Healthy Choices at Panera

Healthy food at Panera

Panera is one of those places that seems healthy, but has a lot of pitfalls, so you have to be very diligent in what you order.  The bagels are large, and therefore very high in calories.  Of course, they also have a variety of healthy and delicious options.

Their website also includes a cool interactive Nutrition Calculator, so if you buy more than one item, you can have it do the math for you.

Artisan & Specialty Breads – Better Choices

Most of the breads are pretty reasonable, though a few are high in fat or sodium.  Most are low in fiber, which means they’re from refined flours.  Best choice is the Whole Grain Bread, of course.

Whole Grain Bread OK (miche, loaf, or baguette), per 2 ounce serving:
140-150 cal, no sat fat, 1-1.5g total fat, 260-330mg sodium, 27-30g carbs, 2g sugars, 3g fiber, 6g protein

Stone-Milled Rye (miche or loaf), per 2 ounce serving:
140 cal, no sat fat, 0.5g total fat, 380-420mg sodium, 27-28g carbs, no sugars, 2g fiber, 5g protein

Three Seed Demi, per 2 ounce serving:
160 cal, no sat fat, 3.5g total fat, 300mg sodium, 27g carbs, no sugars, 2g fiber, 6g protein

Artisan Breads – Worst Choices

These are all made with refined flour and don’t have much nutritional value.  They’re also lower in fiber than the “Best Choices.”

Focaccia, per 2 ounce serving:
180 cal, 0.5g sat fat, 4.5g total fat, 320mg sodium, 28g carbs, 1g sugars, 1g fiber, 5g protein

Focaccia with Asiago Cheese, per 2 ounce serving:
160 cal, 1.5g sat fat, 5g total fat, 230mg sodium, 23g carbs, 1g sugars, 1g fiber, 5g protein

Cinnamon Raisin Loaf , per 2 ounce serving:
180 cal, 1.5g sat fat, 3g total fat, 135mg sodium, 34g carbs, 11g sugars, 1g fiber, 5g protein

Sourdough Roll, per 2.5 ounce serving:
200 cal, no sat fat, 1g total fat, 400mg sodium, 39g carbs, no sugars, 1g fiber, 7g protein
The Sourdough Soup Bowl and Sourdough Round loaf are similar (per serving).  They’re made with refined flour (like most of their breads), and are higher in sodium than most of the other breads.

Bagels – Better Choices

Panera’s bagels range in calories from 290 to 430, in fiber from 2 to 6 grams, in sugars from 3 to 30 grams, and in sodium from 420 to 740 mg.

Whole Grain Bagel OK
370 cal, no sat fat, 3.5g total fat, 420mg sodium, 70g carbs, 5g sugars, 6g fiber, 13g protein
Although on the high end in calories, it’s also highest in fiber, second-highest in protein, and lowest in sodium of all the bagels.

Plain Bagel
290 cal, no sat fat, 1.5g total fat, 450mg sodium, 59g carbs, 3g sugars, 2g fiber, 10g protein
(lowest in overall calories)

Sesame Bagel
310 cal, no sat fat, 3g total fat, 450mg sodium, 59g carbs, 3g sugars, 2g fiber, 10g protein

Bagels – Worst Choices

Asiago Cheese (high fat), Blueberry (high sugar), Sweet Onion Poppy Seed (high calories, high fat), Chocolate Chip (high sugar, high fat), Cinnamon Crunch (very high sugar, fat, and calories), Cinnamon Swirl & Raisin (high sugar), Jalapeño & Cheddar (highest sodium), Everything Bagel (high sodium).

Cream Cheese Spreads – Better Choices

The Reduced-Fat Spreads are the better choices here, though it’s tough to tell from the nutrition facts, since the portions are “small enough” to allow for many of the nutrients to be rounded-down to zero.

Several of the 2-ounce servings listed in the nutrition guide include 0.5g trans fats, which means the 1-ounce servings also contain some trans fats, even though it says zero.

The “Better Choices” then, are the ones that show no trans fats in the 2-ounce serving, meaning they’re lower in trans fats than the others, though it’s impossible to tell by what degree.  Trans Fats are so bad for you that I think it’s worth a few extra calories to avoid them.

