If you would have asked me about Panera nutrition facts when I first wrote this article in 2012, I would’ve told you to avoid this place like the plague. Panera calories, carbs, and sodium counts were ridiculously high. But surprisingly, Panera has come a long way. Fast forward five years, and as of this writing (February, 2017) Panera has revamped its menu and offers an assortment of healthy menu choices. Today, Panera is one of the few chain restaurants I can honestly say I would still eat at.
With that said, you can still get into a lot of trouble with many items on their menu. For example, most of Panera’s bread bowls and sandwiches are loaded with calories, refined carbs, fat, and salt. Some of these have over 1,000 calories and a day’s worth of sodium … not good for anyone watching their weight or with high blood pressure or other health conditions.
First, let’s have a look at some of the stuff you want to stay away from on Panera’s menu (updated January, 2017)
Avoid These High Calorie Panera Nutrition Catastrophes
Here are the Panera nutrition facts for the unhealthiest things on the menu. In general, I recommend avoiding most of their whole sandwiches, soups, and mac and cheese.
- Panera Mac & Cheese Nutrition – Large: 950 calories, 61 grams of fat (34 saturated), 71 grams of carbs, 33 grams of protein, 2450 milligrams of sodium
- Panera Mac & Cheese Bread Bowl: 1140 calories, 35 grams of fat (17 saturated), 166 grams of carbs, 43 grams of protein, 2390 milligrams of sodium
- Steak & White Cheddar Panini on Hoagie Roll: 850 calories, 47 grams of fat (18 saturated, 1 trans), 34 grams of carbs, 1320 milligrams of sodium
- Panera Broccoli Cheddar Soup Bread Bowl Nutrition: 900 calories, 18 grams of fat (9 saturated), 149 grams of carbs, 35 grams of protein, 2000 milligrams of sodium
- New England Clam Chowder Bread Bowl: 1040 calories, 30 grams of fat (16 saturated), 157 grams of carbs, 36 grams of protein, 1840 milligrams of sodium
- Baked Potato Soup Bread Bowl: 890 calories, 18 grams of fat (7 saturated), 152 grams of carbs, 33 grams of protein, 2110 milligrams of sodium
- Bistro French Onion Soup Bread Bowl: 870 calories, 15 grams of fat (6 saturated), 151 grams of carbs, 34 grams of protein, 2450 milligrams of sodium
- Cream of Chicken and Wild Rice Soup Bread Bowl: 840 calories, 15 grams of fat (5 saturated), 148 grams of carbs, 33 grams of protein, 2090 milligrams of sodium
Panera Bread Nutrition Facts: Healthy Menu Options
Despite these nutrition catastrophes, Panera has made some progress in recent years to offer healthier menu choices. They now offer apples or baked chips as a healthier side option (which you should always get instead of another piece of bread … their sandwiches are already loaded with carbs). They also have organic yogurt and whole grain bread (which you should also opt for). Still, their menu has some really dangerous choices that are loaded with calories, unhealthy carbohydrates, fat, and sodium, so choose wisely.
Some of their healthier options are the “You Pick 2” half sandwich and salad/soup combo. Choosing whole grain bread and ditching the cheese and sauces will save you lots of calories on many of Panera’s dishes. Here are my top picks.
Best Panera Breakfast Menu Options:
- Avocado, Egg White & Spinach Breakfast Power Sandwich: 410 calories, 14 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 52 g carbs, 22 g protein, 600 mg sodium
- Turkey Sausage, Egg White & Spinach Breakfast Power Sandwich: 390 calories, 10 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 50 g carbs, 26 g protein, 790 mg sodium
- Mediterranean Egg White on Ciabatta: 420 calories, 16 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 48 g carbs, 22 g protein, 850 mg sodium
Best Panera Lunch/Dinner Menu Options:
- Half Napa Almond Chicken Salad on Sesame Semolina: 350 calories, 13 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 45 g carbs, 8 g protein, 570 mg sodium
- Whole Mediterranean Veggie on Tomato Basil: 460 calories, 12 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 70 g carbs, 18 g protein, 1170 mg sodium
- Half Tuna Salad Sandwich on Black Pepper Focaccia: 340 calories, 18 g fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 31 g carbs, 9 g protein, 710 mg sodium
- Half Turkey Breast on Whole Grain: 280 calories, 9 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 32 g carbs, 11 g protein, 580 mg sodium
- Turkey Chili (Bowl): 250 calories, 13 g fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 32 g carbs, 17 g protein, 1210 mg sodium
- Low Fat Chicken Noodle Soup (Bowl): 160 calories, 5 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 1400 mg sodium
- Low Fat Vegetarian Black Bean Soup (Bowl): 140 calories, 2 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 1110 mg sodium
- Low-Fat Vegetarian Garden Vegetable Soup with Pesto (Bowl): 110 calories, 3.5 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 730 mg sodium
- Seasonal Greens Salad (with Low Fat Thai Chili Vinaigrette dressing): 230 calories, 12.5 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 310 mg sodium
- Roasted Beet, Quinoa, and Citrus Salad (with Low Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing): 620 calories, 41 g fat, 7.5 g saturated fat, 58 grams of carbs, 12 grams of protein, 310 mg sodium
Panera Nutrition Facts: Bottom Line
If you stick to the “You Pick Two” combos and pick a half sandwich and soup or salad from the list above, you’re getting a decent balance of protein, carbs, and fat. However, Panera Bread nutrition facts need some improvement for many of its menu items. Avoid their high calorie bread bowls, full sandwiches, and (sorry, friends) especially the Panera Mac and Cheese.