The Healthiest Choices at Panera Bread

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
2/23/2014 10:00 AM   :  208 comments   :  114,915 Views

These days, it can be really tough to find a bite to eat on the go that won't break the calorie bank. Fast food chains are convenient, but most options are loaded down with excess calories, fat and sodium. Panera Bread has emerged in recent years as a healthier choice in a sea of burger joints. Although some of its menu items aren't the greatest (720 calories for a bowl of clam chowder, anyone?), we've scoured the menu to find some decent choices the next time you find yourself in a pinch for food—right now.

Panera has stepped up their nutritional game recently with their Power Menu, a selection of high-protein, low-carb entrees with some seriously impressive nutritional stats. We've included some of them in our top six favorite healthy Panera entrees below, followed by 10 more of our honorable mentions. (Note that salads do not include dressing nutritional information.) 

Power Breakfast Egg White Bowl with Roasted Turkey 
This breakfast bowl is a real powerhouse that will keep you full all morning long. Not only is it only 170 calories, but it also boasts a whopping 26 grams of protein! It's also low in fat, carbs and sodium compared to many of Panera's other menu items. We love the bright, fresh flavors of pesto and red pepper, too.

Power Steak Lettuce Wrap 
Build your own crunchy lettuce wraps with this fun-to-eat bowl! This dish has one of the lowest sodium counts on Panera's menu. It's a high-protein, low-carb choice, and at just 210 calories for the whole thing, it definitely won't weigh you down.

Half Thai Chicken Salad
Another healthy, filling salad option, the Thai Chicken Salad is an old standby. The half portion is a modest 240 calories, but it sure doesn't taste like it. This bowl is brimming with roasted edamame, Thai cashews and crispy wonton strips. We love it with a side of fruit for a satisfying, low-calorie meal.
 
Half Roasted Turkey & Avocado BLT on Sourdough Bread 
You can have your sandwich and eat it, too with this substantial, yet low-calorie lunch option. Creamy avocado and salty bacon are a perfect texture and flavor combination. And not only is this sandwich tasty, but it's only 250 calories for a half portion, with 19 grams of filling protein to boot. Get the "You Pick Two" with a side salad for a low-calorie lunch that will hold you over until dinner.

Half Fuji Apple with Chicken Salad
At just 310 mg of sodium, this meal is great for anyone watching his or her salt intake. We love the sweet and savory flavors and the crunch from the apple chips and pecans. This hearty salad is only 270 calories for a half portion, and will fill you up with its 16 grams of protein.
 
Power Chicken Hummus Bowl
The double-whammy of protein and fiber in this substantial bowl will kick your hunger to the curb—and it tastes great! Jalapenos add a kick to the bold flavors of cilantro and lemon juice, and the creamy hummus brings everything together and adds staying power. Did we mention it's only 330 calories for the whole thing? Yum!

Below are some of our other favorite healthy meal options from Panera. Scan the menu for one of these the next time you're on the go!
 
Menu Item Calories Fat (g) Carbs (g) Protein (g) Sodium (mg) Fiber (g)
Power Breakfast Egg White Bowl with Roasted Turkey 170 4.5 5 26 500 1
Power Steak Lettuce Wrap 210 10 7 24 240 2
Half Spinach Power Salad 220 14 16 8 350 2
Half Greek Salad with Shrimp 230 17 7 15 690 2
Half Wild Salmon Caesar Salad 240 15 8 17 320 1
Half Thai Chicken Salad 240 9 21 19 550 4
Half BBQ Chicken Salad 240 10 22 16 280 3
Half Roasted Turkey & Avocado BLT on Sourdough Bread 250 9 25 19 490 3
Half Tuna Salad on Honey Wheat Bread 260 8 32 14 580 3
Half Fuji Apple with Chicken Salad 270 17 17 16 310 3
Power Breakfast Egg Bowl with Steak 270 17 6 24 440 3
Power Mediterranean Roasted Turkey Salad 290 16 9 26 800 4
Half Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich on XL Tomato Basil Bread 290 7 48 11 700 4
Power Chicken Hummus Bowl 330 14 20 25 550 7
Half Napa Almond Chicken Salad Sandwich on Sesame Semolina Bread 350 13 44 15 590 3
Half Chicken Caesar Sandwich on Three Cheese Bread 370 16 35 22 630 2
 
Which one of these meals looks good to you? What's your favorite healthy choice at Panera? 