Reduced Fat Honey Walnut, per 2-ounce serving:
150 cal, 6g sat fat, 11g total fat, 200mg sodium, 8g carbs, 7g sugars, 1g fiber, 5g protein

Reduced Fat Raspberry, per 2-ounce serving:
130 cal, 6g sat fat, 10g total fat, 200mg sodium, 7g carbs, 6g sugars, 1g fiber, 4g protein

Cream Cheese Spreads – Worst Choices

Plain (highest calories, highest fat, 1g trans fat!), all the other Reduced Fat Spreads (Plain, Hazelnut, Sun-Dried Tomato, Veggie) are listed as containing 0.5g trans fat per serving, so they should be avoided.

Artisan Pastries, Brownies & Blondies, Cookies, Cakes, Specialty Pastries, Sweet Rolls, Scones, Muffins, Muffies – Worst Choices

I’m not even going to bother listing any of these; they’re high in fat, sugar, sodium… then again, if you compare them to a bagel with 2 ounces of cream cheese, they’re often about the same.  Let’s move on.

Baked Egg Soufflés, Grilled Breakfast Sandwiches, and Granola Yogurt Parfait – Better Choices

Egg & Cheese on Ciabatta OK
380 cal, 6g sat fat, 14g total fat, 620mg sodium, 43g carbs, 1g sugars, 2g fiber, 18g protein

Breakfast Power Sandwich OK
360 cal, 6g sat fat, 14g total fat, 860mg sodium, 36g carbs, 3g sugars, 4g fiber, 23g protein

Strawberry Granola Parfait OK
310 cal, 4g sat fat, 11g total fat, 100mg sodium, 44g carbs, 28g sugars, 3g fiber, 9g protein

Baked Egg Soufflés & Grilled Breakfast Sandwiches – Worst Choices

The Egg Soufflés are very high in saturated fat, so they’re all in the Worst Choices category, unfortunately.  Most of the breakfast sandwiches are very high in calories and/or sodium.

Bacon, Egg & Cheese on Ciabatta; Sausage, Egg & Cheese on Ciabatta (high calories, fat, and sodium)

Asiago Cheese Bagel Breakfast Sandwiches (high calories, fat, and sodium) – The ones with bacon and sausage are over 600 calories, and all of these have trans fat.

Jalapeño & Cheese Bagel Breakfast Sandwiches (high in calories, fat, and sodium).

Hot Paninis, Signature Sandwiches, and Cafe Sandwiches – Better Choices

These are all under 400 calories, 16 grams fat or less, and under 1,000mg sodium — per HALF SANDWICH.

Half Mediterranean Veggie Cafe Sandwich on Tomato Basil
300 cal, 1.5g sat fat, 7g total fat, 730mg sodium, 50g carbs, 3g sugars, 5g fiber, 11g protein

Half Tomato & Mozzarella Panini on Ciabatta OK
380 cal, 5g sat fat, 15g total fat, 650mg sodium, 48g carbs, 5g sugars, 3g fiber, 15g protein

Half Napa Almond Chicken Salad Cafe Sandwich on Sesame Semolina OK
350 cal, 2g sat fat, 13g total fat, 660mg sodium, 44g carbs, 6g sugars, 2g fiber, 15g protein

Half Asiago Roast Beef Signature Sandwich on Asiago Cheese
350 cal, 7g sat fat, 13g total fat, 630mg sodium, 32g carbs, 2g sugars, 1g fiber, 24g protein

Half Chicken Caesar Signature Sandwich on Three Cheese
360 cal, 4.5g sat fat, 16g total fat, 730mg sodium, 33g carbs, 2g sugars, 2g fiber, 21g protein

Half Smoked Turkey Breast Cafe Sandwich on Country
280 cal, 1.5g sat fat, 9g total fat, 980mg sodium, 34g carbs, 2g sugars, 2g fiber, 16g protein

Honorable Mention: Half Tuna Salad on Honey Wheat
380 cal, 4.5g sat fat, 23g total fat, 570mg sodium, 32g carbs, 6g sugars, 3g fiber, 10g protein
The Tuna is fairly good on calories, has the lowest sodium of any sandwich, but it’s a high in fat.

