The Truth About Schmears


Many New Yorkers order their bagel with a “schmear” … a creamy, tasty spread that’s perfect for slathering.  Indeed, any variety of schmears can elevate otherwise ordinary foods like toast, crackers, and pita.

But schmear with care because some are loaded with calories and fat, and eating them often can be downright bad for your health and waistline.

Here, we share with you the truth about schmears in the hope it will help you schmear wisely and deliciously.

Cream Cheese

You guessed it: Regular cream cheese is a diet killer. Just 2 tablespoons has 100 calories and 10 grams of artery-clogging saturated fat. Enjoy it once in a while as a treat, but for your heart’s sake don’t make full-fat cream cheese your schmear routine. The good news is that there are healthier alternatives that take it easy and still taste great, too.  Low-fat cream cheeses for example typically have 66 calories per 2 tablespoons, and 5 grams of fat. Go this route and you’ll cut the fat almost in half.  Better still, for the same two tablespoons fat-free versions of cream cheese contain only 30 calories and 0 grams of fat.

Switching to a lower fat version of cream cheese does not give you license to eat a lot of it, however. The right portion is two tablespoons – plenty satisfying, but noticeably less than the inch-thick schmear your neighborhood deli probably serves up. A great way to portion control cheese spread when you are on the go: pack some pre-portioned cheese like Laughing Cow Light Cream Cheese.


We think of hummus as a healthy food, and to some extent it is, considering that it’s made with chickpeas, which are high in fiber, protein and contains healthy fats. That said, hummus is also calorically dense, meaning just a small amount can have plenty of calories. Just two tablespoons of hummus can pack from 70-90 calories. Those calories add up fast, especially if you like to dip and spread your hummus with wild abandon. Many brands of store-bought hummus contain large amounts of oil and tahini, and this can drive up the fat and calories more that hummus you make yourself.  If you buy your hummus, be sure to check the nutrition label so you know what’s in a serving. 


When it comes to condiments, yellow mustard is nearly perfect. It has no fat, minimal calories, and scant sugar or salt.  Not all mustards are as innocent though. Take honey mustard, for example.  Some full-fat honey mustards contain up to 120 calories, and 11 grams of fat in just two tablespoons. Some commercial brands are flavored with high fructose corn syrup and even fat-free versions of honey mustard can be a far cry from the sensible savory standbys yellow or spicy mustard, which have a mere 5 calories per one tablespoon.


One tablespoon of regular full-fat mayo contains around 90 calories. The most obvious swap is to use light mayo, which will save you roughly 50 calories. But truth be told, mayo of any type is not a health food.  It’s mostly fat, and void of protein and fiber. There is a healthy swap for mayo that qualifies as a creamy and tangy spread. Whip some up in seconds by blending Greek yogurt, lemon juice, mustard with your choice of herbs and spices.  A spoonful or two is all you need to make your sandwich or salad healthy and delicious.

Fruit Jam and Jelly

Don’t be fooled by the word fruit.  Sure, whole fruit is super nutritious, but beware of fruit jams and jellies because some are calorie-laden, made mostly with fruit juices, corn syrup or cane sugar. Fruity schmears look and sound healthy, but many brands offer little to no nutritional benefit.  A serving size for most jams and jellies is just one tablespoon, so compare labels and choose one that gives you something healthy.  A standout winner in the jam and jelly aisle is Polaner’s Sugar-free Jelly. This product is made with real fruit and sweetened with Splenda, so one tablespoon has about 10 calories – figure about 80 percent less than sugary brands. And Polaner’s comes with a bonus, too: One serving boasts an impressive 3 grams of tummy satisfying fiber – that’s 10 percent of your daily requirement.