Bagel on Steroids?

New York is known for bagels, and New Yorkers all have their favorite place and feel very strongly about his/her opinion.  Ess-a-Bagel is a quintessential New York bagel shop that’s been in business since 1976!  It first opened on 1st Avenue @ 21st Street, but now has a 2nd location on 3rd Avenue @ 51st Street which is the one I went to.


If I had to vote on my favorite bagel, Essa-a-bagel wins hands down!  They are crispy on the outside and super doughy on the inside.  They are to die for if you get one fresh out of the oven.  My bagel choice is always their oat bran bagel (top right of photo).   They have recently added a whole wheat everything bagel that is growing in popularity as well.  The only problem with them is how HUGE they are.  Bagels are typically large, but these look like they are on steroids!  Therefore, I usually eat half, but I know that can be hard to do.

Yesterday I was in midtown for an appointment and decided to stop by Ess-a-bagel for a lunch treat and to bring home some extra bagels for my husband.   A very common New York way of ordering a bagel is “scooped out” which means they remove most of the dough from the inside to save calories.  Interesting right?  So I went for my favorite treat:  a hot oat bran bagel scooped out with low fat tuna salad, lettuce & tomato.

Tuna Bagel

This photo gives a good representation of how much it was scooped out – you can tell that most of the doughy area was gone.  This is a good tip to save some calories while still enjoying the bagel!  I was starving when I got the sandwich, so I had half and took the rest home to weigh later.  You can also tell how they load on the tuna salad!  I removed some, but was still left with a hefty amount.  Even with getting the bagel scooped out and ordering low fat tuna instead of regular, I knew this was more calories than my typical lunch – but that’s ok sometimes.

I called Ess-a-Bagel and they told me the bagels contain 80 calories per ounce.  I put one whole bagel on my scale and it came to a whopping 6 1/8 ounces!!  That’s the equivalent to more than 6 slices of bread!  Now would you sit down to 6 slices of bread? Probably not.  But would you eat this whole bagel?  Probably.   Once you add cream cheese, this simple bagel breakfast clocks in at ~700 calories!

Next up was weighing my half scooped bagel.  I removed all the tuna, lettuce & tomato and placed it on the scale.  The half bagel scooped out still had 2 1/2 ounces! That means that the half scooped bagel still had 5 ounces – WOW! Therefore, with tuna, this probably had 600-700 calories — even higher if it wasn’t low fat!

By scooping out the bagel you do save some calories, but as you can see, 400 calories is A LOT of calories for bread alone.  Some people can use this many calories — think endurance athletes, or people who are trying to gain weight.  But most of us do not and if you eat bagels this size on a regular basis you may start to see your waist expanding.

For comparison sake, I decided to buy an oat bran bagel from Whole Foods.  Here’s a photo of the Ess-a-bagel on the left & the Whole Foods bagel on the right.

Bagel Comparison

The verdict: 4 1/2 ounces – this is a little bit more “normal.”  However, 4 1/2 ounces of grains is a bit too much for most people at one time.  If you scoop this one you’re probably at 3 1/2 ounces which is fair.

Calorie Breakdown:

  • 1 Ess-a-Bagel: 490 calories
  • 1 Scooped Out Ess-a-Bagel: 400 calories
  • 1 Whole Foods Bagel: 360 calories
  • 1 Scooped Out Whole Foods Bagel (my guesstimate): ~280 calories
  • 1 Starbucks Bagel (4 ounces): 320 calories
  • 1 Dunkin Donuts Bagel: 330-400 calories

Keep in Mind: These numbers do not include toppings!

How to Eat an Ess-a-Bagel for Breakfast for only 350 calories!

  • 1/2 oat bran, whole wheat or whole wheat everything bagel
  • Topped with 1/2 cup egg whites or egg beaters with 2 TB low fat cheese and a slice of tomato

Nutrition Tidbit: Bagels

  • If you love bagels, you do not need to be without them
  • If you have them once in a while, then get you’re favorite combination, savor it, and stop when you’re full (ie try not to finish it all)
  • If you want to include bagels on a more regular basis, then choose a smaller one (3-4 ounce size), choose whole wheat, ask for it scooped out and add a protein for satiety: peanut butter; thin smear of low fat cream cheese & lox; or eggs (this will probably be 400-500 calories).
  • For those that keep breakfast calories lower, then only eat half the bagel!

