What to Eat at Panera Bread: Healthy Menu Choices and Nutrition Facts

Panera

Verywell / Christian Alzate

Panera Bread’s menu is a little different from other popular casual dining and fast food restaurants. Instead of burgers and fries, you’ll find mostly bakery-cafe style fare like freshly baked bread, bagels, and pastries. Beyond breakfast, Panera also offers soups, salads, sandwiches, and a few entree options, like pasta and noodle bowls.

As is often the case when dining out, Panera’s portion sizes tend to be large and meals can be quite high in calories. However, you can always choose to split a menu item with a friend or do a 1/2 sized portion. And since most of the items at Panera are baked or grilled instead of fried, it is possible to find healthier options. The website even offers recommendations for diners following low-fat and low-sodium diets, and you can generally put together a full meal for $10 or less.

What Experts Say

“Panera Bread features a wide variety of flavorful dishes, meets food allergy needs, and offers great half portion sizes of menu items. If one dish is lower in veggies or fiber, or higher in sodium, pair it with a dish that balances the meal out. If you eat here regularly, vary your order to help ensure you meet nutrient needs without exceeding daily recommendations for sodium.”

— Willow Jarosh, MS, RD

Navigating the Menu

Viewing the nutrition information for Panera’s menu online or with the Panera Bread mobile app before you go can help you plan an order that’s within your daily intake of calories, fat, and other nutrients. You can also get an estimate of nutrition facts for your customizations by using the online tool to order Panera for delivery.

If you have specific dietary needs and preferences, such as a food allergy, Panera’s website also offers helpful information on common food allergens to help you navigate the menu.

With the information you need to estimate the nutritional content of the menu and the ability to mix-and-match items when you order, you’ll be able to customize a meal at Panera Bread that suits your tastes, dietary needs, and goals for your health.

What to Order & Avoid at Panera Bread
 Most Nutritious Options Least Nutritious Options
Avocado, Egg White & Spinach  (Breakfast) Sausage, Scrambled Egg & Cheese on Brioche (Breakfast)
Sprouted Grain Flat Bagel (Bagels) Cinnamon Crunch Bagel (Bagels)
Reduced Fat Garden Vegetable Cream Cheese (Spreads) Strawberry Fruit Spread (Spreads)
White Whole Grain Loaf (Breads) Brioche Roll (Breads)
Ten Vegetable Soup Cup (Soups) Baked Potato Soup in Bread Bowl (Soups)
Seasonal Greens Salad (Salads) Southwest Chili Lime Ranch Chicken Salad (Salads)
Mediterranean Veggie on Tomato Basil (Sandwiches) Chipotle Chicken Avocado Melt on Black Pepper Focaccia (Sandwiches)
Mediterranean Grain Bowl (Warm Bowls) Baja Grain Bowl with Chicken (Warm Bowls)
Kids Mac and Cheese (Mac) Broccoli Cheddar Mac & Cheese (Mac)
Petite Chocolate Chipper (Desserts) Kitchen Sink Cookie (Desserts)
San Pellegrino Sparkling Water (Beverages) Signature Hot Chocolate with Chocolate Chip Marshmallows (Beverages)

Most Nutritious Option

If you're searching for the most nutritious option at Panera Bread, order from the restaurant's popular sandwich menu and enjoy the Mediterranean veggie sandwich on tomato basil bread.

Breakfast

Panera’s menu features on-the-go breakfast egg sandwiches and wraps, baked egg soufflés made with cheese, veggies, and meat, as well as a selection of hearty steel-cut oatmeal and fresh fruit. You’ll also find a variety of hot or iced coffee and tea, as well as a full cafe menu of espresso drinks like lattes.

✓ Avocado, Egg White & Spinach Sandwich

For a protein-rich breakfast, choose the avocado, egg white, and spinach on sprouted grain bagel flat sandwich. It provides 350 calories, 13g fat, 5g saturated fat, 39g carbohydrate, 19g protein, and 690mg sodium.

