I know that dietary fiber is good. But what is more important when looking at nutritional information, dietary fiber or calories and fat content? I was comparing 2 oatmeals and one had “low sugar” but the dietary fiber wasn’t very high. However, the “weight management” oatmeal was higher in DF but also higher in calories, fat, and sugar. It gets king of confusing.

The first important step to label reading is to check the serving size. For example, frozen yogurt may seem like a “healthy” choice when compared to regular ice cream, but when four or five large scoops are ladled into a bowl, one might ingest several hundred calories (a single serving of frozen yogurt is typically only ½ cup). The amount of calories per serving is another important part of the label. If you are following a diet plan and have a calorie goal in mind, you can use the labels to compare similar products and determine which contains fewer calories.

The next part of the label to look at may depend on your dietary goals. If you have diabetes and are monitoring carbohydrate intake, I would suggest checking total carbohydrates and then looking at dietary fiber. Try to choose products with a high fiber content, as they will likely help keep you fuller for a longer period of time and can help control blood glucose levels. If a food has 5 grams or more fiber in a serving, subtract the fiber grams from the total grams of carbohydrate for a more accurate estimate of the carbohydrate content. If you have heart disease and are concerned with fat intake, the “total fat” section is next. Look for a breakdown of the type of fat contained in the food. Try to choose foods with a higher monounsaturated fat content and limit foods with saturated fats and trans fats. Keep in mind that some “low fat” or “fat free” foods have had the fat removed, only to be replaced by sugar and carbohydrates.

Choosing the “right” kind of oatmeal is person specific. The weight maintenance oatmeal does contain more fat, sugar, and calories, but is also contains more protein and fiber. These two components can help you to feel full and may help you control your calorie intake for the day, which might help one to lose weight. However, the low sugar option may be a better choice for someone that struggles with blood sugar management.

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