23 Responses

  1. Wow! I wouldn’t have guessed a bagel could be equal to 6 slices of bread! Thanks for the tips. I found your blog via

  2. I like the tip about scooping out, but the doughy inside is my favorite part!! 🙂

  3. Those bagels look like they’re family-sized, haha 😀

  4. I found this really informative. Thank you! I don’t own a digital scale and always wondered about the Ess a bagels (I’m a fan of them also 🙂 I recently found out that H&H bagels from an article are actually the least caloric (around 280 to 320). I believe there’s one between 48th and 49th and 11th avenue but they sell them at all the Lenny’s restaurants. I was wondering about the calorie content of the Dunkin Donuts bagels also since I really like them. They vary in terms of size a lot depending on the dunkin donuts I go to so I just average out the amount of calories. Did you weigh the dunkin donuts bagel? I always assumed it was far more than 320.

    • H&H is on my list to test out next! But if I had to guess they would be around 4 ounces (320 calories). I did not weigh the Dunkin Donuts bagels, I found the information on their website.

  5. Great tips! “Real” bagels are always a highlight
    on our trips to NYC…never found lowfat
    whitefish salad, though…just have to get back
    on track next meal!

  6. Love bagels but they are def a “sometimes” vs an all the times food for me!!

  7. I just discovered your blog, and as a fellow New Yorker (and NYU grad student!) I love all of your NYC references. Great post, I love bagels every now and then, so I;ll have to stop by Ess-a-bagel. I’m a big fan of Murray’s.

  8. Wow, the bagels look delicious but the stats are scary! Don’t you love how they say “80 calories an ounce” instead of averaging the bagel or something? Makes it sound so harmless! It’s awesome that in NY you can actually ORDER tha bagel scooped. The first time I did that in a bagel shop in my hometown, they looked at me like I was ruining their product!

  9. Bagels, so delicious, so problematic. I wish more places would do mini-bagels. I like the experience of the whole bagel – the top and bottom are different to me, and I like when the toppings gather around or fill in the hole in the middle, but most bagels are just too enormous and heavy. Although, now that you’ve said the words “whole wheat everything bagel” I might have to treat myself sometime…

  10. Mini bagels would be a huge hit for me…I wish more places would offer them. 😀 Scooping out is also a good idea if it’s a more regular food choice too…I love that they’re willing to do that at that bakery! 😀

  11. I loved this post! I think posts with food comparisons are very helpful!

  12. Ess-a-bagel is my absolute favorite. I used to get the whole wheat with olive cream cheese and tomato. Jeez, now I’m wondering if it was like 700 calories. I didn’t think it was low cal (and it was definitely a treat food) but man. Scary. Thanks for this post! 🙂
    Oh and I don’t know how I feel about scooping out bagels. I feel like the inside is the best part. Hmm. Maybe I should try it before I knock it 😉

  13. This is fantastic!! I’ve been going to Ess-A-Bagel for years and have always wondered caloric content. I would love if you did something like this for New York pizza–which also seems to be on steroids.

    Thanks so much!

  14. I crave bagels almost daily. Walking by the bagel cart on my way into work and not stopping feels painful sometimes. But I always ask myself if it’s worth it, and I always decide it’s not, and this is a helpful reminder why.

    Seriously, though, I just don’t get the scooped phenomenon. I want my BREAD!

  15. I am acutely aware of how calorically and carbohydrate dense bagels are. But, you make a very good point : people generally see bagels as a “healthy” and “low-cal” food. Granted, the occasional bagel is not the end of the world. I love how you point out that one bagel is the equivalent of SIX slices of bread! Good morning, wake up call.

  16. Cool analysis!

  17. […] This post by Eve inspired me to ask them to scoop out the inside of my bagel. I thought I was going to miss the insides but I was wrong. The crunchy/chewy top is the best part of the bagel and this way everything was well contained inside instead of spilling out. I’m definitely going to start doing it more often! […]

  18. I have heard of doing this before but have never done it myself. I usually buy my bagels from Publix or Whole Foods… and eat half, rather than scooping out the bagel. But maybe I should give it a shot! I also get the Thomas WW Bagels, which are, I believe 250 calories per bagel – but maybe I should weigh it to double check the accuracy?

    Same with the Publix WW bagels… 200 cals per bagel…

    All very interesting! Thank you for posting this! 🙂

  19. I love bagels and could probably eat two bagels in one sitting (two of the big fluffy kind!). So, your tip about scooping out the inside is great. It never occurred to me to do that. I usually limit myself to a half of a bagel per week. I save that as a treat with my sister and we split one whole grain bagel and slowly enjoy that with our coffee. Thanks again!

  20. this is an amazing post. great tips and details! i haven’t had a bagel in a long time, but they are delicious!!!

  21. Fantastic enjoyable article. I’ll add it to my list now. Thanks for sharing ! 🙂

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