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

Classic salad with chicken
Panera Bread

The first Panera Bread opened in Missouri back in 1987. Today, there are over 2,000 locations in the United States and Canada. Panera’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, 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.

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 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

Most Nutritious Options

  • Mediterranean Egg White Wrap 

  • Sprouted Grain Bagel

  • Reduced Fat Plain Cream Cheese

  • Farmstyle Bread

  • Ten Vegetable Soup

  • Seasonal Greens Salad

  • Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich

  • Lentil Quinoa Broth Bowl

  • Kid's Baja Mac & Cheese

  • Petite Chocolate Chipper

  • Water

Least Nutritious Options

  • Spinach and Bacon Egg Soufflé

  • Cinnamon Crunch Bagel

  • Peanut Butter

  • Brioche Roll 

  • New England Clam Chowder 

  • Southwest Chili Lime Ranch Chicken Salad

  • Toasted Tuscan Grilled Chicken Sandwich

  • Lentil Quinoa Bowl with Chicken

  • BBQ Chicken Mac & Cheese

  • Kitchen Sink Cookie 

  • Signature Hot Chocolate

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.

Most Nutritious Option

260 calories, 8g fat, 3g saturated fat, 650 mg sodium, 31g carbohydrate, 3g sugar, and 19g protein

Least Nutritious Option

560 calories, 36g fat, 20g saturated fat, 1g trans fat, 1000 mg sodium, 37g carbohydrate, 8g sugar, and 20g protein

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 crispy 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 your breakfast’s carbs low by avoiding high-carb bagels and rolls. Instead, choose a whole grain wrap or look for bread that’s lighter in carbs, such as focaccia

Bagels & 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.

Bagels (without spread)

Most Nutritious Option

230 calories, 1.5g fat, 300 mg sodium, 48g carbohydrate, 4g sugar, and 9g protein

Least Nutritious Option

420 calories, 6g fat, 4.5g saturated fat, 390 mg sodium, 82g carbohydrate, 33g sugar, and 10g protein

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 bagel for under 300 calories.

In addition to being over 300 calories and high-carb, the sweet-sounding bagel choices can also be high in sugar. The popular Cranberry Walnut Bagel has 340 calories, 5g fat, 65g carbs, and 15g sugar and despite the nuts, only has 10g protein. The Asiago Cheese Bagel has 320 calories, 5g fat, 55g carbs, and 13g protein.

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

Spreads

Most Nutritious Option

Reduced Fat Plain Cream Cheese (per 2 tablespoons)

70 calories, 6g fat, 3.5g saturated fat, 220 mg sodium, 1g carbohydrate, 1g sugar, and 2g protein

Least Nutritious Option

Peanut Butter (per 1.5oz serving)

250 calories, 20g fat, 3.5g saturated fat, 135 mg sodium, 11g carbohydrate, 4g sugar, and 9g protein

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 few options to look for. 

Most Nutritious Option

Farmstyle Loaf (per 2-oz serving)

90 calories, 0g fat, 240 mg sodium, 18g carbohydrate, 0g sugar, and 4g protein

Least Nutritious Option

210 calories, 7g fat, 4g saturated fat, 300 mg sodium, 31g carbohydrate, 6g sugar, and 7g protein

For sandwich-making, Panera’s Country Rustic, Honey Wheat, and Whole Grain bread have fewer than 150 calories and 26g of carbs or less per serving. If you’re looking for a low-fat option, choose the Country Rustic which has 0 grams per slice.

To pack some extra protein into your sandwich, go with Whole Grain bread which adds 6 grams per slice. And if you want a hint of something sweet without adding a ton of sugar to your daily intake, the molasses-sweetened Honey Wheat bread has just 4 grams of sugar per serving.

While a French baguette may be the go-to choice to accompany soup, even the smaller side order at Panera will add 170 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. 

Most Nutritious Option

70 calories, 1.5g fat, 730 mg sodium, 11g carbohydrate, 4g sugar, and 3g protein

Least Nutritious Option

1040 calories, 30g fat, 16g saturated fat, 1g trans fat, 1840 mg sodium, 157g carbohydrate, 6g sugar, and 36g protein


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.

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 670 calories, 1160 mg sodium, and 130g 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.

