With 2,000 locations nationwide and a menu that boasts veggie-packed salads, no artificial flavors or preservatives and quick service, Panera is a solid lunch go-to.
But even though Panera may be known for having healthy options, quite a few menu items are still surprisingly high in calories and fat — with some sandwiches containing close to 900 calories and some salads having more than 500 calories. Just because something contains “salad” or “ancient grain” in the title doesn’t mean it’s not loaded with calories. And while the pastry case may be enticing, bypass the sugar and empty-calorie bombs and stick with something that’s portion-controlled and keeps the calories to 100 or less.
Each of the following options contains less than 500 calories and 20 grams of fat with at least 15 grams of protein and plenty of vegetables.
Why it made the cut: Breakfast sandwiches are a great option for grab-and-go breakfast, since they usually have protein from eggs. This breakfast sandwich combines lean protein, whole grains and vegetables for a balanced breakfast that will keep you full all morning long with 5 grams of fiber and 17 grams of protein.
RD tip: If you’re choosing a sandwich with meat, choose leaner options like turkey sausage or Canadian bacon over pork sausage or bacon. Asking for extra veggie toppings or spinach is a great way to sneak more fiber and nutrients into breakfast.
Why it made the cut: If you’re in the mood for soup, this turkey chili is the way to go. A bowl has just 260 calories and has 16 grams of fiber and 17 grams of protein.
RD tip: A bowl of turkey chili is a great option if you need a quick, filling lunch. To add more veggies, order a half seasonal greens salad on the side for just 90 additional calories. Sub out the bread for an apple to save as a snack later on.
Why it made the cut: This salad is super satisfying with plenty of crunch from toasted almonds and wonton strips, but it stays reasonable at just 410 calories and 25 grams of protein.
RD tip: Order dressing on the side and lightly dress your own salad to shave off a few calories. The Asian sesame vinaigrette that comes with this salad is packed with flavor, so you’ll be surprised how little dressing you end up using.
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Why it made the cut: This vegetarian sandwich doesn’t skimp on protein thanks to the hummus and feta, but it still keeps calories reasonable at 440 for an entire sandwich.
RD tip: Stick to sliced whole-grain bread to keep the calories down and the fiber up. Always keep in mind that you can sub out the bread on your sandwich with a different option. Hoagie rolls or ciabatta tend to bump up the calories quite a bit.
Why it made the cut: Combo meals are usually a deal for your wallet, but not always for your waistline. Ordering a half portion of each item can still add up to well over 500 calories for lunch. This satisfying combination of half a sandwich and a cup of soup provides 15 grams of filling protein and just 480 calories.
RD tip: To keep calories in check when ordering a “You Pick Two” at Panera, stick to the basics: a simple turkey sandwich provides filling protein without piling on calories. That allows you to opt for a creamy tomato soup without going overboard. A protein-packed sandwich with a simple side salad is another great option.
Why it made the cut: Classic bakery chocolate chip cookies can easily be the size of your hand and have around 400 calories. This petite cookie keeps portion size in check and satisfies your sweet tooth with just 100 calories.
RD tip: Opt for the mini version of your favorite treat is a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth. These mini chocolate chip cookies still feel like a tasty snack, but it’s a lot easier to stop after one mini cookie than it is to stop after just one bite of a larger cookie.