Diet-Friendly Panera Bread Choices

Classic Salad with Chicken. Panera Bread

If you love Panera Bread, then the latest news about their menu changes will make you happy. The company recently announced that they will eliminate several ingredients to make the Panera Bread menu more healthy.  A long list of artificial colors, flavors, preservatives and sweeteners are on the Panera’s new “No-No list.”

But you need to be careful if you are trying to reach or maintain a leaner body.

Just because menu choices are “healthy” doesn’t necessarily mean that the foods are good for your weight loss diet. Use this guide to decide which items are best for your diet when you visit Panera Bread.

Low Calorie Panera Bread Choices

To find out what to order on the Panera Bread menu, I talked to the company’s in-house registered dietitian.  Katie Bengston, R.D., said that if you like to order salads and sandwiches, you can reduce total calories, fat and sodium by omitting or having sauces, condiments and dressing served on the side. “You can always customize your order,” she says, “to substitute or omit ingredients that do not fit into your diet.”

So what items does she recommend?  She suggested a few Panera Bread menu items to try.

  • Classic Salad with Chicken (300 calories)
  • Strawberry Poppyseed and Chicken Salad (350 calories)
  • Low-fat Chicken Noodle Soup (130 calories) with a Sprouted Whole Grain Roll (160 calories)
  • Low- fat Vegetarian Garden Vegetable Soup (140 calories) with a Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich (285 calories)

Katie also added that selecting the “You Pick 2” option is a great way to enjoy a variety of sandwiches, panini, soups and salads.  “It’s easy to create a meal under 600 calories by pairing half portions of a number of our menu items,” she said.

“Or even eat half of the “You Pick 2” and save the other half for later!”

Foods to Avoid on the Panera Bread Menu

If you’re trying to lose weight, there are foods on every menu that you should avoid. At Panera these might include creamy items like Macaroni and Cheese (980 calories), or New England Clam Chowder (720 calories). Several of the panini are also very high in calories. The Steak and White Cheddar Panini (1050 calories) and Chipotle Chicken Panini (840 calories) are probably good items to avoid, unless you can eat a small portion and be satisfied.

But Katie says that at Panera Bread “we don’t want to tell you how to eat; we want to give you the options and information you need to make an informed choice. This is why Panera Bread was the first national restaurant company to voluntarily post calories on menu boards. We’re also leading the way with our website and Panera Bread mobile app which give full nutritional and ingredient information for all our menu items.”

So how do order the best Panera Bread menu and stick to your diet?

It’s simple. Just plan in advance. There are plenty of diet-friendly Panera menu items, but some that probably aren’t the best foods to support your weight loss program. Check the menu online or download the app before you go to choose foods that are both satisfying and low in calories.

Continue Reading