Founded in 1987, Panera Bread was originally The St. Louis Bread Company. Only six short years later, the Au Bon Pain Co. purchased the company and later consequently changed the name to Panera. Panera nutrition encompasses its commitment to providing fast, healthy meal selections by people who care.

How Paneara Measures Up

In 2008 in a Health Magazine study, they list Panera as North America’s healthiest choice in fast, casual restaurant options. Consequently, they were also rated Number 1 for the Best Healthy Option, Best Salad, and Best Facilities in 2009. By the same token, Zagat, a popular restaurant guide, has documented Panera as one of the most popular places to eat on the go in both 2009 and 2012.

Allergy Information

This fast-food chain is well-known for the variety of baked items on the menu but includes options for those visitors who are avoiding allergens or following a vegan menu.

There are menu items that may contain some allergens, including peanuts or tree nuts, almond milk, milk, eggs, wheat, and others. Customers are encouraged to speak to their local restaurant before placing an order regarding any potential food allergy risks.

Considering this, Panera does stipulate that although the vegan or allergy-free options do not contain unwanted ingredients, they prepare products in the same kitchen.

In other words, they cannot guarantee a lack of cross-contamination, especially when customizing vegan dishes or avoiding allergens in dishes.

The Panera Nutrition Basics

Included on the Panera menu, you will find a selection of items separated into categories:

  • Soups
  • Salads
  • Sandwiches
  • Bowls
  • Macaroni options
  • Bakery
  • Sides
  • Vegan

Panera gives its customers the option to customize orders online and more importantly, customers can use pick-up or delivery from a wide selection of cafes around the United States and Canada.

By providing quick healthy meal options at affordable prices, as a result, Panera has an edge over its competitors who conversely have limited wholesome choices.

There are numerous menu items that fit within a recommended daily intake for a healthy diet. Although in contrast, Panera does have a few selections that do not fall in line with healthy meal guidelines.

Because of this, one should be careful to read the nutritional information on menu options before making a final choice.

The Many Sandwich Choices

A hearty sandwich is a fantastic choice when grabbing something quick on the go. These options will not leave you feeling as though you ate a brown bag meal from a deep fryer. More importantly, Panera’s sandwich choices are geared for taste and value by including quality ingredients like chicken, turkey, ham, steak, tuna, bacon, and fresh vegetables.

Even so, one must be diligent on which menu options they select to ensure they are staying within healthy guidelines. And yet, not every choice will be best if you are following a healthy diet.

The Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich is one of the better choices.
MENU ITEMCALORIESTOTAL FAT (g)PROTEIN (g)SODIUM (mg)DIETARY FIBER (g)TOTAL CARBS (g)
Turkey on Country Rustic Sourdough-half240816610227
Mediterranean Veggie on Tomato Basil-half270610630444
Chicken Teriyaki on Ciabatta-whole87037421,760493
Chipotle Bacon Melt on Classic White Miche-whole96058432,000269
Exploring Panera’s Sandwich Choices

One thing to consider is how the nutritional information will double when choosing a whole sandwich as opposed to a half serving. In other words, it may be more effective when following a reduced-calorie diet to pair a half sandwich with a soup or salad for a meal selection.

The Infamous Panera Soups

A good bowl of soup can be warm and comforting. Therefore, Panera strives to create soups that are not only tasty but also healthy. While many of their soup choices are low in calories, consequently, if you pair them with a bread bowl, the calories increase significantly.

These choices can give the illusion of a healthy meal option when it is, in fact, not within recommended guidelines.

The Ten Vegetable Soup is your best choice.
MENU ITEMCALORIESTOTAL FAT (g)PROTEIN (g)SODIUM (mg)FIBER (g)TOTAL CARBS (g)
Ten Vegetable Soup-cup6013730310
Chicken Noodle-cup1202.59990214
Vegetarian Creamy Tomato-Bread Bowl90019311,7405154
Baked Potato Soup-Bread Bowl93018332,1006159
Comparing Panera Soup Options

Speaking of this, with many fast food choices, individuals must be mindful of the serving sizes when they are following healthy guidelines. Under those circumstances, there will be a difference in nutritional value between a cup of soup, the larger 1 ½ cups serving, or a bread bowl.

For that reason, choosing smaller serving sizes can help reduce the number of calories and sodium you take in throughout the day.

Panera’s Nutrition in its Salad Selections

When you think of a salad, you instantly think of a healthy food item, but that may not always be the case. Consequently, partnering with a high-calorie protein choice or fatty dressing makes your wholesome salad quickly become an unhealthy choice.

Stick to half sizes when choosing salads for healthier options.
MENU ITEMCALORIESTOTAL FAT (g)PROTEIN (g)SODIUM (mg)FIBER (g)TOTAL CARBS (g)
Caesar Salad-half17013531029
BBQ Salad-half190115430521
Fuji Apple with Chicken-whole5803632750637
Southwest Chile Lime Ranch with Chicken-whole68036391,2901454
Examining Salad Options at Panera

When choosing salads, you should follow the same guidelines as any other menu item. For that purpose, half orders will be significantly lower in nutrients than their whole counterparts. If you are aiming to cut back on fats or sodium, selecting the half orders will be your best bet.

The Entrée Options

If you are looking for menu items instead of soup and sandwiches, Panera alternatively offers a small selection of entrées. These range from an assortment of bowls to mac and cheese items, and even flatbread pizza.

The Mediterranean Bowl is the healthiest selection at 630 calories.
MENU ITEMCALORIESTOTAL FAT (g)PROTEIN (g)SODIUM (mg)FIBER (g)TOTAL CARBS (g)
Mediterranean Bowl63030201,270975
Baja Bowl68034181,2601381
Broccoli Cheddar Mac & Cheese-Bread Bowl1,05031402,2906155
Mac & Cheese-Bread Bowl1,18038432,2705164
Analyzing the Panera Entree Selection

Unlike the other choices from the Panera menu, these entrées run typically higher in calories and sodium. These features make them less of a healthier alternative with regards to fat and calorie content.

If you are following a restricted diet plan or want to try to limit your daily intake of calories and sodium, you should avoid these menu choices.

The Final Calculations

Above all, Panera nutrition is fantastic for a healthy meal option on the go. Their menu selection includes a variety of tasty items that will satisfy your hunger without the added grease and fats that you get from fast food.

As a result of exploring Panera’s menu choices, I give them a 4-star rating out of 5. The only reason that I did not give them a perfect score is because of their select few options that may seem healthy but are, in fact, poor meal choices.

For instance, they are full of calories, fat, and sodium that fall well beyond the recommended daily limits for an average person. As long as you specifically read the nutritional information carefully and make good selections for half sizes, a visit to Panera Bread is a healthy one.

Common Questions

What is the most nutritious item at Panera?

The healthiest item that is low in calories is the Ten Vegetable Soup in a cup.

Is the bread at Panera healthier?

Their bread can be moderately healthy when comparing to deep-fried fast food alternatives. Although, when examining bread types at Panera, there are many unhealthy selections that are full of calories, fat, and sodium.

Are the Panera bowls nutritious?

The bowls can be higher in calories, especially with cheese and full of toppings. You can split the bowl into two servings and save one for later, or opt for not including cheese or all the high-calorie toppings.

What is the healthiest sandwich at Panera Bread?

Half-Size Turkey on Country Rustic Sourdough is the healthiest sandwich option.

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