes on food packages may not be the right portion for your child. Also, keep in mind that kids need to eat smaller amounts than adults.
I hope the above information will help you make informed decisions when it comes to portioning out food – especially treats – for your kiddos. We now enjoy smaller servings of certain foods (our SMARTIES last three times as long, winning!) and larger portions of others (though it’s never been hard to convince my boys to eat their veggies).
Do you have questions about serving sizes or portion control? Feel free to leave your comments and/or inquiries!