Hot Paninis, Signature Sandwiches, and Cafe Sandwiches – Worst Choices

Cuban Chicken Panini (high calories & fat), Frontega Chicken® on Focaccia (high calories, fat and sodium), Smokehouse Turkey® on Three Cheese (high sodium), Turkey Artichoke on Focaccia (high sodium), Bacon Turkey Bravo® on Tomato Basil (high calories, very high sodium), Chipotle Chicken on Artisan French (very high calories, very high fat, high sodium), Italian Combo on Ciabatta (very high calories, high fat, very high sodium), Sierra Turkey on Focaccia with Asiago Cheese (high calories, very high fat), Smoked Ham & Swiss on Stone-Milled Rye (high sodium), Tuna Salad on Honey Wheat (high fat).

Soups & More – Better Choices

When part of a “You Pick Two” order, these are about 8 ounces.  If ordered separately, they’re about 12 ounces.  I’ll use the 8 ounce nutrition information here.  (Get a bowl and add 50% to these numbers).

Best choices are under 200 calories and 1,000mg sodium.

Low Fat Chicken Tortilla OK
140 cal, 1g sat fat, 4.5g total fat, 750mg sodium, 18g carbs, 1g sugars, 1g fiber, 7g protein

Low Fat Garden Vegetable with Pesto
110 cal, no sat fat, 2g total fat, 830mg sodium, 19g carbs, 5g sugars, 4g fiber, 4g protein

Low-Fat Vegetarian Black Bean
110 cal, 1g sat fat, 2.5g total fat, 980mg sodium, 18g carbs, 3g sugars, 3g fiber, 6g protein

Soups & More – Worst Choices

Signature Mac & Cheese (high calories, high fat, high trans fat, high sodium), Baked Potato Soup (high fat, high trans fat), Broccoli Cheddar (high sodium), Cream of Chicken & Wild Rice (high calories), French Onion (very high sodium), Low-Fat Chicken Noodle (high sodium), New England Clam Chowder (very high calories, very high fat, very high trans fat).

Hand-Tossed Salads – Better Choices

These are also available as part of the “You Pick Two” menu, so I’m using the smaller portion nutrition information.  If you order the full salad, you should roughly double these numbers.

Best choices are 200 calories or less, and under 500mg sodium.

Half Classic Cafe Salad OK
80 cal, 1g sat fat, 5g total fat, 135mg sodium, 9g carbs, 6g sugars, 2g fiber, 1g protein

Half Strawberry Poppyseed Salad with Chicken OK
140 cal, no sat fat, 4g total fat, 260mg sodium, 14g carbs, 9g sugars, 2g fiber, 14g protein

Half Asian Sesame Chicken Salad
200 cal, 2g sat fat, 10g total fat, 460mg sodium, 14g carbs, 3g sugars, 2g fiber, 15g protein

Half Caesar Salad
200 cal, 4g sat fat, 14g total fat, 310mg sodium, 13g carbs, 1g sugars, 1g fiber, 6g protein

Hand-Tossed Salads – Worst Choices

Fuji Apple Salad with Chicken (high calories), Greek Salad (very high sodium), Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad (high calories, high sodium), Tomato Mozzarella & Basil Salad (very high calories, high sodium), Chopped Chicken Cobb Salad (high calories, high sodium), BBQ Chopped Chicken Salad (high calories).

Sides – Better Choices

Sandwiches, Soups, Salads, and You Pick Two all come with a side option.

Apple or Fruit Cup OK

Whole Grain Baguette (unless, of course, you’re already having a sandwich — then you’re getting plenty of bread!)

Sides – Worst Choices

Regular Potato Chips (fat, sodium)

French Baguette (refined flours, sodium)

Baked Potato Chips (sodium)

Panera Kids™ – Better Choices

Except for the Roast Beef, each of the sandwiches is too high in something, whether that’s calories, fat, or sodium.

