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Food & Recipes

You’ll Get the Most Out of Your Bagel by Cutting It Into Thirds — Here’s Why

Try this simple trick at your next brunch.


Few things in life are better than a bagel brunch. Give me a table covered in bagels and a variety of spreads, and I’m a happy woman. As a self-proclaimed bagel aficionado, I have plenty of tips for enjoying my most beloved bread — and I share them with anyone who will listen (or read!). Here’s a favorite: Instead of cutting your bagels in half, cut them in thirds.

Growing up, my grandfather sliced his bagels this way — three slightly skinnier slices versus two thicker ones. Here are a few reasons why it’s a great idea:

  • It increases your “spread to bread” ratio.
  • It lets you enjoy more spreads (because each third has a different topping).
  • It reduces food waste.
  • It reduces your carb consumption (because you can save the center slice for the next day’s breakfast or lunch, if you like).
  • It saves money (because when you remove the center slice and save it for later, you consume — and thus buy — fewer bagels).

My father continued my grandfather’s bagel-cutting tradition, and passed it on to me. Whenever I eat a bagel — because I always cut it into thirds — I think of them. Should you mix this quirky food hack into your family cooking traditions? I vote yes.

Why should I cut my bagel into thirds?

The first reason to use this quirky bagel-cutting technique? It increases your “spread to bread” ratio. That is to say:

  • When you have two bagel slices, each slice represents one half of your total bread — and each half has a “cut side” for spreading cream cheese, butter, and other toppings.
  • When you have three bagel slices, you reduce each slice to one-third of your total bread — and you increase the number of cut sides available for toppings. (Math folks will recognize this as better surface to volume ratio.)

If you find bagels dry, doughy, or difficult to chew or you just prefer more cream cheese, this trick will become your new favorite.

Second, cutting your bagel into thirds means you can have three instead of two different toppings. When I eat a bagel in thirds, I might put cream cheese and smoked salmon on one third, butter on another, and tuna salad on the last. Want a little dessert? Put savory toppings on two thirds of the bagel and a sweet one on the last third. Feeling wild? Stack a double-decker sandwich.

Third, if you’re someone who doesn’t always finish their bagel in one sitting, this trick will reduce food waste. Jenna Cartusciello, Senior Editor at First for Women, says her father also cuts bagels into thirds: “Cutting bagels in thirds and freezing them is a great way to reduce waste,” she points out. “Instead of eating half and throwing out the other half because you’re worried about carbs, just eat the third.” Saving food rather than throwing it out is good for the planet and for your pocketbook… and bagels freeze beautifully.

The fourth benefit to this bagel hack? It can reduce your carb intake. The thinner the slices, the fewer the carbs, which means that if you only eat two slices — and save the third for later, as mentioned above — your modified bagel has one-third fewer carbs (and because we eat with our eyes, you’ll likely experience no change in satiety).

Scientific evidence supports this technique: An Arizona State University study found that when 301 subjects were given bagels — some whole, some cut into pieces — those who ate the cut bagels ate less overall. Dividing the bagel (or any food) into more pieces can have the psychological effect of making you feel more full. One of the study’s authors concluded that “cutting up energy-dense meal foods into smaller pieces may be beneficial to dieters who wish to make their meal more satiating while also maintaining portion control.”

Some people order their bagels “scooped out,” a method wherein the bulk of the the bagel’s chewy dough is removed to reduce calories. Eating two thirds of a bagel instead of two halves is a similar principle, but it gives you more of the classic bagel taste — you have a little more bread than in a scooped out bagel, but less than you’d get in a whole bagel.

Last but not least, cutting bagels into thirds can help you save money. These days, a dozen bagels cost $7 to $15 on average. With food prices continuing to rise, seven bucks for 18 bagels sounds a lot better than seven bucks for 12.

Clearly, cutting bagels into thirds is a win-win: if you’re not dieting, you can go crazy with different toppings, and if you are dieting, you can feel fuller by eating less. Plus, eating three separate bagel pieces rather than two may force you to slow down and consume (and enjoy!) them more mindfully.

How do I cut my bagel into thirds?

If your bagels are smaller than average, you may want to stick to cutting them in half. If your bagels are large, use a sharp knife to slice through as you do when cutting it in half — but make two separate cuts instead of one. Be sure to cut slowly and steadily, and try to keep the slices as even as you can. (Of course, even lopsided bagel slices are delicious).

So, the next time you pick up some bagels, try my technique. You’ll be glad you did, whether you’re trying to eat less or simply want to test out a greater variety of toppings. And if you have some weird but tasty bagel tricks of your own, let me know in the comments — I’m always looking for new ways to savor this carb-filled delicacy.

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