Panera Bread cafes are like one of your oldest friendships. They’re cozy, pretty consistent (with a few seasonal twists), and they’re there for you no matter where you live.
But all friendships can have healthy and unhealthy choices. Steer clear of Panera’s unhealthy sandwiches, salads, and soups and opt for some of these nutritious picks instead.
The tie for the healthiest breakfast option goes to Panera Bread’s Steel Cut Oatmeal and its Turkey Sausage, Egg White & Spinach Breakfast Power Sandwich. According to Health, a good breakfast is relatively high in calories, protein, and fiber. Both of these options fall in the 300-calorie range.
For a meal higher in fiber opt for the Steel Cut Oatmeal with almonds, quinoa, and honey. If you’re looking for something higher in protein then the Power Sandwich is your best bet.
Avoid Panera’s bagels and bakery items! Most of them have a high carb count and all of their bagels with cream cheese pack more fat than is recommended in the morning.
Also steer clear of the breakfast menu’s Spinach and Bacon Soufflé. It has the highest saturated fat content at 18 grams, only 1 gram of fiber, and 910 milligrams of sodium is way too high.
If you believe in the power of smoothies to help curb cravings, Panera has some good options. Their Superfruit Smoothie with Greek yogurt has the highest protein and lowest sugar content of all their smoothies. It’s also low-calorie and high in fiber.
This smoothie is the lowest in protein out of the bunch at only 2 grams and packs the most sugar at 47 grams.
Panera Bread’s Turkey Breast Sandwich on Whole Grain is a good variation of some of their healthiest sandwiches. It’s one of the lowest in calories, fat, sodium, and sugar without compromising healthy levels of protein and fiber.
Check out the full list of ingredients and nutrition facts here.
While the Steak and White Cheddar Panini tastes as good as it sounds, it’s not your best bet for a nutritious lunch. It’s one of the sandwiches that’s high in sodium, saturated fat, and carbs. With over half of your recommended daily caloric intake, it’s on the list of the unhealthiest items you can order at Panera.
The Green Goddess Salad with Chicken is one of the most balanced and healthiest protein-packed salads on the menu. It’s an updated classic that is usually only featured on their summer salad menu.
Try the Modern Greek Salad with Quinoa for a vegetarian option that has just as many nutrients and an impressive amount of protein.
Another seasonal salad that is a customer favorite is the Southwest Chile Lime Ranch Salad. Unfortunately, it’s the highest in calories, fat, and carbs.
Panera Bread’s website offers an at home recipe that you can alter to lower the calorie and fat content of the salad.
The Low-Fat Vegetarian Garden Vegetable Soup with Pesto was ranked the healthiest Panera Bread soup by Eat This, Not That and has the benefits to prove it. It’s the only soup that’s under 1,000 milligrams of sodium and 200 calories.
In addition, it has one of the lowest amounts of saturated fat out of the soups. Its ingredients include zucchini and appetite-suppressing barley, and its sure to keep you energized for hours.
While none of Panera Bread’s cream-based soups are particularly good for you (how we wish the Broccoli Cheddar soup had hidden health benefits) the New England Clam Chowder ranks the lowest. It’s the highest in calories, packs 62 grams of fat (41 are saturated fats!), and nearly as much sodium as you’re supposed to consume in one day.