You have probably heard bagels are fattening, not a healthy choice or the equivalent of a donut for breakfast. I beg to differ and see bagels an excellent opportunity for holding plenty of good eats. However, unless you know what to look for in a healthy bagel option, you may find yourself with one those starchy, additive laden varieties. Let's EAT Up a better bagel...
First, avoid: plain or flavored bagels. One plain bagel can have up to 250 calories from carbohydrates but no fiber. This means the carbohydrates will be broken down so quickly the bagel will act like 16 teaspoons of sugar in your blood (worse than eating a glazed donut!). These are the notorious bagels you have been hearing all the negative press about when it comes to unhealthy bagel options. Plain bagels are essentially 3 slices of white bread shaped like a circle. The only nutrition offered is through enriching the bleached flour. The flavored varieties are no better and may only added extra calories from sugar, cheese or harmful additives such artificial colors or flavors.
How do you pick a bagel that is good for you? Since many bagels in a deli do not post the ingredients, look for the name and ask questions. Better for you choices include pumpernickel, rye, whole wheat, and nine-grain. Ask if the first ingredient is whole wheat or whole grain, not refined flour. Size of the bagel is also important. Like so many other portions, bagels have really increased in size over the years. The average deli-bagel today is twice the size of the original 3-oz bagel. But you can't order just half-a-bagel but you can take the top off and have an open-faced sandwich.
Finally, it's the toppings that make or break the health factor of a bagel. Loading a bagel, even a whole wheat bagel, with cream cheese the same thickness as the bread is not recommended. Instead, think balance: the bagel offers plenty of carbs in the form of whole grains, so balance it out with proteins, fats, and veggies for additional fiber. A great combo includes avocado, lox, and sprouts. Or try egg white, tomato, and reduced-fat cheese. For a sweeter bagel, enjoy peanut butter and sliced banana, with just a little drizzle of honey.
Your guilt-free bagel cravings can be fulfilled by making informed choices, limiting portion size, and loading up with balanced toppings that offer plenty of nutrition. Take that donuts!