That hearty whole-grain bagel might seem like a healthy morning choice, but today’s monster-sized orbs might just land carb lovers in the hole. While bagels do offer a small boost of iron, fiber, and protein, at up to 360 calories a pop, they’re packing roughly 100 more calories and twice the carbs of the average doughnut— frosting and all.
Slow Your Roll — The Need-To-Know
Rather than bagels, muffins, and doughnuts, healthier sources of carbohydrates include fiber-rich whole-grain cereals, vegetables, legumes, and fruits  .A longtime coffeehouse staple, the traditional bagel is made from high-gluten flour, water, salt, yeast, and malt. Once rolled, boiled, and baked, the result is a carbohydrate-heavy concoction that, though delicious, quickly converts to sugar in the body. And while bagels once weighed in at just 3 ounces apiece, in today’s supersized nation, they often clock in at twice that. That’s about 70 grams of carbohydrates in one 4½ inch bagel— almost half the USDA’s daily recommended intake.
Getting A-round — Your Action Plan
But bagels aren’t all evil when ordered strategically. Look for whole-wheat options, which pack a healthy dose of filling dietary fiber. Just don’t take all “wheat” bagels at face value. Some are actually white flour bagels dressed up with food coloring and a few whole grains mixed in. They can also pack just as many calories and added sugar (hint hint, cinnamon raisin bagels!), so if nutrition facts are available, take a closer look. And when the rounds start looking a bit bigger than normal, there’s always the option to order it “scooped” (with the bready middle removed) to reduce the carb-overload. Or split it with a friend!
And while pre-packaged varieties aren’t necessarily as fresh and tasty as the bagel shop’s, portions tend to stay on the smaller side. Mini bagels are a great option too, sneaking in at about 70 calories each.
A final word to the wise: “schmear” with caution. While traditional spreads like cream cheese, whitefish salad, and smoked salmon might make a bagel feel complete, many restaurants slather on 2 ounces or more (that’s 4 times the recommended serving size), adding on an extra dose of unnecessary fat and calories.
Updated January 2012
- Carbohydrate intake and obesity. van Dam, R.M., Seidell, J.C. Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2007 Dec; 61 Suppl 1: S75-99.⤴
- Carbohydrate quantity and quality in relation to body mass index. Gaesser, G.A. Department of Human Services, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2007 Oct; 107(10): 1768-80.⤴