Cream cheese is a popular soft cheese used in many recipes and as a spread for things like bagels and crackers. With its rich and creamy texture, cream cheese can add flavor and fat to dishes and snacks. But like many dairy products, cream cheese also packs a decent amount of calories per serving. So how many calories are actually in a tablespoon of regular, full-fat cream cheese?
Calories in Cream Cheese
According to the USDA, one tablespoon (15 grams) of regular cream cheese contains:
- 51 calories
- 5.1 grams fat
- 2.6 grams saturated fat
- 0 grams trans fat
- 2.3 grams carbohydrates
- 0 grams fiber
- 1.3 grams sugar
- 2.2 grams protein
- 125 mg sodium
So a single tablespoon of full-fat cream cheese provides just over 50 calories, most of which comes from fat. Cream cheese gets the majority of its calories from fat rather than carbs or protein because it is high in fat, at around 33-35% fat.
More specifically, cream cheese is high in saturated fat, providing 2.6 grams per tablespoon. Saturated fat has been linked to increased LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels when consumed in excess. But the American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat to no more than 13 grams per day as part of a 2,000 calorie diet. So one tablespoon would provide about 20% of your daily limit for saturated fat.
In addition to saturated fat, cream cheese also contains a small amount of cholesterol, at around 15-20mg per tablespoon. The daily recommendation for cholesterol intake is 300mg or less.
Cream cheese contains only a small amount of carbohydrates per serving. A tablespoon provides just 2.3 grams of carbs, which includes 1.3 grams of naturally occurring lactose (milk sugar). This small amount of carbs means that cream cheese has a very minimal effect on blood sugar levels.
Because of its low carb content, cream cheese can be included as part of low carb, ketogenic, and diabetic diets when consumed in moderation. Keep in mind that reduced fat or fat-free varieties may have slightly more carbs.
Cream cheese also provides a decent hit of protein at 2.2 grams per tablespoon. This comes to about 4-5% of the protein content by weight. Protein helps keep you feeling full and satisfied after eating.
Calories in Different Types of Cream Cheese
There are many varieties of cream cheese available today, which differ slightly in their nutrition profiles. Here’s how the calories compare in one tablespoon of popular types of cream cheese:
|Regular cream cheese
|Reduced-fat cream cheese
|Neufchatel cream cheese
|Light cream cheese
|Fat-free cream cheese
As you can see, reduced fat, light, and fat-free varieties of cream cheese have fewer calories per serving compared to regular full-fat cream cheese. This is because they contain less fat overall.
Regular cream cheese is considered full-fat, with about 35% fat content. It provides the highest amount of calories, at 51 calories in one tablespoon.
Reduced fat cream cheese has 25% less fat than regular varieties. A tablespoon of reduced fat cream cheese provides around 35 calories.
Neufchatel is a type of low-fat cream cheese that contains around 20-25% fat. It has slightly fewer calories than regular cream cheese at 43 calories per tablespoon.
Light or lite cream cheese is made with 2% milk rather than whole milk, reducing the fat and calorie content. Light cream cheese contains around 40% less calories than regular cream cheese.
Fat free cream cheese is the lowest calorie option, with just 25 calories in one tablespoon. It has negligible fat content.
Calories in Cream Cheese Spreads
In addition to traditional cream cheese, you can also find flavored cream cheese spreads. These contain additional ingredients like herbs, vegetables, smoke flavoring, and more to enhance the flavor.
Here’s how the calories compare in one tablespoon of popular cream cheese spread varieties:
|Roasted garlic herb
Flavored cream cheese spreads tend to be lower in calories than original plain cream cheese. However, sweet flavors like strawberry have more added sugar, which increases the calorie count.
Ways to Enjoy Cream Cheese
Here are some tips for enjoying cream cheese in moderation as part of a healthy diet:
- Use light or reduced fat varieties to cut calories.
- Measure servings instead of spreading freely.
- Use cream cheese to add flavor, not just extra calories.
- Enjoy cream cheese with foods that provide fiber, like whole grains and produce.
- Be mindful of saturated fat from multiple sources.
- Read labels to compare calories and nutrients.
Cream Cheese Nutrition Facts
Here is the full nutrition breakdown for a tablespoon (15 grams) of regular full-fat cream cheese:
|% Daily Value
As you can see, one tablespoon of cream cheese provides 51 calories and 5 grams of fat, mostly from saturated fat. It has minimal carbs and sugar. Cream cheese also contains a small amount of sodium, cholesterol, and protein.
Is cream cheese healthy?
Cream cheese can be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet when consumed in moderation. While it is high in saturated fat, cream cheese provides calcium and other nutrients. Just be mindful of portion sizes.
Is cream cheese high in calories?
Cream cheese is relatively high in calories, with about 51 calories in one tablespoon. The calories come mainly from fat. However, cream cheese is usually eaten in small amounts.
Is cream cheese Keto or Paleo friendly?
Full-fat cream cheese can fit into lower carb diets like the Keto diet or Paleo diet since it has minimal carbs and sugar. But portion control is still important.
Can you freeze cream cheese?
Yes, cream cheese can be frozen to extend its shelf life. Thaw it in the refrigerator before using. Freezing may cause some texture changes but it will still be safe to eat.
Is cream cheese processed?
Cream cheese is technically considered a processed food since it goes through steps like pasteurization, curdling, draining, salting, and aging to be made. But these processes help ensure cream cheese is safe to eat.
The Bottom Line
A tablespoon of regular, full-fat cream cheese provides around 51 calories and 5 grams of fat. Reduced fat varieties of cream cheese contain 25-40% fewer calories. Cream cheese can be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet when eaten in moderation, paired with foods that provide fiber and nutrients. Just be mindful of portion sizes.