Nutrition Column – the Basics About Bagels

Bagels are big business. Brought to America by Jewish immigrants in the 1800s, bagels have come into their own in the past 15 years. Not only do you find these boiled and baked rings of dough in supermarkets and on restaurant menus, but in the ever-growing number of bagel shops.

As bagels have become trendy, bagel bakers have looked beyond plain, sesame, poppy and cinnamon-raison varieties to such flavors as jalapeno-cheddar, sun-dried tomato and even chocolate chip. Another trend has been to increase the bagel’s size.

When Lender’s first introduced their line of frozen bagels more than 35 years ago, they weighed only about 2 ounces. You can still get Lender’s 2-ounce bagel, but you can also choose from "heavier" lines, like Lender’s Big’N Crusty bagels, at about 3 ounces each. If you grab your bagel from a bakery or bagel shop, expect even larger and heavier bagels. For example, bagels at Bruegger’s weigh about 3-1/2 ounces and those at Dunkin’ Donuts average more than 4 ounces each. The heavier the bagel, the higher the calorie count. Depending on their weight and ingredients, a bagel may contain 160 to 400 calories, and that’s without any toppings.

Toppings can easily add another 100 to 300 calories. For example, just 1 ounce of cream cheese (about two tablespoons) adds 100 calories and 10 grams of fat. Peanut butter, margarine and butter are even higher in fat and calories per ounce than cream cheese. Two tablespoons of butter contain 216 calories and 24 grams of fat; the same amount of peanut butter provides 188 calories and 16 grams of fat.

None of this is to say that bagels are unhealthful additions to your diet. Bagels themselves are relatively low in fat. However, like all foods, bagels and the toppings served on them need to be consumed in moderation. Choosing a smaller-sized bagel (or half a bagel), using a reduced-fat spread and spreading your toppings thinly are three ways to help keep calories and fat under control.

– 30 –

by Pat Kendall, Ph.D., R.D., Food Science and Human Nutrition Specialist, Colorado State University, Cooperative Extension