90 calories, 5g fat, 1g saturated fat, 70 mg sodium, 10g carbohydrate, 6g sugar, and 2g protein

Least Nutritious Option

650 calories, 34g fat, 7g saturated fat, 810 mg sodium, 53g carbohydrate, 8g sugar, and 38g protein

If you’re hoping to make a more well-rounded meal out of a salad, look to choices like the Strawberry Poppyseed Salad with Chicken. The 210-calorie salad contains 20 grams of protein and just 11 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. For example, a whole order of the Fuji Apple Salad with Chicken has 570 calories, 34g fat, and 33g protein, which could be split into a protein-packed, crispy and sweet, lunch and dinner.

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.

Most Nutritious Option

220 calories, 5g fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 630 mg sodium, 33g carbohydrate, 4g sugar, and 9g protein

Least Nutritious Option

910 calories, 40g fat, 13g saturated fat, 1500 mg sodium, 85g carbohydrate, 3g sugar, and 53g protein

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 Sandwich has 470 calories, 16g fat, and 50g carbs. If you halve it, you can have a 240-calorie sandwich with 25g carbs, 8g of fat, and 16g protein.

While the BBQ Chicken Flatbread has fewer carbs than other sandwich options and is a decent source of protein, it’s also higher in sugar. One flatbread has 400 calories and 7 grams of sugar—about as much as a whole Steak & White Cheddar Panini.

For a healthier sandwich that doesn’t skimp on protein, try half a Roasted Turkey and Avocado BLT on Country Rustic bread, which has 340 calories, 2 grams of sugar, and 21 grams of protein.

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

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.

Most Nutritious Option

270 calories, 7g fat, 1g saturated fat, 890 mg sodium, 43g carbohydrate, 5g sugar, and 11g protein

Least Nutritious Option

380 calories, 8g fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 1040 mg sodium, 45g carbohydrate, 5g sugar, and 32g protein

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.

Pasta

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.

Most Nutritious Option

520 calories, 35g fat, 18g saturated fat, 1g trans fat, 1100 mg sodium, 37g carbohydrate, 8g sugar, and 17g protein

Least Nutritious Option

1230 calories, 38g fat, 18g saturated fat, 1g trans fat, 2550 mg sodium, 172g carbohydrate, 16g sugar, and 50g protein

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

The only pasta dish with protein for under 1,000 calories is a bowl of Chicken Tortellini Alfredo, which has 750 calories, 39g fat, 1680 mg sodium, 68g carbohydrate, and 31g protein.

For a similar meal with fewer calories, try creating your own. An order of macaroni and cheese from the kid’s menu has 470 calories, 31g fat, 1040 mg sodium, 33g carbohydrates, and 17g protein. 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 may be an option.

Most Nutritious Option

100 calories, 4.5g fat, 3g saturated fat, 75 mg sodium, 13g carbohydrate, 8g sugar, and 1g protein

Least Nutritious Option

800 calories, 44g fat, 28g saturated fat, 1g trans fat, 770 mg sodium, 97g carbohydrate, 54g sugar, and 8g protein

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.

For example, a regular Pumpkin Muffin has 570 calories, but a Pumpkin “Muffie” has just 280 calories. A full-sized Blueberry Scone has 300 calories but the mini version only has 110 calories.

Beverages

Panera is one of the first chain’s 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.

Most Nutritious Option

Bottled Water, San Pellegrino Sparkling Water, or Spindrift Seltzer

0 calories, 0g fat, 0-10 mg sodium, 0g carbohydrate, 0g sugar, and 0 g protein

Least Nutritious Option

510 calories, 12g fat, 7g saturated fat, 270 mg sodium, 88g carbohydrate, 65g sugar, and 12g protein

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 180 calories, 1g fat, 43g carbohydrates, and 39g 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

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.


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.

Items at Panera that may be suitable for a gluten-free diet include:

Low-carb

  • Egg Whites
  • Farmstyle Bread
  • Seasonal Fruit Cup
  • Greek or Caesar Salad (Half)
  • Ten Vegetable Soup (Cup or Bowl)

Low-FODMAP

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.

Items at Panera that may work for a low-FODMAP diet include:

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

Diabetes-Friendly

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

Low-fat

Low-sodium

Vegetarian & Vegan

Panera Bread offers an impressive range of vegan and vegetarian options. 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.

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."

Panera items that may be suitable for a vegan diet include:

In addition to vegan-friendly items, vegetarians may also enjoy:

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.

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources