Bagel vs. Donut: What Is the Healthier Breakfast Option?

bagel vs. donut

It’s the great breakfast debate—which is healthier: a bagel or a donut? Immediately when thinking about this, the answer may seem obvious. The bagel, of course. But, the bagel vs. donut battle may be closer than you think.

Now before we get started, I just need to preface: both bagels and donuts are delicious and can be included in a healthy and balanced diet. Without a doubt, there are more nutritious breakfast options, but if you enjoy bagels as much as I do and are a sucker for donuts in the office or even just as a sweet treat, they have a place in your diet and do not need to be labeled as forbidden.

Bagel vs. Donut: Let’s Debate

Bagel Facts

Let’s begin with bagels. Bagels are commonly viewed as breakfast items. You can eat them plain, as a sandwich, or classically with a smear of cream cheese.

For our comparison, we are just going to look at the average plain bagel. One basic, plain bagel has 277 calories, which is a little higher, but not significantly, than the calories in one glazed doughnut.

However, carbohydrate-wise, just one plain bagel comes in with 55 g of carbohydrates—that is approximately the equivalent to 4 slices of bread! But the real shocker about bagels is their very high sodium content. Just one plain bagel can account for a good chunk of your daily recommended intake of sodium with a whopping 443 mg, meaning just a few bagels can take you well beyond your daily intake.

Donut Facts

On the other hand, donuts are widely known as anything but healthy, and generally, this is true. I mean, there is little nutritional value when it comes to deep-fat-fried dough covered in sugar, not to mention all the added fillings and toppings added to many donuts. Nonetheless, a simple glazed doughnut brings with it 240 calories, 33 g of carbohydrates, and 270 mg of sodium.

Bagel vs. Donut: Who’s the Winner?

With this in mind, you could make the broad statement that donuts are indeed healthier than bagels. At least at this surface level. The reasoning comes down to carbohydrates and sodium. Again, while this can vary based on the type of doughnut you have, carbohydrates and sodium are not as high in doughnuts as they are in bagels.

Nevertheless, there is still more that needs to be considered in this comparison. One important distinguishing factor between a bagel and a donut is the amount of fat in each. A bagel has about 1.4 g of fat, whereas a donut has about 11 g of fat, with 4.5 g of that being saturated fat.

Donuts can also contain trans-fat, which, unlike other fats, raise your “bad” (LDL) cholesterol and lower your “good” (HDL) cholesterol. The high sugar content can additionally lead to a blood sugar crash that can lower mental acuity and leave you feeling fatigued. From this perspective, the scale tips a little more in favor of bagels being the healthier choice.

Can You Make Bagels and Donuts Healthier?

Regardless of whether you are team bagel or team donut, there are ways to make each a part of a healthy diet. The key here is adding instead of subtracting, which can guide you to make any meal more filling and nutrient-dense without giving up the foods you love.

Metabolic Age Quiz

You see, your morning bagel can easily be re-routed into good territory by adding the right toppings. First off, a multi-grain or whole-wheat bagel is a healthier choice as it will be higher in fiber and nutrients. Plus, topping your bagels off by adding healthy proteins, veggies, and fats will help slow the breakdown of carbohydrates, which can lead to feeling fuller, longer and minimizing blood sugar spikes and crashes.

An example of some good bagel additions includes smoked salmon, tomatoes, peppers, turkey, eggs, cheese, or even peanut butter! If you want to go above and beyond, try out our Keto-Approved Everything Bagel Recipe!

Unlike bagels, it is difficult to top your donut with healthful toppings, but what you can do is add other items to your meal when you know you are going to enjoy a yummy donut. For instance, try pairing your donut at breakfast with some eggs, high-protein Greek yogurt, or even a glass of your favorite protein powder mixed into your preferred milk, so you can start the day feeling full and satisfied (and reduce the sugar crash) while still enjoying your favorite treat.

Or, again, you can make almost everything healthier by just making it yourself. Ever tried making donuts at home? Give our Oreo Cheesecake Protein Donuts a try—they will not disappoint!