Bagels used to be seen as the healthy alternative to sugary cereal or still more sugary doughnuts, and as providing longer lasting energy than oatmeal or granola. However, as bagels have grown in size and toppings ran out of control, some have questioned how healthy a bagel can really be. Can you make a healthy breakfast out of a bagel?
The answer is yes – with the right bagel, and – just as importantly – the right topping(s). The real problem with the idea of a bagel for breakfast is that it rarely stops there – the schmear you add could be higher in calories than your roll with a hole itself.
If your bagel is half a foot in diameter and almost as tall as it is wide, that could be an issue. A proper New Yorker Bagel should be four inches or so across, and tall enough to slice in half without breaking or crumbling. A fresh bagel is best, as it provides the right chewy to crunchy ratio, and can be eaten warm with no additional adornment
Choose something with fiber – a whole wheat or mixed grain bagel will provide you a healthier start to your day, and can give you a bit of protein along with your carbohydrates. Complex carbs break down more slowly so you don’t get that crash and burn around noon when your blood sugar runs out of fuel.
Look at your toppings, and go again for protein over fat or carbs. Skip the massive schmear of cream cheese – or at least measure and don’t just slather. Look for other options such as nut butters, or avocado for a bump of protein and healthy fat that won’t break your calorie counter.
Some of the toppings you might want to compare before choosing include:
- Melted butter on a fresh hot bagel is delicious, but remember that you are using empty fat calories when you choose real butter. 2 Tablespoons of butter has 200 calories, 22 grams of fat, and no protein, so unless you are carb pounding and lean, it’s perhaps not the best choice.
- Cream cheese is healthier than butter; at 2 Tablespoons, the calorie count is just 98, there are only 10 grams of fat, and you do get a tiny bit of protein (less than 2 grams). The real trick here is not guesstimating – it’s easy to smear 2 Tablespoons on each half and then you’ve made it just as bad for you as butter.
- 2 Tablespoons of egg salad gives you just 55 calories and 3.6 grams of fat, and yields 3 grams of protein, making it a good low calories choice.
- 2 Tablespoons of peanut butter is a clear winner, with a whopping 8 grams of protein that offset the 198 calories and the 16 grams of healthier than butter fats.
- Finally, 2 Tablespoons of tofu cream cheese is another low calorie options, including just 60 calories, 5 grams of fat, and 1 gram of protein, if you can accept the substitute.
Plan ahead and factor your toppings into your bagel breakfast. With the right bagel and portion control, eating healthy can be delicious and filling!