Cream Cheese Nutrition Facts

Calories, Carbs, and Health Benefits of Cream Cheese

cream cheese nutrition facts and health benefits

Photo: Alexandra Shytsman

Cream cheese is often touted as the healthier alternative to butter. But you might be surprised to know that the calories in cream cheese aren't always lower than the number found in butter. If you're trying to lose weight or eat a healthier diet, learn how to make healthy decisions when you include cream cheese in your meal plan.

Nutrition Facts

Cream Cheese Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 tablespoon (14 g)
Per Serving% Daily Value*
Calories 50 
Calories from Fat 44 
Total Fat 5g8%
Saturated Fat 2.8 g14%
Polyunsaturated Fat 0 g 
Monounsaturated Fat 1.2 g 
Cholesterol 16 mg5%
Sodium 46.5 mg2%
Potassium 20 mg1%
Carbohydrates 0.6g0%
Dietary Fiber 0g0%
Sugars 0.5 g 
Protein 0.9 g 
Vitamin A 4% · Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 1% · Iron 0%
*Based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Regular cream cheese is often sold in a bar form or in whipped tubs. You'll find it in the dairy section of most grocery stores. The way you buy the product will affect cream cheese calories and fat content.

A single serving of cream cheese (the kind sold in blocks) is one tablespoon. Popular brands like Philadelphia provide line markings on the package so you know exactly how much to consume per serving. According to that brand, a single one-ounce serving provides 100 calories.

But whipped cream cheese is much lower in calories. Why? Because the whipping process adds air to the cheese and fluffs it up, so it seems like you get more cream cheese for the same size serving. Some brands also add skim milk as an ingredient which lowers the fat content.

So how do the calories compare? Philadelphia Whipped Cream Cheese lists a serving size as two tablespoons on the package. That amount will provide 50 calories, 4.5 grams of fat and 3 grams of saturated fat, according to the manufacturer.

Calories in flavored cream cheese will also depend on the kind that you buy. Sweet flavors like mixed berry or strawberry cream cheese will have added fruit or fruit puree which will increase both the sugar and calorie count. Savory flavors like chive may have added salt, so the sodium content will be slightly higher but the calories will probably stay the same.

Carbs in Cream Cheese

There is very little carbohydrate in cream cheese. A single serving provides less than one gram of carbs (0.6 grams) primarily in the form of sugar. However, if you purchase certain types of flavored cream cheese, the carbohydrate content will increase.

For example, Philadelphia brand Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Spread contains 7 grams of sugar per serving. This flavor of cream cheese is whipped so the serving size is two tablespoons.

Fats in Cream Cheese

Most of the fat in cream cheese is saturated fat. There are five grams of total fat in a single serving of cream cheese and five grams are saturated fat. There is also a small amount of polyunsaturated fat (0.2 grams) and monounsaturated fat (1.2 grams).

Protein in Cream Cheese

There is slightly less than one gram of protein (0.9 grams) in a single serving of cream cheese. 

Micronutrients in Cream Cheese

Cream cheese provides some vitamins and minerals.

You'll benefit from a small amount of vitamin A (183 IU), vitamin K (0.5 mcg), folate (1.6 mcg) and choline (3.9 mg).

Minerals in cream cheese include calcium (14.2 milligrams), phosphorus (15.4 mg), magnesium (1.3 mg), potassium (20 mg), sodium (46.5 mg), and trace amounts of selenium.

Health Benefits

For some people, cream cheese provides a benefit because it is lower in fat and calories than butter. But it is not always a better choice.

In the battle between butter and cream cheese, your lower calorie and lower fat choice is cream cheese—if you compare the bar versions of both products. But if you compare the bar variety of cream cheese to whipped butter or lower calorie butter, then the cream cheese may be higher in fat and calories.

If you're trying to decide between butter and cream cheese in the morning when you prepare your morning meal, you should take more than just the calorie and fat content into account.

The nutrition of your meal will depend on a few factors.

  • How much you use. Cream cheese is often easier to spread on toast or a bagel. For that reason, it may be easier to use less cream cheese than butter. You'll consume fewer calories and less saturated fat as a result.
  • Which kind you use. If you use the whipped variety of cream cheese or the whipped version of butter, you'll cut calories as well.
  • Where you spread your topping. The bagel or toast that you put the spread on is likely to contribute more empty calories to your diet than the butter or the cream cheese will. White bread, bread products and bagels made from refined grains add carbs, calories, and very little nutrition to your diet. Choose a smaller serving of whole grain bread or bagels instead.

Common Questions

 Is low-fat cream cheese healthier?
Lower calorie cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese provides one-third less fat than the traditional variety. A single one-tablespoon serving provides 6 grams of fat and 4 grams of saturated fat. Neufchatel cheese is made from milk while traditional cream cheese is made from milk and cream. If you're trying to cut fat and calories in recipes you can use Neufchatel cheese instead of cream cheese.

Do I need to refrigerate cream cheese?
Cream cheese should remain tightly sealed and refrigerated. You can freeze cream cheese to use in recipes, but the texture will change. You probably won't want to spread it on toast or a bagel after it is thawed.

What is the best way to soften cream cheese to use in recipes?
When cream cheese is cold it can be hard to work with in recipes. The best way to soften it is to leave it on the counter for a short period of time. But if you don't have time, simply press the cheese with a pastry roller or with the palm of your hand to soften it. 

Recipes and Preparation Tips

If you love the cream cheese, you can get creative to keep it in your healthy diet. You may be able to find Greek cream cheese at your local grocer. Brands like Green Mountain Farm make this style of spread and it provides more protein and less fat than traditional versions.

You can also go light on the spread to keep the fat and calories in control. For example, if you usually love to eat a half bagel with jam and cream cheese for breakfast, make a healthier version instead. Scoop out the bagel to reduce carbs and calories, then spread a thin layer of whipped cream cheese and layer with real fruit. You'll not only cut fat and calories but you'll also reduce the amount of sugar you consume by swapping fresh fruit for jam.

You can also cook with cream cheese. Try one of these recipes:

Allergies and Interactions

People who have a dairy allergy or a milk allergy should avoid cream cheese as it contains cow's milk. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of milk allergy can range from mild to severe and may include wheezing, vomiting, hives and digestive problems. Exposure to milk may also cause anaphylaxis.

Additionally, people who are lactose intolerant may want to avoid cream cheese. You many symptoms such as nausea, cramps, gas, bloating and diarrhea if you consume the product. 

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