Who can resist the taste of a hot, fresh bagel first thing in the morning? You can't beat a bagel for convenience either. It's the ultimate grab-and-go food.
If there is a downside to bagels, it's that the average deli bagel can have up to 350 calories and 50 to 60 grams of carbohydrates—equal in carbohydrates to three or four slices of bread. Unless you plan to hit the gym after eating a bagel, there's a good chance some of those calories are going to settle on your hips, thighs, and belly. Top your bagel with a hefty serving of cream cheese, some butter, an egg, or bacon and, well, you can pretty much count on gaining some weight.
It's not that bagels are inherently bad. It's just that they aren't particularly healthy. Most bagels lack vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Without fiber, the carbohydrates in a bagel digest quickly, convert to sugar, and then, very possibly, to fat. Dieters are better off eating a 100-percent whole grain English muffin or a slice of whole wheat bread that contains at least 5 grams of fiber per serving.
Next time you crave a bagel, go ahead and enjoy it while considering these tips:
Mini-size your bagel. Instead of a regular-size bagel, ask for a mini bagel and you'll automatically cut down on calories and carbohydrates. Many bagel vendors, supermarkets and coffee shops now offer mini bagels in tasty varieties from poppy, cinnamon raisin, and blueberry to pumpkin and even chocolate chip. Switching to a mini bagel can save you upwards of 200 calories per day, which can translate into a 24-pound weight loss over the course of one year!
Go for whole grains. Whole grain bagels boast more vitamins, minerals, and fiber than regular bagels. Don't assume a bagel billed as whole wheat contains whole grain, though. Unless it is made with 100 percent whole-wheat flour, you'll be eating a standard processed-flour bagel.
Slim down your topping. Switch to non-fat cream cheese, or spreadable low-calorie flavored cheeses such as Laughing Cow, where one wedge has only 35 calories and 2 grams of fat. Other high protein, low fat options for toppers include low-fat cottage cheese, low-fat peanut butter, hummus, and egg whites with vegetables.
Scoop it out and save. Removing the soft interior of a bagel lets you enjoy the crusty exterior while saving about 100 calories per bagel. If you eat bagels on a regular basis, the difference can mean about a 10-pound weight loss in a year!
Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a nationally known registered dietitian based in New York and the creator of a proprietary high-fiber nutrition program for weight loss, wellness and for treating various medical conditions.
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