A whole-wheat bagel with cream cheese makes a filling and satisfying breakfast, but it works for a quick lunch as well. Besides its complex carbs and protein, this combination delivers B vitamins and calcium. To keep fat down, go with low-fat or fat-free cream cheese, but with any cream cheese choice, the total calories can fit into almost anyone’s diet.
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The Whole Wheat Bagel
A medium-sized whole-wheat bagel, which is about 3 inches in diameter, contains 245 calories. The calories come from 10 grams of protein, 1.5 grams of fat and 47.9 grams of total carbohydrates, with the carbs accounting for nearly 78 percent of the total calories. Before you add cream cheese or any other toppings, the calories in a whole-wheat bagel are already too high for a healthy snack, but they can easily fit in as part of a meal. The bagel's protein and complex carbs, which boost your metabolism and provide sustained energy, make it a perfect choice for breakfast.
Regular Cream Cheese
If you spread 1 tablespoon of regular cream cheese on your whole-wheat bagel, you'll add 50 calories. You now have a total of 295 calories. If your meal primarily consists of the bagel and cream cheese, you could splurge with a second tablespoon of regular cream cheese and bring the calories up to 345. Since Columbia University recommends consuming a breakfast that contains 350 to 500 calories, you're still well within a good calorie range and have room to add fresh fruit, vegetables, skim milk or juice to round-out the meal. However, there is a problem: Just 1 tablespoon of regular cream cheese contains 5 grams of fat.
Low-Fat and Fat-Free Cream Cheese
You can gain the creamy texture and flavor of cream cheese, yet reduce or eliminate the fat, by choosing low-fat and fat-free varieties. One tablespoon of low-fat cream cheese has 30 calories, while the fat-free type goes down to 19 calories. The total fat goes down to 2.3 grams in 1 tablespoon of low-fat cream cheese, while fat-free varieties have barely a trace of fat. With 1 tablespoon of low-fat cream cheese on a bagel, your total calories are 275. You'll get 264 calories from a whole-wheat bagel with 1 tablespoon of fat-free cream cheese.
Calories From Protein
No matter which type of cream cheese you use, it doesn't contain many carbs, but it does contribute more protein. The Institute of Medicine Recommends that 10 to 35 percent of your daily calories should come from protein, so if you're keeping track, it's good to know how many calories you'll get from protein. The whole-wheat bagel contributes 10 grams or protein and cream cheese adds 1 to 3 grams, depending on the type of cream cheese. That brings your protein total to 11 to 13 grams, or 44 to 52 calories.
Whole Grain Benefits
Choosing a whole-wheat bagel means you gain several health benefits from the whole grain's natural fiber. Dietary fiber protects your cardiovascular health by lowering cholesterol. It also helps keep your blood sugar balanced. In fact, you may lower your risk for developing Type 2 diabetes by as much as 30 percent by eating 2 to 3 servings of whole grains daily, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. One medium-sized whole-wheat bagel contains 4 grams of fiber. This amount represents 16 percent of women's recommended intake of 25 grams daily and 10.5 percent of men's daily fiber requirement of 38 grams.