My friend and I decided to get lunch from Panera Bread recently and even though I usually feel like I make good choices, sometimes even I am surprised by the nutritional content of some foods. On this particular day, we both chose the You Pick Two. I selected the Low Fat Garden Vegetable Soup with Pesto and the Half Fuji Apple Chicken Salad (see photo above). It came with a serving of French Baguette bread (not shown), which I will admit, I have a hard time saying "no" to. According to Panera Bread’s posted nutrition information, my meal contained 560 calories, 71 grams carbohydrate (12 grams dietary fiber), 25 grams protein, 21 grams fat (4 grams saturated). All things considered, it was a decently healthy pick, although (as much as I like bread), had I thought more about the carb content of the bread, I would have probably left it out.
So, this is how my first post on restaurant picks came to be about Panera Bread. All the nutrition information contained in this post comes from the previously referenced nutrition information and is valid from 9/11/13 to 11/12/13. However, the items discussed in this post are not seasonal items, so they should be available at other times of the year also. You'll see that the foods recommended are not just a specific calorie level, as there is usually criteria for carbohydrates and protein as well. I find it very important to balance out the carbs that you eat with adequate protein in order to achieve good satiety with the meal (meaning you don't get hungry too soon) and balanced blood sugar levels.
A few other points: if you don't see your favorites but think they're pretty healthy or want to eat a less healthy menu item, I love the Nutrition Calculator that Panera Bread features on their site. It allows you to create your own custom meal from the menu items available and by changing ingredients in each menu item so that it can fit the nutrition profile that you want. I could spend hours making customized menu items by changing out bread options, cheese, and condiments but then this post would take longer than it already has to get out to you. That's why I stuck with standard menu items and I'll leave it to you to make the custom items. And I didn't know this until I started looking into the website, but Panera Bread has some hidden menu items that are really low in carbohydrate content and high in protein. However, you have to know what to ask for because, as indicated, you can't find these on the menu.
Take a look at each of the following sections for ideas on how to best navigate the menu and select the healthiest options that appeal to your tastes. If you'd like to see brief nutrition information (calories, carbohydrate, fiber, protein, fat, and saturated fat) for each of the listed options, you can download the Optimal Nutrition and Health Healthy Restaurant Picks ~ Panera Bread PDF handout.
- Breakfast Power with Ham on Whole Grain
- Power Breakfast Bowl with Steak (hidden menu item)
- Power Breakfast Egg White Bowl with Roasted Turkey (hidden menu item)
- Frontega Chicken on Focaccia (half)
- Roasted Turkey Artichoke on Focaccia (half)
- Smokehouse Turkey on Three Cheese (half)
- Asiago Roast Beef on Asiago Cheese (half)
- Chicken Caesar on Three Cheese (half)
- Roasted Turkey and Avocado BLT on Sourdough (half)
- Smoked Ham and Swiss on Rye (half)
- Power Steak Lettuce Wraps (hidden menu item)
- Asian Sesame Chicken (whole)
- BBQ Chicken (whole)
- Chicken Caesar (whole)
- Chicken Cobb with Avocado (half)
- Roasted Turkey Harvest Wheatberry (whole)
- Thai Chicken (whole)
- Power Mediterranean Chicken Salad (whole/hidden menu item)
- Power Mediterranean Roasted Turkey Salad (whole/hidden menu item)
- Power Chicken Hummus Bowl (whole/hidden menu item)
- Low-fat Vegetarian Black Bean Soup (cup) and Chicken Cobb Salad with Avocado (half)
- Low-fat Garden Vegetable Soup with Pesto (cup) and Roasted Turkey Avocado BLT on Sourdough (half)
- All-Natural Low-Fat Chicken Noodle Soup (cup) and Fuji Apple Chicken Salad (half)
- All-Natural Bistro French Onion Soup with Croutons and Gruyere and Caesar Chicken Salad (half)
- Greek Salad (half) and Smoked Turkey Breast on Country (half)
- Cheese Tortellini withe Alfredo Sauce (small)
- Rigatoni San Marzano (small)
- Rustic Penne Bolognese (small)
Written by Michelle Baglio of Optimal Nutrition and Health (Google+). The information contained in this post is provided for educational purposes only with the understanding that Optimal Nutrition and Health makes no warranties, either expressed or implied, concerning the accuracy, completeness, reliability, or suitability of the information. Readers are advised not to use information in this post or others found on this website for the treatment or prevention of disease, and it should not be used in place of medical treatment or advice. Please do not reprint this post for distribution without my permission. To feature on your website or social media, please link to this post as the original source.