Having a bagel for breakfast can be a convenient and healthy way to start your day. There are a wide range of bagels and some are almost as bad for you as a slice of cake. Follow these simple guidelines to select one of the healthier options.
The average bagel has around 300 calories and is low in fat, but these factors can vary widely depending on the bagel's size and additional ingredients. Some store-bought bagels are about half the size of some restaurant bagels, and ingredients such as sugar, chocolate and cheese can quickly drive up calories and fat.
The healthiest bagels will generally be whole grain or multi-grain, which are high in fibre and low in fat and calories. Whole grain breads are also considered to be a healthy type of carbohydrate, the kind that is an important component of a healthy diet.
Next on the healthfulness scale are other flavours that are low in sugar and fat, such as plain, onion, everything, sun-dried tomato and pumpernickel. After that are flavours that are higher in fat but still low in sugar, such as sesame, cheese and egg.
Lowest on your list of choices should be sugary bagels like chocolate chip or cinnamon sugar. While both sugar and fat will add extra calories to your bagel, fat is the lesser evil in this case because it helps you stay full, whereas sugar tends to cause cravings. Also, it's rare to find a bagel that has an excessive amount of fat.
In addition to a bagel's ingredients, consider what you put on top of it. Adding butter or cream cheese to your bagel will greatly increase the amount of fat and calories in your breakfast. If you decide to add these items, use them sparingly. Avoid margarine, which is loaded with trans fat. Softening your butter before trying to spread it on your bagel can help a little bit go a long way. Also, consider low-fat or whipped cream cheeses, which are lower in calories but still add plenty of flavour.
For a more balanced breakfast that will keep you full longer, add some protein, such as smoked salmon or a slice of turkey, to your bagel.
If plainer bagel flavours don't appeal to you, consider eating just half of a higher-calorie bagel, preferably without butter or cream cheese.
Many restaurants publish nutrition information on their web sites or on flyers in their stores. See Resources below for links to bagel nutrition facts at several popular national chains.
If you're interested in how bagels stack up against other popular on-the-go breakfast options, check out the links to McDonald's and Dunkin' Donuts breakfast nutrition information.