✗ Sausage, Scrambled Egg & Cheese on Brioche

Meanwhile the sausage, scrambled egg, and cheese on brioche delivers 550 calories, 33g fat, 16g saturated fat, 33g carbohydrate, 29g protein, and 870mg sodium.

To start your day with a protein-packed breakfast without as much fat, choose a 35-calorie serving of egg whites instead of whole eggs, which can be upwards of 100 calories depending on how they’re prepared.

For a lower-fat breakfast, skip extras like cheese and load up on veggies instead. If you want to lower the sodium content of your egg sandwich, avoid processed breakfast meats like sausage and bacon. While you’ll find no shortage of bread options, keep breakfast carbs low by avoiding high-carb bagels and rolls. Instead choose a whole-grain wrap or whole grain bread.

Bagels and Spreads

Panera’s bakery boasts an impressive selection of bagels. You can get staples like plain, everything, sesame, and whole grain as well as unique flavors like chocolate chip, french toast, and cranberry walnut. However, even the healthier-sounding bagels are still high-calorie and high-carb—even before you factor a spread of any kind.

✓ Sprouted Grain Flat Bagel

If you’re looking for a low-cal, low-carb breakfast, you aren’t likely to find a bagel that fits the bill. Eaten as-is, you can get a plain, everything, sesame, or sprouted grain flat bagel for under 300 calories. The sprouted grain flat bagel delivers 180 calories, 2g fat, 34g carbohydrate, 4g sugar, 7g protein, and 410 mg sodium.

✗ Cinnamon Crunch Bagel

The cinnamon crunch bagel — a cinnamon bagel topped with an added cinnamon sugar crunch — clocks in at 420 calories, 6g fat, 4.5g saturated fat, 82g carbohydrate, 33g sugar, 10g protein, and 390 mg sodium.

In addition to being over 300 calories and high-carb, the sweet-sounding bagel choices can also be high in sugar. The other popular cinnamon swirl and raisin bagel has 310 calories, only 1.5g fat, 65g carbs, 10g protein, and 12g sugar—only the chocolate chip and French toast bagels have more sugar, at 15g. The asiago cheese bagel has 320 calories, 5g fat, 55g carbs, and 13g protein.

Spreads

Of course, unless you plan to eat your bagel plain, you’ll need to remember to factor in the calories, fat, and sodium content of what you put on it. Even something simple like a pat of butter can easily add 100 calories.

✓ Reduced Fat Garden Vegetable Cream Cheese

For the most nutritious bagel spread option, ask for the reduced fat garden vegetable cream cheese. Two tablespoons of this spread come to 70 calories, 6g fat, 3.5g saturated fat, 1g carbohydrate, 1g sugar, 2g protein, and 220 mg sodium.

✗ Strawberry Fruit Spread

Two tablespoons of the strawberry fruit spread, on the other hand, pack in 90 calories, 0g fat, 0g saturated fat, 23g carbohydrate, 22g sugar, 0g protein, and 0 mg sodium.

The spreads at Panera vary by location and availability, but you can usually get most of the staples like butter, peanut butter, and plain cream cheese. Be sure to track your portions: a typical serving size for most spreads will be two tablespoons, so keep in mind that a larger container will contain more than a single serving.

Bread

As you might expect from the chain’s name, freshly baked bread is Panera’s claim to fame. You won’t find any particularly low-carb options on the bakery menu, but if you need a base for building a healthy sandwich, there are a few options to look for. 

✓ White Whole Grain Loaf

A two-ounce serving of the white whole grain loaf has 130 calories, 1g fat, 26g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 2g sugar, 6g protein, and 240 mg sodium. For sandwich-making, Panera’s country rustic, sourdough, tomato basil, and whole grain bread have 150 calories or fewer, although only the whole grain has 26g of carbs or less per serving. You can also pack some extra protein into your sandwich with the whole grain bread, which adds 6 grams per slice.

✗ Brioche Roll

The Panera Bread brioche roll has 210 calories, 7g fat, 4g saturated fat, 31g carbohydrate, 6g sugar, 7g protein, and 300 mg sodium.

