photo: Panera Bread

healthy fast food options: panera bread

Panera Bread is one of my favorite places to quickly stop by and grab a hearty lunch. They have quality food and I love that their salads are much more fresh than any Wendy’s or McDonald’s salads (yuck). But with yummy food comes dangerous levels of calories! I combed through their menu and picked out the healthiest options for you to choose when you are faced with the greatness that is Panera:


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photo: Ranker

Panera apparently has a “hidden menu” online, and that’s where the smart breakfast choices live. Find this menu on their website’s nutrition section. Try the Power Breakfast Bowl with egg whites, spinach, and roasted turkey for 190 calories, 7 grams of fat, and 25 grams of protein. Opt for the regular-egg, avocado, and steak version instead and you’ll down 270 calories, 17 grams of fat, and 25 grams of protein. These dishes are great for long road trips as the protein content will keep you full for hours of driving!

Contrary to the name of the joint, avoid the breads at all costs–there is no real nutrition, only empty calories. Go for the oatmeal or parfait options if you must, but those can also be serious sugar bombs.

Full-Sized Sandwiches

Smoked Turkey Breast on Country Bread: 420 calories, only 3 grams of fat, and 33 grams of protein.

Roasted Turkey & Avocado BLT on Sourdough: 510 calories, 22 grams of fat (avocado contributes to the fat count, so this dish has some healthy fat), 6 grams of fiber, and 32 grams of protein. Shave off some additional calories by nixing the reduced-fat mayonnaise.

Tuna Salad on Honey Wheat: 510 calories, 16 grams of fat, 5 grams of fiber, 29 grams of protein.


Lemon Chicken & Orzo: 150 calories, 4 grams of fat, and a whopping 15 grams of protein!

Low-Fat Garden Vegetable with Pesto: 150 calories, 5 grams of fat, 12 huge grams of fiber, but only 4 grams of protein. While this soup has an amazing fiber content, it’s low on protein. I’d suggest pairing the soup (their You Pick Two option) with any sandwich or salad for a little more sustenance in your meal.

All-Natural Low-Fat Chicken Noodle: 120 calories, 1.5 itty bitty grams of fat, 3 grams of fiber, 8 grams of protein. This soup is great for watching your waist–low calories and some protein to keep you full!

Low-Fat Vegetarian Black Bean: 240 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 9 grams of fiber, 12 grams of protein. I have to highlight this soup because even though it’s healthy, it’s also delicious! It packs a little spice and is really filling thanks to the beans.

Full-Sized Salads

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photo: Panera Bread

Strawberry Poppyseed with Chicken: 350 calories, 13 grams of fat, 6 grams of fiber, 29 grams of protein. This salad is one of my favorites, and the poppyseed dressing makes it lower in calories.

Greek: 380 calories, 33 grams of fat, 5 grams of fiber, 8 grams of protein. Beware of the dressing!!!  It alone holds about 220 calories! It’s sneaky and hides behind the name “Greek Dressing/Herb Vinaigrette”…doesn’t that sound like it should be healthy?!

When in doubt, go for the Poppyseed dressing–it’s only 25 calories for 3 tablespoons. Score.

My final, most important note: ask to check out the “hidden menu” like I mentioned above. These menu items are seriously healthy. Options include the Power Mediterranean Chicken or Roasted Turkey Salad, Power Chicken Hummus Bowl, and Power Steak Lettuce Wraps…all for under 400 calories. Now why can’t they include that on their regular menu?!

What’s your favorite item from Panera? Do you love the place as much as I do?

photo credits: Ranker Panera Bread