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Is a Bagel a Healthy Breakfast Food?

author image Natalie Stein
Natalie Stein specializes in weight loss and sports nutrition. She is based in Los Angeles and is an assistant professor with the Program for Public Health at Michigan State University. Stein holds a master of science degree in nutrition and a master of public health degree from Michigan State University.
Is a Bagel a Healthy Breakfast Food?
Assorted bagels waiting to be eaten. Photo Credit: bhofack2/iStock/Getty Images

Breakfast can help you control your weight, be more productive throughout the morning and give you a better chance of meeting your daily nutrient requirements. A healthy breakfast should fit within your calorie budget and include a whole grain, a good source of protein and some fruit or a vegetable. A bagel can be a healthy breakfast food if you choose it carefully and build a breakfast that includes other nutritious options, too.

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Calorie Count

A 5-ounce, large, plain bagel from a bakery or coffee shop can have 300 or more calories, which can put you on track for a higher-calorie breakfast and day than you intended. The calorie content is higher if the bagel has added sugars, as is common in blueberry and cinnamon-raisin bagels. Plain mini-bagels can have 70 calories each, making them easier to fit into a calorie-controlled breakfast. Bagels are low-fat, and most of their calories come from carbohydrates.

Whole Vs. Refined Grains

Bagels are healthier breakfast choices when they are whole-grain rather than refined products. Whole grains, such as whole-wheat bagels, contain the bran, germ and endosperm components of the bagel, making them higher in dietary fiber and antioxidants than refined grains, such as white bagels, according to Harvard School of Public Health. They are also natural sources of certain B vitamins. Choosing whole grains instead of refined can lower your risk for heart disease and type-2 diabetes. You should get at least half of your grains from whole-grain sources, and choosing a whole-grain bagel for breakfast can help you meet these recommendations.

Vitamins and Minerals

A healthy breakfast is rich in essential nutrients, and enriched bagels provide some of these nutrients. Each ounce of a fortified bagel has 1.7 milligrams of iron, or 9 percent of the daily value for this essential component of healthy red blood cells. It also has 64 milligrams of folate, 16 percent of the daily value. In addition, fortified grains have thiamin, niacin and riboflavin. A balanced breakfast should include a good source of protein, but a 1-ounce bagel has only 3 grams, or 6 percent of the daily value. Have some yogurt, peanut butter, cooked egg whites or low-fat cheese with your bagel to increase the protein content of your breakfast.

Toppings and Other Considerations

The nutrient content of your breakfast depends largely on the foods you eat with your bagel. Full-fat cream cheese and butter add saturated fat and calories, while peanut butter is a nutritious spread. Include some fruit or vegetables by adding lettuce and tomatoes on a bagel with fat-free cottage cheese or eating peach slices with a bagel and yogurt. Avoid ordering high-sugar coffee beverages if you order your morning bagel at a quick-service restaurant.

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