The Guide to Store-Bought Cream Cheese

Learn how to shop for the best cream cheese.

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What’s Really in Your Cream Cheese? (3:28)

An essential spread for your morning bagel, cream cheese is a breakfast obsession loved by many. But before you indulge in the classic spread, you should know what ingredients might be hidden in your average store-bought cream cheese. Use these tips from chef Roblé Ali and The Dr. Oz Show medical team to help you navigate the cream cheese section at the grocery store. 

Classic Cream Cheese

Fresh cream cheese is made of cream, whole milk, and white vinegar but store-bought cream cheeses contain more ingredients known as "stabilizers". Stabilizers help the texture of cream cheese become thick, creamy, and easily spreadable. Plus, they extend the shelf life of cream cheese.

While stabilizers aren’t bad, it is important to know what’s in your product and make a conscious decision whether you want to consume it or not before it's spread on your bagel of choice. Take a look at the ingredients to see what other ingredients are in the cream cheese.

Low-Fat and Fat-Free Cream Cheese

Cream cheese branded as low-fat or fat-free is often presumed to be the healthier option, but that is rarely the case. There is usaully double the amount of ingredients in these options because companies use other additives to compensate for the loss of flavor.

While these low-fat and fat-free cream cheeses can help you cut down on your daily consumption of fat, added unhealthy ingredients like artificial colors, preservatives, modified food starch, and corn syrup are put in its place. If you want to eat cream cheese, it may be best to go for a small serving of the classic kind instead of indulging in a lot of the low-fat product.

Whipped Cream Cheese

Whipped cream cheese can let you enjoy the most spread for the least amount calories. Since it is whipped, it is a lot fluffier than the average cream cheese and contains more air. On average, about 1 1/2 tablespoons of classic cream cheese is about 160 calories. But with whipped cream cheese, you can spread 2 tablespoons for only 95 calories.

Flavored Cream Cheese

Flavored cream cheeses are a tasty option, but store-bought tubs are often packed with unhealthy ingredients to fake the taste. Companies often add purées, artificial dyes, and added sugars, leaving you with a product that can have up to five times more sugar than classic cream cheese.

To keep the flavored cream cheese taste without the added sugar, make a DIY flavored cream cheese at home. Simply mix store-bought cream cheese with your favorite fruit, add extra flavor with fresh chives, or get a delicious crunch without the excess calories by adding sesame seeds.

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