Can Bagels Be Healthy?

Kelly Hogan, MS, RD
by Kelly Hogan, MS, RD
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Can Bagels Be Healthy?

A warm, soft bagel is a classic go-to breakfast staple or part of weekend brunch. However, bagels often get a bad rap for being too high in carbs and many people deem them “off-limits.” The problem with seeing foods as “good” or bad” is it can lead to a negative relationship with food and backfire in the long-run. The truth is, like most foods, bagels can absolutely be part of a healthy diet.

Bagels are rich in carbohydrates, an important macronutrient the body needs for energy. The brain requires 130 grams of carbs per day to function optimally, and carbs are also important for fueling workouts and recovery. Since bagels contain a mix of protein, fiber and carbs, they are more filling and have more staying power — especially when opting for whole wheat over refined carbs.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A BAGEL

By choosing a bagel made from whole-wheat flour, as opposed to white, refined flour you’ll add more fiber, vitamins and minerals. Certain toppings can also add nutrient density and fiber, like seeds and nuts. Bagel size may also vary depending on where you get them from, and it’s important to take that into account when thinking about your hunger levels for any particular meal.

SHOULD YOU SCOOP YOUR BAGEL?

Scooping out a bagel, or removing a lot of the soft, delicious insides, reduces the amount of carbs but also takes some of the fun away. More importantly, it’s a waste of food, and not something I’d recommend doing. Instead, consider eating half of the bagel and saving the other half for later. You could opt instead for toasted bread or oatmeal if you’re looking for a lighter option.

HEALTHY TOPPINGS

Bagel toppings can also add nutrients that not only make the bagel more satisfying but also vary the texture and flavor. Even though typical bagel toppings, like cream cheese or butter, may not be the most nutrient-dense, they do have a place in a healthy diet when eaten occasionally.

Adding a protein like tuna, smoked salmon or eggs can give the bagel more staying power, and topping with veggies like tomatoes, cucumbers, leafy greens and onions can add crunch, fiber and extra vitamins. Using a bit of avocado can also boost fat content, making the bagel more filling and keeping blood sugar steady.

THE BOTTOM LINE

When it comes to diet and nutrition, it’s impossible to look at any one food in a vacuum when trying to figure out whether it’s “healthy” or not. The definition of healthy can also vary from person to person, and change from day to day. Instead, look at your diet as a whole over time. If you’re eating bagels all the time, chances are it’s not necessarily the healthiest option. But if you’re eating a variety of whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds, then bagels can absolutely be part of a healthy diet.

About the Author

Kelly Hogan, MS, RD
Kelly Hogan, MS, RD

Kelly Hogan, MS, RD is an NYC-based registered dietitian specializing in women’s health, sports nutrition and plant-based eating. She is passionate about helping people develop a positive relationship with food and their bodies, and uses a non-diet approach in her practice. When she’s not talking or writing all things nutrition, Kelly can be found running in Central Park – she’s run 11 marathons and counting! – cooking recipes new and old, handstanding at the yoga studio or hanging with friends and/or her rescue dog, Peanut.

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