If you’re looking for a low-fat option, choose the country rustic, the sourdough or sprouted grain roll which each have 0 grams per slice. While a French baguette may be the go-to choice to accompany soup, even the smaller side order at Panera will add 180 calories and 36g carbohydrates to your meal.

As with bagel options, sweet bread like cinnamon raisin or those topped with cheese are higher in calories, fat, sugar, and sodium than whole grain options. 

Soup

Panera’s hearty soups can make a meal on their own or be paired with a sandwich or salad. With a range of flavors and ingredients, you can choose from classic comforts like low-fat chicken noodle soup or creamy tomato or try Panera’s take on bistro French onion and chowder. 

✓ Ten Vegetable Soup (Cup)

A cup of the ten vegetable soup comes in at 60 calories, 1g fat, 0g saturated fat, 10g carbohydrate, 4g sugar, 3g protein, and 730 mg sodium. Loaded with vegetables, a cup of this hearty soup can be enjoyed alongside a small sandwich or salad in the You Pick Two option.

✗ Baked Potato Soup (Bread Bowl)

The baked potato soup in a bread bowl has 890 calories, 18g fat, 7g saturated fat, 152g carbohydrate, 6g sugar, 33g protein, and 2,110mg sodium. The broccoli cheddar soup is a favorite at Panera, but with 360 calories, 21g fat, and 1330 mg sodium, a bowl is not among the more nutritious choices. This option is high in sodium and fat. A single serving provides more than half of your sodium needs for the day.

Calorie counts for Panera’s soups are for a traditional bowl, but you can reduce the calories by getting a cup-size serving instead. On the other hand, if you order soup served in an edible bread bowl, you’ll need to add about 550 calories on average, about 700-800 mg sodium, and about 120g carbohydrate to your meal.

Salad

Panera’s salads vary as much in nutrition as they do taste and ingredients. While you can find some lower-calorie options, some salads are higher in calories and fat than full entrees. If you top your greens with crunchy extras and creamy salad dressings, the calories can easily add up.

✓ Caesar Salad (Half)

A half portion of the Caesar salad has 170 calories, 13g fat, 3g saturated fat, 9g carbohydrates, 5g protein, and 310mg sodium. This smaller portion can be paired with a soup or sandwich, making a full meal while keeping the calories and sodium low.

✗ Southwest Chili Lime Ranch Chicken Salad (Whole)

A whole portion of the Southwest chili lime ranch chicken salad has 670 calories, 34g fat, 7g saturated fat, 57g carbohydrate, 9g sugar, 38g protein, and 750mg sodium. If you’re hoping to make a more well-rounded meal out of a salad, look to choices like the half green goddess cobb with chicken. The 250-calorie salad contains 210grams of protein and 14 grams of fat.

Popular salads with more calories and fat can still be nutritious choices—just plan to pack up half to take home for another meal.

When you’re choosing a salad, the most straightforward way to avoid added calories, fat, and even hidden sugars is to skip dressing altogether. If you do choose a dressing, get a half-size portion of low-fat dressing and ask for it to be served on the side.

Sandwiches

Panera offers a range of pre-made sandwiches and paninis, but you can also customize your own with fresh fruit and veggies, grilled chicken, mozzarella cheese, nuts, and avocado.

✓ Mediterranean Veggie on Tomato Basil (Half)

Customize a half portion of the mediterranean veggie sandwich on tomato basil bread for 270 calories, 6g fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 44g carbohydrate, 4g sugar, 10g protein, and 620mg sodium. With veggies only — you can add meat if you wish — this sandwich is also a nutritious option for vegetarian diners.

✗ Chipotle Chicken Avocado Melt on Black Pepper Focaccia (Whole)

A whole chipotle chicken avocado melt on black pepper focaccia bread comes with 930 calories, 49g fat, 15g saturated fat, 80g carbohydrate, 5g sugar, 46g protein, and 1,990mg sodium.

