Bagels: Good or Bad?

by in Healthy Tips, January 12, 2010

Who doesn’t love a bagel for breakfast, but boy are they a calorie-dense breakfast. People are always surprised — and a little freaked out — to hear how many slices of bread actually equal a single bagel. Here’s the good and the bad.

Nutrition Facts
A modest, medium-sized, plain bagel (about 3.5 to 4 inches in diameter) has about 300 calories and 1.5 grams of fat. The bagels your local bakery or bagel shop serves are probably MUCH larger than this, weighing in at closer to 500 to 600 calories a pop. To compare, that’s like eating six slices of bread! Add on some regular cream cheese at 50 calories and 5 grams of fat per tablespoon and you’ve already polished off a third of the average 2,000-calories-a-day diet.

What Is It About Bagels?
How can there be such a discrepancy between bagels and bread? It all comes down to density. Bagels are more dense — imagine those six slices of bread squeezed together. This is what gives bagels their chewy texture but also ups the calories.

As for the different bagel flavors, some have more calories than others. A chocolate chip or French toast bagel will have more calories than a plain; while a poppy seed or pumpernickel bagel have about the same as the plain. A lot of folks order wheat bagels, thinking they’re the healthier choice. Many “wheat” bagels just contain a small amount of wheat flour, which means they aren’t really whole grain. If they’re “whole wheat” they may have a bit more fiber but the calories will be the same (if not a bit higher). Bagels loaded with nuts and seeds on top may appear super healthy, but may have as much as 100 calories more calories and more fat.

Hope for Bagel Lovers
The good news is that the calories from bagels are nutritious and good for you (when you forgo the chocolate chips or sugary toppings), so you can make room for them in your diet.

As is often the case, portion size is most important. Opt for smaller bagels and stick to just a half. A single-ounce portion of a bagel (about the size of one of those mini-bagels) has 80 calories; use this as your guide on your next trip to the bagel shop. Instead of globs of full-fat cream cheese, get the light version to cut the calories and fat by almost 50%. Or choose other high-protein toppings such as peanut butter, smoked salmon, hummus or a scrambled egg — they will help fill you up and keep you from going for that other half of the bagel. If you’ll be tempted, offer to split a bagel with a family member or work friend.

And what about “hollowing out” your bagel? Sure, people do this and it saves calories (how many depends on how much bread you dig out), but it seems awfully wasteful. It’s much smarter to stick to half a bagel and just enjoy the other half for another breakfast.

Bottom Line: Save the bagels for one day a week. When you do enjoy it, have a half along with some protein to help keep you satisfied.

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Comments (19)

  1. Becky says:

    Avgolemono Soup (Greek Egg-Lemon Soup)

    1 (48-oz.) can chicken broth (or fresh chicken stock)
    2 cups water
    3/4 cup orzo pasta
    1/2 stick butter
    1/4 tsp. salt
    1/8 tsp. black pepper
    3 eggs, separated
    Juice of 1 large fresh-squeezed lemon

    1. In a medium saucepan, combine broth and water and bring to a boil. Add orzo, butter, salt and black pepper. Cook until orzo is tender, about 20 minutes.

    2. Separate eggs, placing egg whites in a medium bowl. With electric hand mixer, beat egg whites until stiff white peaks form, then add egg yolks and lemon juice to create the egg-lemon mixture.

    3. Remove soup pot with broth from stove. Using a soup ladle and a hand mixer, continue to beat the egg-lemon mixture on low speed, adding 2 to 3 ladles of hot broth to the egg-lemon mixture, a little at a time, to prevent eggs from curdling.

    4. Add the egg-lemon mixture into the soup pot with the orzo and whisk together gently. Serve immediately in soup bowls.

    Note: Serves 4-6. To reheat this soup, heat on medium-low heat; do not boil! I you would like, you can add cooked chicken meat to the soup.

  2. @ozroandrays says:

    YOLO! Eat up and enjoy your bagels. Life is too short to deny the pleasures.

  3. Bagels: Good or Bad? | Healthy Eats – Food Network Healthy Living Blog

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  6. P J Richardson says:

    I love[d] them too!! But since I've read all these comments, I've decided to eat something else.Thanks for posting this info.

  7. Barbi says:

    I have tried the WW bagels. They are lower in points and suppose to be much healthier, but I found the taste a little lacking for me. I had to heap lots of FF cream cheese on it to make it worth it. I splurge maybe once a month and have a regular old bagel.

  8. tony says:

    BMR is largely based on your body weight. Someone that weighs 120 pounds will have roughly half the BMR of someone that weighs 240 pounds – given similar body compositions. Someone that is built on a large frame and is physically active all day (construction, landscaping), or engages in periods of high activity every day (works out every day) can likely eat a bagel a day with no negative consequences, though it also depends in large part on the rest of their diet.

  9. tony says:

    Well, that's not completely accurate. They have a lot of nutritional value – they are high in carbs, and so are a good energy source. Going on a 50 mile bike ride? A bagel is probably your best breakfast. So there is room in your diet for a bagel. Every day? Probably not. But if someone is active, they can eat bagels and lose weight. It all depends on their level of activity and the rest of their diet.

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