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Comments

  • THAMASAKI
    208
    Perfect! Thanks so much! I just made a huge mistake yesterday with my Panera choices, today I'm gonna try the Thai Chicken! - 2/27/2014   10:24:02 AM
  • 207
    If the bread is made with wheat and gluten, it sure won't work for me! - 2/26/2014   12:59:04 PM
  • 206
    As a nurse I don't consider these to be all that healthy choices either - most are low on fiber and high on sodium. Too many highly processed carbs. - 2/26/2014   10:13:07 AM
  • CHERRYZMB60
    205
    Half Tuna Salad on Honey Wheat Bread. it has the least amount of fat which i am watching very closely - 2/25/2014   2:28:22 PM
  • 204
    Thanks for the tips! I went to Panera for breakfast after reading this and tried the egg white and roasted turkey with pesto bowl. So yummy and more balanced than my usual two hard-boiled eggs. The only problem was having to ask for it, since it's not posted and is listed on their website under Hidden Menu. - 2/25/2014   10:59:42 AM
  • 203
    Thanks for posting this. I think I'm going to hit Panera for lunch today! - 2/25/2014   8:33:44 AM
  • 202
    I enjoyed seeing this. It gives me some information on what I can order other than the same thing I have always been ordering. Would probably still get the full size because I usually only eat 1/3 and take the rest home for later meals and it costs less that way (having 3 in 1). - 2/24/2014   9:26:39 PM
  • NETCHAZZ55
    201
    Panera Bread is one of my favs. Love the salads but always get the dressing on the side....
    - 2/24/2014   10:59:34 AM
  • 200
    Also, if you really want something sweet at the end of your meal, the muffies won't break the bank. I specifically like the pumpkin muffie. I would rather have that with my half sandwich than a baguette. - 2/23/2014   10:55:36 PM
  • 199
    I wonder why the Steel Cut Oatmeal is not on this List? It is Awesome!! - 2/23/2014   10:53:06 PM
  • 198
    I love the Mediterranean veggie sandwich. Our Panera does let you order just half a sandwich. I also like their flavored unsweetened tea.
    If I have a sugar craving, I love the Cinnamon crunch bagel. It's so good I don't even need cream cheese spread on it. They will also toast the Mediterranean veggie sandwich and add caramelized onions if you ask. :) - 2/23/2014   10:52:16 PM
  • JANETEMILY
    197
    I don't eat there that often anymore, as I usually eat at home these days. However, I've always loved Panera, and they were one of the first chains to have a nutrition calulator. I am not a big sandwich eater so I rarely order one, but I enjoy their salads (WITHOUT their dressings, not too healthy) and I love most of their soups! I just allow for the higher sodium at other meals. But I don't feel extra sodium every week or two is that harmful. And their soups are fresh and usually full of vegetables! I NEVER liked mushrooms until trying their Country Mushroom soup this winter...now it's my favorite! - 2/23/2014   9:19:27 PM
  • 196
    I don't eat bread at all but I eat at Panera frequently...at least once a week and maybe more than that. My lifestyle makes it difficult to eat at home, though we do try. But for those times when we can't, Panera has become my favorite standby. I enjoy the chicken hummus bowl, the turkey egg white bowl, and some of their other salads. Since I only eat small meals, I usually just order the HALF if it is available - like half a salad. I tend to be quite full after eating a half serving. Sometimes I treat myself to some of their other things, like their pastas, though they are certainly not as healthy as the stuff. But I do treat myself on occasion, especially if I for some reason have extra calories on a particular day. - 2/23/2014   8:43:05 PM
  • 195
    not real veg friendly :( i think i've usually gotten soup, don't eat there often. - 2/23/2014   5:56:22 PM
  • 194
    I find the sodium content in their food incredible high and don't ever eat there for that reason. - 2/23/2014   3:40:39 PM
  • 193
    The Half Thai Chicken salad does not have enough fiber. You get mixed greens ONLY with the Full salad. The trick is to order the fixings (other than the crushed peanuts and the edamame) all, each on the side ...