If you want to try one of Panera’s signature sandwiches, but are intimidated by the calorie or carb count, order half a sandwich instead of a whole. The full-size steak and arugula on sourdough has 480 calories, 18g fat, and 50g carbs. If you halve it, you can have a 240-calorie sandwich with 25g carbs, 8g of fat, and 16g protein.

You'll find simpler sandwiches on the PaneraKids Menu, like less-caloric versions of standbys like grilled cheese and PB&J, as well as smaller portions of ham or turkey and cheese.

Warm Bowls

Panera’s bowls are a mix of salad and pasta. These creations feature veggies, quinoa, soba noodles, and protein sources like eggs, edamame, and chicken. In smaller portions, they can be a healthier alternative to carb-heavy pasta entrees.

✓ Mediterranean Grain Bowl

The Mediterranean grain bowl includes brown rice and quinoa, arugula, tomatoes, olives, cucumbers, hummus, feta cheese, and a lemon tahini dressing. You'll get all of these classic Mediterranean flavors for 620 calories, 29g fat, 6g saturated fat, 75g carbohydrate, 6g sugar, 20g protein, and 1,180mg sodium.

✗ Baja Grain Bowl with Chicken

The Baja grain bowl with chicken, meanwhile, has 730 calories, 34g fat, 7g saturated fat, 81g carbohydrate, 9g sugar, 30g protein, and 1,430mg sodium.

If you’re feeling a little uninspired with grilled chicken, Panera’s bowls give you other protein options like cage-free eggs and edamame. Each bowl is under 380 calories and has less than 15g of fat, though full-sized portions can be a little higher in sodium and carbohydrates than other choices.

Mac

Pasta dishes are among the highest-carb, highest-calorie items on Panera’s menu—especially if you order them in a bread bowl. Most servings of macaroni and cheese at Panera are well over 1,000 calories, as well as being high in fat and carbohydrates.

✓ Mac and Cheese (Kids)

For a smaller portion of Panera Bread's classic macaroni and cheese, look to the kids menu. The kids' mac and cheese comes in at 470 calories, 31g fat, 33g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 17g protein, and 1040 mg sodium.

✗ Broccoli Cheddar Mac & Cheese (Bread Bowl)

The broccoli cheddar mac and cheese in a bread bowl has 1,050 calories, 31g fat, 13g saturated fat, 155g carbohydrates, 8g sugar, 40g protein, and 2,290mg sodium.

While a few pasta entrees have some protein, the protein doesn’t offer enough of a nutrition benefit to offset the fat, carbohydrate, and sodium supplied by starchy pasta and creamy cheese sauce.

For a similar meal with fewer calories, try creating your own. An order of macaroni and cheese from the kid’s menu and ask for a side of grilled chicken to add yourself, which only has around 60 calories and 2g fat, but adds 13 grams of protein to your pasta.

Desserts

Most of the options for sweets at Panera are of the bakery variety. You’ll find an assortment of pastries, cookies, and cakes, as well as other bakery items like croissants, muffins, and scones. While you won’t find many low-calorie, low-fat, or low-carb desserts, a few treats are available in “mini” sizes and may be an option.

✓ Blueberry Mini Muffin

A blueberry mini muffin brings 70 calories, 3g fat, 0.5g saturated fat, 10g carbohydrate, 6g sugar, 1g protein, and 55mg sodium.

Panera’s brunch pastries, like muffins, scones, and iced cinnamon buns, are packed with calories, carbs, and sugar when you order them full-size. Smaller portions still add extra calories and sugar to your meal but can be a more sensible way to satisfy your sweet tooth. Ordering the mini version of the blueberry muffin saves you 450 calories and 37g sugar.

✗ Kitchen Sink Cookie

This kitchen sink cookie is a popular choice at Panera Bread and is built to share. It has 800 calories, 44g fat, 28g saturated fat, 99g carbohydrate, 56g sugar, 8g protein, and 760mg sodium. Panera notes that this specific dessert is big enough to split with a friend, so if you're craving this sweet-and-salty option, consider giving half to a friend.

