Healthy Options To Order Next Time You're At Panera

When you're trying to avoid fast food restaurants, it's natural to lean towards the next healthiest choice — fast-casual establishments. They're quick and offer a wide range of options. For this reason, it's no wonder restaurants like Panera Bread are popular spots for breakfast and lunch. This chain restaurant first opened in 1987 as the St. Louis Bread Company and has rapidly grown since, operating as both St. Louis Bread Company and Panera Bread. It now operates in 48 states, Canada, and D.C. with a mission to serve freshly prepared, yummy, and clean foods. But how clean and healthy are the options at Panera Bread? 

For starters, clean simply means there are no artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, and sweeteners, according to Panera. That being said, if you're looking for healthy options to order next time you're at Panera, some options may be better than others.

One healthy option to consider is the Green Goddess Cobb Salad with Chicken. Per the Panera Bread menu, this salad is 500 calories and contains 29 grams of fat, 27 grams of carbohydrates, and 36 grams of protein. It's loaded with a blend of dark leafy greens, pickled red onions, avocado, grilled chicken, and more. To up the health factor, consider using half of the amount of salad dressing and skipping the cheese, croutons, or any fried toppings on your salad, points out Mayo Clinic. This will limit unwanted calories and ingredients.

Healthy non-salad options at Panera

There are many other healthy options to order next time you're at Panera besides a salad. After all, Panera is popular for their soups too. The turkey chili is a great choice for anyone looking for a hearty low-calorie meal. It's packed with a variety of beans, veggies, and chickpeas. According to the Panera Bread menu, one serving is 300 calories and contains 10 grams of fat, 31 grams of carbohydrates, and 21 grams of protein.

Alternatively, Panera's warm bowls — Baja Bowl and Mediterranean Bowl with Chicken — are other substantial meals that are loaded with protein and fiber. The Baja Bowl is a Southwestern-inspired dish that contains 14 grams of fiber and 18 grams of protein, while the Mediterranean Bowl with Chicken has 8 grams of fiber and 26 grams of protein (via Panera Bread menu). Keep in mind both of these dishes can be made with or without chicken.

But at the end of the day, one of the cleanest options at Panera Bread is the Steel Cut Oatmeal with Strawberries and Pecans. Oatmeal is a great low-sugar option that's perfect for breakfast as it supports gut bacteria, reduces blood sugar levels, and increases satiety (via WebMD) It's also filled with antioxidants.

Before ordering, Mayo Clinic recommends choosing healthier sides (i.e. apples or side salad), taking advantage of grilled options, and watching high-calorie drinks. Be sure to pay attention to portion size too.