    Oh, and I just learned you can also swap a small MacIntosh apple or small bag of chips for that oversized, gluten-rich piece of bread included with the salad ... - 2/23/2014   2:11:13 PM
  • 192
    They ALL look good to me! - 2/23/2014   1:10:28 PM
  • 191
    Good to know. One is opening up in my area. So if I just have to eat lunch one day it's nice to know what to look for. I thought Subway was my only choice.
    Some of those choices sound tasty., will see if I can make at home. - 2/23/2014   11:53:21 AM
  • 190
    I enjoy Panera Bread and appreciate this Blog. Panera Bread has a wonderful meal calculator available online. One can view the menu and select various menu items to see how the nutritional information stacks up. Our Panera also has WiFi available. So, if one has access to the web on the go, it is possible to check in online for the nutritional information prior to making a purchase. - 2/23/2014   10:15:16 AM
  • 189
    As far as breakfast is concerned they have a breakfast power sandwhich for 340 cal with cheese, 250 without. High in sodium but also high in protein. - 3/28/2011   10:40:53 AM
  • MYDOGJAX
    188
    It's so disappointing that one meal will cost me a full days allotment of sodium. I like the black bean soup and always thought it was a healthy choice, but i guess not. - 2/4/2011   11:21:51 AM
  • 187
    nice posting - 12/30/2010   2:43:18 PM
  • PAMELA4101
    186
    I think the information in this blog was great! I did not particularly like what I read about the panera bread (isn't it a shame not all news is 'good' news?) Very informative. So clicking on the icon for liking this one was a bit tough for me. :) - 7/22/2010   11:38:19 PM
  • 185
    I love, love, love their souffle... and found a recipe online and now make then at home, which is always better and cheaper.

    Its always a good thing to know what your getting yourself into, thanks for posting - 3/19/2010   6:01:52 PM
  • LINDALEE51
    184
    I too love panera (and hate they did not offer the Harvest salad this winter in our area). It is wonderful to have these guidelines for my next visit. - 3/18/2010   9:38:08 AM
  • TOMNJERI
    183
    I love Panera, but stay away because I thought there wasn't anything there for me. Now I know what I can eat . Thanks. - 3/15/2010   1:20:58 PM
  • TLAUER1
    182
    I was already aware of how high in cals their sandwiches are so I never eat more than half a sandwich and always with an apple - 1/7/2010   12:22:50 PM
  • 181
    I love Panera...their Black Bean Soup is my favorite! - 11/14/2009   9:57:42 PM
  • 180
    Glad to see Panera Bread here, but a word of BIG warning... most of their stuff is way over the top in terms of fat (the dressings all are pretty fatty), and of course, there is all that tempting sweet bread (cookies, brownies, pastries) right there staring at you. Nowadays, I only get the half and half - soup with salad and consider all other things there a danger zone. JMO. - 11/9/2009   9:22:49 AM
  • 179
    MMMMMM... souffle... I love 'em, but I guess I'll skip them from now on! Haven't had one in probably almost a year anyway. My fave is the You Pick Two with the Hot Turkey Artichoke sandwich and a bowl of French Onion - both of which are on the list! Yay!!! Panera is absolutely one of my favorite restaurants so I am glad it got decent reviews. - 4/30/2009   3:39:35 PM
  • 178
    I absolutely love to go to Panera bread to meet with one of my good friends from work, and do try to plan what I am going to eat there. The Pick Two options are my favorites! Thanks for all of the great info. My friend will be suprised about the amount of fat in the greek salad, as this is her favorite! We are going there today , and I used the info. provided to help make good choices for lunch. However, I also agree the sodium content is a bit too much!! - 4/29/2009   10:23:44 AM
  • MYEMPIRE
    177
    It's just too bad that I love the broccoli cheese soup, frontega chicken sandwich, chocolate brownie, spinach and bacon souffle, french baguettes, and bacon egg and cheese breakfast sandwich. None of which are on your list. lol - 4/24/2009   1:17:05 PM
  • KELSHEREE
    176
    My company offers a Lunch bunch option and panera is one of our featured menu's to chose from. It is nice to have this information so I can make a better choice when ordering out. - 4/23/2009   10:22:17 AM
  • 175
    Thanks for another option controlling our food choices when eating out. I have not tried Panera bread, but will do so as another option to changing my eating style. - 4/20/2009   1:48:15 PM
  • CUMQUAT1
    174
    panera also offers fruit in the form of apples; i think i'm safe there with a salad & dressing on the side or even using lemon juice from the iced tea! - 4/20/2009   11:47:33 AM
  • 173
    The calorie count on there menu is great but the sodium is very high on most of there menu items thanks again for the great infor. - 4/20/2009   11:37:16 AM
  • NMARGONIS
    172
    I will swf. leave the bread bowl next time. - 4/20/2009   10:58:55 AM
  • 171
    Isn't it a bit startling that the individual food analysis here shows it would be rather difficult to find a meal that is filling and low calorie at Panera, and yet it made the top ten list on the "expert" panel article? Thanks for highlighting the better options; it's so helpful to know the gotcha-items for those times when it may come to Panera or nothing. I have found that I can improve the calories in a high calorie/nutritious item by removing half of the bread, btw. But Subway will remain my go-to for sandwiches whenever possible. - 4/20/2009   6:19:04 AM
  • 170
    Another favorite down! I don't know why I'm always so shocked at how may calories bread has, but in the past soup on a bread bowl has always been a family favorite. We will definitely NOT be doing that again. I also went there for a breakfast sandwich earlier this week thinking that I was eating healthy and making a better choice than some and ended up way over values for the meal and for the day. - 4/8/2009   10:13:29 PM
  • 169
    I used to have working lunches or breakfasts at Panera at least once a week (the free wi-fi was as big a draw as the soufflees) when I lived in Michigan. I loved the baked egg souffles and the veggie offerings, and was willing to cut back on other meals and snacks in order to stay within my limits. It's a relief to be living in a place where there isn't a Panera tempting me every few miles. Thanks for the reality check. - 3/10/2009   2:27:23 PM
  • 168
    it really didn't surprise me. I've never eaten there. Any restaurant with BREAD in the name just seems to me to be "heavy" on the meal items.
    Would like to see a write up on Noodles & Co. My son loves that place and I cringe buying his favorite items there.