Beverages

Panera is one of the first fast-casual-dining chains to publicize the ingredients and added sugar content of the beverages it serves. If you order one of Panera's craft beverages—including non-carbonated teas, lemonades, and frescas—you'll see information posted in the restaurant and online about the calorie and sugar content of each drink.

✓ San Pellegrino Sparkling Water

While water is often the best and most nutritious beverage whether you're dining out or at home, Panera Bread also offers no-calorie options like San Pellegrino Sparkling Water or Spindrift Seltzer - Lemon for 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g carbohydrate, 0g sugar, 0 g protein, and 0-10 mg sodium.

✗ Signature Hot Chocolate

A 20-ounce serving of the signature hot chocolate delivers 430 calories, 12g fat, 7g saturated fat, 66g carbohydrate, 50g sugar, 12g protein, and 200mg sodium,

Panera’s beverage menu is categorized according to how sweet a drink is, ranging from unsweetened to medium-sweetened. You’ll find a variety of iced tea flavors with no added sugar, as well as drinks made with far less sugar than traditional fountain soda or other common fast-food beverages.

However, Panera also has some high-calorie drinks that are also high in sugar. While you can have a cup of black coffee or tea for few, if any, calories and no added sugar, other espresso drinks can have as many calories (if not more) than your meal.

Avoid creamy milk-based drinks with sweet syrups and toppings, such as the caramel latte. The 16-oz drink has 390 calories, 15g fat, 54g carbs, and 46g sugar. If you want to add flavor without adding too many extra calories or sugar, ask for a “shot” of flavor in an otherwise black coffee. A single pump of caramel syrup has 60 calories, 11g carbs, and 9g sugar.

For a slightly-sweet iced treat that won’t add an extra meal’s worth of calories to your day, check out Panera’s selection of smoothies. The almond milk peach and blueberry smoothie (16-oz) has 210 calories, 2g fat, 49g carbohydrates, and 41g sugar.

Diet-Specific Options

Panera has a wide range of choices for diners following a special diet. There are items for vegans, vegetarians, low-sodium, gluten-conscious and high-protein eaters. The company is committed to serving food that doesn't contain artificial preservatives, flavors, sweeteners, or colors.

With such a heavy emphasis on bread, Panera can be a challenging choice if you’re on a low carb diet. Most of the bakery items at Panera are high-carb and high-calorie, though there are one or two options that may be suitable.

Gluten-Free

  • Green Goddess Cobb with Chicken
  • Fuji Apple with Chicken Salad
  • Southwest Chile Lime with Chicken Salad
  • Baked Potato Soup
  • Vegetarian Autumn Squash Soup

With Panera’s focus on bread, you might not be expecting a wealth of gluten-free choices on the menu. However, the chain has made a point of offering “gluten conscious” items for diners looking to reduce their consumption of gluten and wheat. The most nutritious of these is the green goddess cobb with chicken, which has 500 calories, 29g fat, 24g carbohydrates, and 40g protein in a whole portion.

Panera’s gluten-free menu primarily consists of swaps or substitutes you can ask for when you place your order. However, the company notes that because its kitchen contains an abundance of gluten-containing products, it’s impossible to ensure cross-contamination with gluten or wheat allergens does not occur.

For this reason, Panera recommends diners with celiac disease check with their doctor before ordering from its menu of gluten-free options.

Low-Carb

  • Egg Whites
  • Greek or Caesar Salad (Half)
  • Ten Vegetable Soup (Cup or Bowl)

For a full low-carb meal, opt for a half portion of the Greek salad with a cup of the ten vegetable soup for 20 total carbs.

Low-FODMAP

  • Quinoa
  • Steel-Cut Oats
  • Egg or Egg Whites
  • Summer Fruit Cup or Banana
  • Greek, Caesar, or Seasonal Greens Salad (no croutons or dressing)

If you’re following a low-FODMAP diet, dining out can be difficult. Many popular restaurants use high-FODMAP ingredients or cooking styles. With a few clever customizations, you can create low-FODMAP meals at Panera—though your options will largely depend on your individual tolerance for certain ingredients.

