Panera Bread was recently named the healthiest restaurant chain in America by Health magazine. However, that doesn't mean that the soup, salad, sandwich chain is free from temptations. With oversized bagels and sweet treats galore, both the bakery and cafe feature heavy, high-fat offerings, so choose your meal carefully. As a general warning, many of the lighter options are high in sodium.
Most servings (about 2 oz) of the Artisan and Specialty breads have fewer than 200 calories, about 4 g of fat, around 350 mg of sodium, and some fiber, too.
Bagels contain 300-400 calories each, with about 500 mg of sodium, and 2 g of fiber. Your best bagel bets include: Plain (290 calories, 1.5 g fat, 450 mg sodium, 2 g fiber), Whole Grain (350 calories, 3 g fat, 410 mg sodium, 5 g fiber), Blueberry (330 calories, 1.5 g fat, 490 mg sodium, 2 g fiber), and Sesame (310 calories, 3 g fat, 450 mg sodium, 2 g fiber). Try splitting a bagel with a friend to save calories, and choose the whole-grain bagel for a boost of fiber. Select reduced-fat cream cheese and use only as much as you need; the serving sizes are large, which means excessive calories and fat if you don't monitor your portions.
Don't get your soup in the Sourdough bread bowl. That 8-ounce bowl alone adds 550 calories--and that's without the soup it contains. Get a broth-based or vegetarian soup with whole-grain bread on the side.
Unless you're sharing with a friend or treating yourself, skip the pastries, brownies, cookies, cakes, muffins, scones and sweet rolls.
Grilled Breakfast Sandwiches are pretty high in fat and calories. The Egg and Cheese Grilled Breakfast Sandwich is your best choice at 380 calories, 14 g of fat and 620 mg of sodium. The half-size Smoked Turkey Breast on Sourdough (240 calories, 9 g fat, 840 mg sodium) is a healthful choice for lunch or dinner.
Here are the lowest-calorie soup options (nutrition facts are for the 12-oz bowl, not the cup): Low Fat Chicken Noodle Soup (160 calories, 3 g fat, 1,670 mg sodium), Low Fat Chicken Tortilla Soup with Tortilla Strips (220 calories, 4 g fat, 1,130 mg sodium; save 50 calories and 2.5 g of fat if you leave out the tortilla strips), Low Fat Vegetarian Black Bean Soup (250 calories, 2 g fat, 1,490 mg sodium per), Low Fat Vegetarian Garden Vegetable Soup (150 calories, 1.5 g fat, 1,690 mg sodium per).
For salads, choose half-size portions of the Asian Sesame Chicken Salad (210 calories, 10 g fat, 450 mg sodium) and Classic Cafe Salad (90 calories, 5 g fat, 135 mg sodium). Dress your salad with Fat-Free Raspberry (30 calories), Fat Free Reduced Sugar Poppyseed (15 calories), Light Buttermilk Ranch (80 calories, 4 g fat), Reduced Sugar Asian Sesame Vinaigrette (90 calories, 8 g fat) or Reduced Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette (130 calories, 10 g fat).
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