Panera Kids Deli Sandwich – Roast Beef OK
320 cal, 6g sat fat, 10g total fat, 790mg sodium, 35g carbs, 3g fiber, 3g sugars, 23g protein

Panera Kids Organic Yogurt (blueberry, strawberry) OK
70 cal, 0.5g sat fat, 1g total fat, 40g sodium, 12g carbs, 11g sugars, no fiber, 2g protein

Panera Kids Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich OK
410 calories, 3.5g sat fat, 18g total fat, 550mg sodium, 56g carbs, 21g sugars, 4g fiber, 12g protein
Although the PB&J is higher in calories, it’s mostly from unsaturated fats — this is what I’d choose for my kids.

Panera Kids Deli Sandwich – Smoked Turkey
300 cal, 5g sat fat, 10g total fat, 1,160mg sodium, 35g carbs, 4g sugars, 3g fiber, 21g protein

Panera Kids Deli Sandwich – Smoked Ham
300 cal, 6g sat fat, 9g total fat, 1,210mg sodium, 34g carbs, 3g sugars, 3g fiber, 21g protein

Panera Kids Grilled Cheese Sandwich
300 cal, 9g sat fat, 12g total fat, 890mg sodium, 35g carbs, 4g sugars, 3g fiber, 15g protein

Panera Kids™ – Worst Choice

Panera Kids Mac & Cheese
A whopping 490 calories, 13g sat fat, 30g total fat, and 1,020mg sodium.  Yikes.

Menu Mondays are my recommendations for the most healthful options at chain restaurants. Although it may be tough to find “perfect” options when eating out, it’s important to choose “better” whenever possible, and I hope these guides will help make that easier for you.

indicates the “best-of-the-best,” and X indicates the “worst-of-the-worst,” more or less.

Panera Nutrition Information (PDF)

Drawing by poldee.

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
December 27, 2013 3:55 pm

I was recently diagnosed with food allergies. Panera refused to even talk with me. they are OFF my radar!

September 25, 2013 12:34 pm

What about the “hidden menu” there? Most of those options seem much better than any of these really… Looks like this was published before the menu came out. Maybe an update?

August 21, 2013 10:22 am

I don’t agree with recommending “low-fat” options (cream cheese) if you are claiming to be a whole foods website. Anything low-fat has just had the nutrients sucked out and replaced with PROCESSED ingredients made to mimic those healthy fats taken out. You are better off eating full fat dairy and just keeping it in check.

April 30, 2013 10:21 am

Have to disagree with the salad section. It all depends on if you are getting the salad as a meal or as a side. For example, if you get the chicken Caesar salad as a meal, it is a very healthy option. Not sure how you consider it high sodium considering the “healthy” salads you listed were half sized but contain well over half the sodium of the chicken Caesar. Also the fact that you list a 370 calorie bagel with 70g of carbs as a good choice is a joke. Not a bad article but could use a little more work.

March 8, 2013 5:56 pm

This was super helpful! Thank you so much for this!!! Unfortunately, nutrition information is SO hard to find! I used this to plan my dinner! Thank you!!! 🙂

Autumn Ann
Autumn Ann
March 7, 2013 8:59 am

After reading Laurie’s comment above, I double checked the stats for the Mediterranean Veggie sandwich. I hadn’t noticed that the totals were for only a HALF sandwich, so WOW, it’s not as healthy as I’d thought. Guess I’ll have to rethink what my next lunch order will be the next time I go to Panera. I do not have to watch my carb intake, but since my Dad was diabetic, I do try to keep my daily count within the “safe” range. 100 carbs per sandwich is way too much! There has to be a way to lower that number, as well as most of the other totals (sodium, in particular).

March 6, 2013 10:31 pm

Great Article!! Excellent info!

What to do mom!
What to do mom!
October 10, 2012 1:14 pm

wow I just had the ham and swiss on rye and thought I did good by not goin to MC D’s!!!

October 9, 2012 5:20 am

The best part about Panera Bread is that they have their calorie information displayed on the menu in the store……..I agree it does not show fat or sodium content, but is a step above from any other restaurant.

October 8, 2012 10:14 am

Thanks for this. On my way to Panera for lunch and I had heard that it wasn’t as healthy as one would hope. I found this place with Google and it’s been helpful. Now I can go enjoy lunch! Thanks again!