Diabetes-Friendly

  • Chicken Noodle Soup (Cup)
  • Caesar Salad with Chicken (Half)
  • Ham, Egg, and Cheese on Whole Grain Farmstyle Bread
  • Scrambled, Over-Easy, or Egg Whites (Side)
  • Greek, Green Goddess, Chili Lime Rojo Ranch Salad Dressing (Half)

Create your own diabetes-friendly meal by keeping carbohydrates low with a cup of the chicken noodle soup and the green goddess salad.

Low-Fat

  • Vegan Lentil Quinoa Bowl
  • Mediterranean Egg White Wrap
  • Mediterranean Veggie on Tomato Basil Sandwich
  • Plain Bagel with Reduced Fat Garden Vegetable Cream Cheese

Order a whole Mediterranean veggie on tomato basil sandwich for only 12g fat. This is one of the restaurant's lowest-fat options, and if you only want a half-size portion, you'll be consuming 6g fat.

Low-Sodium

  • Apple, Banana, or Seasonal Fruit Cup
  • Sprouted Grain Bagel with Strawberry Fruit Spread
  • Napa Almond Chicken Salad Sandwich on Country Rustic (Half)
  • Steel-Cut Oatmeal with Strawberries, Pecans, and Cinnamon Crunch Topping

Keep your sodium intake lower by ordering a half portion of the Napa almond chicken salad sandwich on country rustic bread. It contains only 400mg sodium.

Vegetarian

  • Greek Salad
  • Modern Caprese Sandwich
  • Vegetarian Creamy Tomato Soup
  • Greek Yogurt with Mixed Berries
  • Avocado, Egg White, & Spinach Breakfast Sandwich

Panera Bread offers an impressive range of vegan and vegetarian options, and its most nutritious option is the Greek salad with a cup of the vegetarian creamy tomato soup.

Vegan

  • French Baguette
  • Green Passion Smoothie
  • Vegan Lentil Quinoa Bowl
  • Steel-Cut Oats with Strawberries and Pecans
  • Soba Noodle Broth Bowl with Edamame Blend

The chain defines vegan as: “food with no animal sources: no meat, fish, shellfish, milk, egg, or honey products, and no enzymes and rennet from animal sources.” In recent years, the company has been testing different vegan and vegetarian-friendly menu items, though some are only available for a limited time or in specific regions. When you’re viewing the menu online, you’ll see a green leaf icon on items that are vegan-friendly.

For a hearty vegan meal, order the vegan lentil quinoa bowl.

Even with its commitment to creating these options, Panera still provides the caveat that as it does use animal products in its kitchens, no menu item is certified vegan.

Panera Vegan Statement

"All of our menu items (vegan and non-vegan) are prepared in the same kitchen, so while we’re happy to make your order just the way you want, we can’t guarantee that there will be no cross-contact between ingredients."

Food Allergies and Safety

When you’re dining at Panera, let the employee taking your order know if you have a food allergy. Before you decide what to order, carefully review the menu's nutrition information and ingredients list. More detailed information for some products can be found on the Panera At Home website.

Panera Food Allergen Statement

"Please note that we cannot guarantee that any of our menu items are free of allergens because we use shared equipment and handle common allergens throughout our supply chain and bakery-cafe."

If you have any concerns or questions, ask to chat with a Panera manager. They may be able to give you additional information and can pass on your request to the kitchen staff.

A Word From Verywell

Compared to many other popular casual dining and fast food restaurants, Panera Bread’s menu of mostly baked and grilled food gives you the ability to customize a relatively healthy and satisfying meal. While most items on the menu come in large portions, you have the option of getting a half-order which can reduce the calories of your meal.

You can even mix-and-match different items to create a hearty meal—or more than one, leaving you with leftovers to pack up and take home for later. If you’re following a special diet or trying to avoid certain ingredients, you’ll find the transparency of Panera’s menu, as well as the range of choices, helpful in creating a meal that suits your tastes and needs.

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  2. Panera Bread. Eat Well, Your Way. Gluten Conscious.

  3. Panera Bread Company. Eating Vegan.