    - 3/8/2009   10:59:20 AM
  • 167
    These Panera folks are obsessed with SODIUM !!!!!

    Nasty! You take your life in your hands going there to eat.
    Too bad they rely so heavily on the salty stuff to add flavor to their foods - - or, rather, to numb people's mouths so folks just think they're tasting something good.

    Thanks for the heads up. I avoid this place like the Sodium plague that it is.
    - 3/6/2009   7:00:29 PM
  • KYSHARON1
    166
    Who would have thought! - 3/6/2009   9:51:24 AM
  • 165
    although it may not the best of places, it's my monday night dinner with one of my friends. we meet and catch up from the week before heading to rehearsal. even when she can't make it, i go. it gives me a chance to catch my breath and decompress before heading to a 2 hr rehearsal.
    lately, my choice is the chicken tortilla soup - has a great kick to it :) and i usually eat 1/2 there and the other 1/2 the next day...yummm - 3/6/2009   12:34:19 AM
  • 164
    Thanks for posting the nutritional info. It definitely reminds me that I need to cut the portions in half, again! - 3/5/2009   8:13:29 PM
  • HEALTHSMARTZ
    163
    When I "have to" eat out (business meetings), I love going to Panera because I can plan ahead. They have their nutrition menu on their website so when I know I'm going there for lunch, I eat a lighter breakfast and then I always pick something from the You-Pick-Two. This gives me lots of options and I can stay within my goals. You can also get the French Onion Soup without the cheese and croutons and it's only 90 calories! - 3/5/2009   7:45:22 PM
  • ANUMAK1
    162
    I like their pick 2 option... Makes me "feel" more satisfied knowing I had a sandwich and a soup :) - 3/5/2009   1:59:29 PM
  • 161
    I enjoy Panera and really appreciate the pick two option - a half a turkey sandwich and the smaller black bean soup are very satisfying (I typically can't finish this because even the 1/2 a sandwich is very large). Plus I get an apple as a side choice and save that for later. - 3/5/2009   1:52:03 PM
  • 160
    GREAT ARTICLE. WHEN I CAN FIND THIS BREAD I WILL TRY IT. - 3/5/2009   1:49:44 AM
  • 159
    Thanks for posting all the nutrition information. You look for "less than 10 grams of fat", but I look for a high protein or high fiber content, because I can stay on the low end of the "fat" range, but have to really work on keeping my protein up. So I would consider several sandwich choices healthier for me than the turkey on sourdough. I would consider the black bean soup the best for me (but I would have guessed that even without reading this article. Maybe that's what immersing yourself in Sparkpeople does - helps us make intuitive choices that are right for us). - 3/4/2009   4:24:56 PM

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