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You’re running late for work and have no time to make breakfast. So, you make a quick stop at Dunkin’ Donuts and grab a bagel with cream cheese and a coffee on your way to work. You’re trying to be more health conscious and you heard that bagels were a wholesome way to start your day. But are they?
Are bagels healthy?
Many people can’t resist the taste of a hot, fresh bagel in the morning. However, bagels are not as healthy as some people claim. Here are three reasons why bagels might not be the healthiest choice.
- High in calories: Bagels tend to be high in calories. The average bagel has around 300 calories, with some having quite a bit more than that. How many calories a bagel has depends on the type of bagel you eat (plain, wheat, blueberry, cinnamon raisin, etc.) and the size of the bagel. The average plain bagel has the same amount of carbohydrates as 3 or 4 slices of bread (an average slice has about 90 calories). But the likelihood of you eating that many slices of bread is unlikely. However, with bagels, people often have more than one because they like the taste so much. So, people end up consuming a lot more calories than they think and therefore eat more calories during the day than they otherwise would.
- Unhealthy toppings: The second problem is that most people don’t eat bagels plain. They add unhealthy toppings that are high in saturated fat and calories, such as cream cheese, butter, ham, bacon and egg on their bagels. Those toppings make the bagel even more unhealthy. Here is an example of a commonly eaten bagel:
- A Dunkin’ Donuts plain bagel with plain cream cheese has almost 500 calories. It also has 9.5 grams of saturated fat, which is 50% of the recommended daily value (RDV) for someone on a 2,000 calorie diet. Getting 25% of the calories and 50% of the saturated fat that you are recommended to get in a day from one breakfast item, isn’t good.
- Low in vitamins, minerals & fiber: Plain bagels are not very high in nutrients. Some of the other varieties are better, but almost all are low in fiber, which results in the starches in the bread being quickly converted to sugar. This will give you quick energy, but it will not be sustained energy. This means your energy level will ebb faster and you will be hungry again sooner than if you had consumed a fiber rich food, such as 100% whole grain bread. This can result in you consuming more calories during the day.
Can I still eat bagels without being unhealthy?
If you are choosing among different bread products, you are better off eating 100% whole grain bread or an english muffin in the morning, since they have less calories. But if you can’t give up bagels, there are a few things you can do to make them a little healthier.
- Choose a smaller size: Go for a smaller bagel, such as a mini bagel. You will save a lot of calories that way. Or if you are unable to get a smaller size, only eat half of the bagel and save the other half for another meal.
- Find a whole grain bagel: Whole grain bagels have more nutrients and a lot of fiber, which makes you feel more full and slows down the conversion of starch to sugar. That gives you a one, two punch of eating less calories and having the calories you get give you energy for a longer period of time. Plus eating enough fiber helps reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease and bowel disorders. Unfortunately, it is very hard to find whole grain bagels. And be careful because just like with wheat bread, wheat bagels are mostly white flour with a little whole wheat thrown in. You need to find one that is labeled as 100% whole wheat flour.
- Choose healthier toppings: Watch the toppings that you put on your bagel. Instead of spreading high fat cream cheese, switch to hummus, low fat cream cheese, cottage cheese or just eat your bagel plain. The key is to not add too much unneeded fat to the bagel. Some fat is good, but most people get more than they need throughout the day.
The bottom line:
If you are on a diet or watching your weight, bagels may not be the best breakfast option for you. Most don’t have many nutrients, are low in fiber and are not a low calorie food. While they may be convenient and tasty, they are not especially healthy. So, if you are trying to watch your weight, try not to eat too many bagels too often!