The Healthiest Choices at Panera Bread

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Updated on 1/10/17

These days, it can be 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 offerings aren't the greatest (720 calories for a bowl of clam chowder, anyone?), we've scoured the menu to find some decent choices for the next time you find yourself in a pinch for food—right now.

To make it easier for those seeking more nutritious, diet-friendly meals, below are some of the smartest options on the Panera menu. (Note that salads do not include dressing nutritional information.)


Steel-Cut Oatmeal with Almonds, Quinoa & Honey
This fortifying breakfast will keep you full all morning long. Not only is it just 300 calories, but it also boasts eight grams of protein and nine grams of fiber. 

Strawberry Granola Parfait
For those seeking a lighter breakfast option, this vanilla yogurt parfait is just 330 calories, even when topped with maple-butter pecan granola, whole-grain oats and fresh strawberries.

Mediterranean Egg White on Ciabatta
Who says a sandwich can't be a healthy start to the day? Fresh-baked ciabatta is the foundation for egg whites, Vermont white cheddar, spinach, tomato sofrito and basil pesto—all for just 420 calories with 22 grams of fueling protein.


This satisfying yet diet-friendly soup features fresh veggies and tender, white-meat chicken for a high-protein lunch that will only cost you 160 calories and five grams of fat per serving.

Thai Garden Chicken Wonton
Clocking in at only 290 calories for the full-size bowl, this dish is packed with a flavorful medley of ginger-chicken wontons, fresh broccoli, spinach and roasted mushrooms. The 23 grams of protein are sure to keep you satisfied all the way to dinner.

Low-Fat Vegetarian Garden Vegetable Soup
When was the last time you enjoyed a full bowl of soup for just 110 calories—and with seven grams of fiber to boot?


Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich
As the lowest-calorie sandwich on the menu, this healthy option is stuffed with fresh veggies and served on thin-sliced tomato basil bread. The full-size sandwich is just 460 calories and has a whopping 18 grams of protein.

Half Roasted Turkey & Caramelized Kale Panini

Just when you thought fresh roasted turkey couldn't get any better, it combines with fresh mozzarella and caramelized kale on black pepper foccacio—all for just 295 calories.

Half Roasted Turkey & Avocado BLT 
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. Not only is this sandwich tasty, but it's also only 345 calories for a half portion, with 18 grams of filling protein.

Tomato Mozzarella Flatbread
At just 350 calories, this whole-grain flatbread is layered with fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, baby arugula and basil-pesto sauce.


Half Modern Greek Salad with Quinoa
This healthy, filling salad option is a modest 255 calories, but it sure doesn't taste like it. This bowl is brimming with Romaine, kale, quinoa, diced cucumbers and kalamata olives, topped with Greek dressing, feta and roasted almonds. 

Half Fuji Apple with Chicken Salad
At just 290 milligrams 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 285 calories for a half portion, and will fill you up with 16 grams of protein.

Half Spicy Thai Salad with Chicken
With 255 calories, this satisfying choice packs more than 12.5 grams of protein. Tender chicken is joined by roasted cashews, edamame and a blend of fresh peppers and carrots.
Which one of these meals looks good to you? What's your favorite healthy choice at Panera? 

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BLUEROSE73 1/28/2018
awesome information Report
ANHELIC 1/15/2018
Thanks for sharing Report
KATHYJO56 7/22/2017
I don't go to Panera very often, but I am happy to see some healthy choices listed here. Report
ELRIDDICK 6/29/2017
Thanks for sharing Report
Great Report
LOVE Panera. What about the black bean soup? Pairs great with the greek quinoa, especially with the apple as a side. Report
PHHHISC 5/30/2017
Not a Panera deathly ill from their food and won't go back. Report
My Panera has calories posted. I'm sure sodium is high, but definitely one of the better places when eating out. Love their tomato soup and the butternut squash soup they have in the fall/winter is heaven! Report
SPOKANE52 5/8/2017
I appreciate this so much. Thank you and continue with more Dining Our advice! Report
Good to know! Report
Their Beet & Citrus salad is amazing! It's on their seasonal menu. Only 240 calories for a half salad! Report
Thank you for this blog. I love Panera and this list will be so helpful. I do love their half turkey BLT sandwich, and a little cup of soup. It's so nice to see the different ideas from a good fast food chain, because we live in such a fast world! Report
do you know what the carbs are for these dishes and the fat content Report
I like Panera, I spent almost every day there while my mother was recovering from a stroke in a nursing home. They've been a leader in posting nutrition and it's been my experience that you can order off the menu, they made many substitutions for me. Report
I always get the half sandwich roasted turkey avocado BLT and half Greek salad when I go to Panera. That is my favorite You Pick Two combo when I eat out there. And it's very filling, I almost can't finish sometimes! Report
LOLA118 - then you have never been to Panera Bread. A whole sandwich and a whole salad could feed 4 people. I always get halves there. Otherwise, I have leftovers for later. Report
Half a sandwich or half a salad doesn't really sound like much of a meal. Report
I am very pleased with their app to order food. I have used it even without using the pick up functionality to see the choices I can make to make my food even better! Often I will get a pick two with the Mediterranean Veggie, but instead of that tomato bread, I get the three cheese miche, and no salt and pepper (cutting over 200 mg of sodium!). Then I'll snag a side salad of the BBQ chicken, without their fizzled onions, and instead get fresh diced tomatoes and avocado! It can be done! Just have to know what the bad parts are, and how to eat around that during the rest of the meals of the day! Report
Thank you for this post! We eat there often and they accommodate food allergies for my kids. This will make it simpler to enjoy going there. They used to have a great food calculator where you could edit their food items to fine tune selections for your diet but have removed it from their website. Report
Why does everybody sound like high protein is good for you. My sparks diet says 20 gms. per meal. If I go over that limit I get this: "A high-protein diet can lead to kidney problems, weight gain, constipation, intestinal disorders, and the excretion of calcium from your bones. Like most things in life, too much of a good thing—including protein— can lead to problems." Report
I love their Mediterranean Veggie sandwich. It ranks up there as one of my top 10, all-time favorite sandwiches. Report
I ate at Panera for the first time the other day and had the small turkey chili. It was delish but I don't see it on the healthy list so I'll try something else next time. Report
Perfect! Thanks so much! I just made a huge mistake yesterday with my Panera choices, today I'm gonna try the Thai Chicken! Report
If the bread is made with wheat and gluten, it sure won't work for me! Report
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. Report
Half Tuna Salad on Honey Wheat Bread. it has the least amount of fat which i am watching very closely Report
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. Report
Thanks for posting this. I think I'm going to hit Panera for lunch today! Report
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). Report
Panera Bread is one of my favs. Love the salads but always get the dressing on the side....
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. Report
I wonder why the Steel Cut Oatmeal is not on this List? It is Awesome!! Report
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. :) Report
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 it's my favorite! Report
I don't eat bread at all but I eat at Panera 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. Report
not real veg friendly :( i think i've usually gotten soup, don't eat there often. Report
I find the sodium content in their food incredible high and don't ever eat there for that reason. Report
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 ... Report
They ALL look good to me! Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
nice posting Report
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. :) Report
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 Report
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. Report
I love Panera, but stay away because I thought there wasn't anything there for me. Now I know what I can eat . Thanks. Report
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 Report
I love Panera...their Black Bean Soup is my favorite! Report
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