Order This, Not That: Panera Bread

Panera Bread serves so many soup, salad and sandwich options that finding a healthy menu item can get confusing. Let us help you figure out what to order and what to avoid.

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Photo by: Francine Zaslow ©2010

Francine Zaslow, 2010

It seems like Panera Bread is a healthy restaurant choice -- they serve mostly soups, salads and sandwiches. But with so many options available, it can get confusing. Let us help you navigate the menu, with an easy-to-understand list of what to order at this chain, and what to avoid.

ORDER:

Breads:

The bread with the fewest calories is the whole grain miche with 130 per serving. Other good choices are the whole grain baguette or whole grain loaf with 140 calories (each option also has 3 grams of fiber per serving).

Breakfast Sandwiches:

The Breakfast Power with Ham on Whole Grain weighs in at 340 calories, 15 grams of fat and 820 milligrams of sodium and The Egg and Cheese on Ciabatta has 390 calories, 15 grams of fat and 710 milligrams of sodium. To cut some of the sodium, ask for it without cheese.

Pastries & Sweets:

To satisfy your sweet tooth try the Chocolate Chipper Petites Cookies with 110 calories and 6 grams of fat or the Mini Scones, which range between 140-180 calories and 7 grams of fat each.

Sandwiches & Paninis:

You can order half sandwiches - most have a reasonable amount of calories (between 200-300). Pair it with a baked potato, garden vegetable or chicken noodle soup.

Salads:

A variety of salads are between 170-450 calories. To make it a meal, be sure to include a protein like cheese or poultry. Remember, dressings count! Choose a lighter dressing or half portions (1 ½ tablespoons).

AVOID:

Bagels:

With 290 to 390 calories and 55 to 72 grams of carbohydrates, bagels aren’t the best choice. The worst is the Cinnamon Crunch Bagel with 420 calories, 80 grams of carbs and 7 grams of fat. And that’s all by itself, calories and fat go up from there once you add cream cheese or butter.

Baked Egg Souffles:

Just because the title says “baked” doesn’t mean it’s healthy. The calories of the 4 available soufflés range from 480 to 570 with many of the calories coming from fat (specifically the artery-clogging saturated kind). Each soufflé is made from a mix with an ingredient list that reads like a short essay. That’s reason enough to steer clear of them.

Bread:

With 590 calories, 118 grams of carbs, and 1,210 milligrams of sodium—the bread bowl alone will set you back 30% of your daily recommended calories and 53% of your daily recommended sodium.

Breakfast Sandwiches:

The Sweet Onion and Poppy Seed Bagel with Steak and the French Toast Bagel with Sausage, Egg, and Cheese both have 670 calories, 26-30 grams of fat, and 990-1,280 milligrams of sodium.

Pastries & Sweets:

Most of the delicious goodies at the baked goods counter will set you back at least a few hundred calories without providing many vitamins and minerals. The worst offenders are the Pecan Sweet Roll with 740 calories and 40 grams of fat and Cinnamon Chip Scone with 610 calories and 30 grams of fat.

Sandwiches & Paninis:

Three choices came in at over 900 calories—the Full Steak & White Cheddar on French Baguette (970), Full Italian Combo on Ciabatta (980), Full Sierra Turkey on Focaccia with Asiago Cheese (920).

Salads:

The Full Chopped Steak & Blue Cheese salad has a whopping 790 calories and 54 grams of fat—not the healthiest lunch choice.

For more nutrition facts at Panera Bread visit their website.

TELL US: What do you order at Panera Bread?

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Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby's full bio »

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