Enjoy the Panera Bread Menu While Sticking to Your Low-Carb Diet

Walking into a Panera Bread restaurant can feel like a low-carb dieter's nightmare, and for good reason. Between the breakfast sandwiches, bagels, freshly baked bread, and abundance of pastries, it's like a minefield of foods that are off-limits. But don't despair; if you are on a low-carb diet you don't have to skip lunch with your friends or family just because they chose to eat at Panera. It takes a little extra work, but it's possible to swing a low-carb meal there in a pinch.

If you're heading to Panera, you do have a few low-carb options available to you on the salad and soup menus. And if you're not that hungry, a half a sandwich (the roasted turkey and avocado BLT and steak and arugula, both on sourdough, come in with the least carbohydrates) is an option.

Panera Bread used to have a "hidden menu" with healthy low-carb options. Such menus are not necessarily secret, but the items aren't super-popular, so the company doesn't put them on the menu board. Sadly, Panera has discontinued all these options, which ultimately failed to catch on (perhaps if they hadn't been hidden, they might have done better than they actually did).

Lowest Carb Salads

No surprise, ordering a salad is the way to go when you are watching your carbohydrate intake. There are a dozen salads on the menu (and some change seasonally), but here are the four with the lowest carb counts.

  • Greek Salad. Romaine lettuce is tossed with tomatoes, pickled red onion, feta, kalamata olives, and Greek dressing. The total amount of carbs in a whole serving is 13 grams.
  • Caesar Salad. Topped with homemade black pepper focaccia croutons, this popular salad is pretty traditional with Romain lettuce, Parmesan cheese, and Caesar dressing. One whole salad will cost you 14 grams of carbs. If you want a bit of protein, the Caesar Salad with Chicken has 17 grams of carbs in the full serving.
  • Seasonal Greens Salad. This mixture of arugula, kale, romaine, and radicchio, along with tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onion are tossed with a low-fat balsamic vinaigrette. The carb count for the full serving comes in at 20 grams.

Lowest Carb Soups

Soup is offered as a cup, bowl, or in a bread bowl. Obviously, the bread bowl is out of the question, but you can consider a few of the soups on the menu when you purchase a cup size. Not every soup is served every day so check the menu online.

  • Low-Fat Vegetarian Garden Soup With Pesto. Garden vegetables such as zucchini and yellow beans, with a touch of barley, are simmered in a tomato broth and topped with a dollop of nut-free basil pesto for just 11 grams per cup.
  • Low-Fat Chicken Noodle Soup. This combination of egg noodles, vegetables, and all-white meat chicken in a flavorful broth contains 13 grams per cup.
  • Cream of Chicken and Wild Rice Soup. A touch of cream gives this soup a velvety texture while the long-grain and wild rice add a little bite. Celery, onions, carrot, and chicken bring color and flavor. There are 18 grams of carbs in a cup.
  • Broccoli Cheddar Soup. The cheese sauce broth is home to pieces of broccoli, carrots, and seasonings and is 19 grams per cup.

Lowest Carb Baked Goods

If you just can't fight that sweet tooth, you can treat yourself to a little something without blowing your diet. Panera does offer a few small baked goods with reasonable carbohydrate counts. Choose the orange mini scone (27 grams), wild blueberry mini scone (21 grams), or the petite chocolate chipper (13 grams) to satisfy that craving.

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