in Food

Does Panera Bread Offer Any Food That is ok on a Paleo Diet?

Panera Bread

I have never been a huge fan of Panera Bread but I do not mind some of their food. I love the relaxing atmosphere for sure and it is a popular place. Thus, I find myself eating at Panera Bread a few times a year. I ate their a couple of weeks ago with my sister.

I follow a Primal Blueprint eating plan, or what some like to call the Paleo Diet, and thus like to know what food is best for me at certain restaurants. I have already tackled Moe’s, Chipotle, Wendy’s and Taco Bell. Three were good and one was a joke. Today our focus is Panera Bread.

I went through all of Panera Breads food options at their online menu. It’s not optimal but you should not expect optimal from a fast food place… yet. Compared to all fast food chains, Panera Bread seems to be one of the best options. Even better than Subway (I’ll be covering this next!), a fast food joint that I thought was the healthiest out there. Turns out Wendy’s is better!

What Are the Best Options at Panera Bread?

I enjoy the pick 2 option. I go with a half salad and soup. The Asian Sesame Chicken, Strawberry Poppyseed Chicken and Fuji Apple Chicken are my top 3 options for salads. I’ll tell you how to order these 3 salads in a moment since they require certain requests.

I looked through all of the soup options and the only choice that seemed reasonable was the New England Clam Chowder. It does contain cream but I felt great after eating it the other day. I generally do not tolerate most dairy products well. It also has a little flour and modified food starch. It seems to be a very tiny amount. Do what you think is best for you. If the clam chowder is a no go for you then get a full size salad instead.

On to how to order healthy options from Panera Bread…

Classic Cafe Salad

  • Ask to add veggies like olives and pepperoncini at no extra cost

Fuji Apple Chicken Salad

  • Extra chicken (protein amount is weak in 1 serving)
  • The Gorgonzala cheese is real… do you eat pasteurized cheese?
  • Sub fat free poppyseed dressing or go without

Asian Sesame Chicken Salad

  • Extra chicken and almonds
  • Sub fat free poppyseed dressing or go without
  • NO crispy strips
  • Add other veggies like olives if its free

Mixed Fruit Cup

  • Order as is. It includes whole, fresh fruit. Expensive but real.

Strawberry Poppyseed Chicken Salad

  • Ask for no mandarin oranges but extra blueberries or strawberries
  • Could do without dressing because of the fruit but the one it comes with is ok

Watermelon Fruit Cup

  • Order as is. It’s real watermelon. One of my summer favorites!

Breakfast Sandwhiches

These came as a surprise to me. Whole eggs. Bacon and sausage that is not bad. It has nitrites but that is not the big concern. It’s your choice. I will probably try one of their breakfast sandwiches at some point in my life. It’s a better choice than McDonalds and Burker King along with hundreds of others!

  • Order without bagel (lettuce wrap instead?)
  • Ask for extra egg or meat at no cost (your giving up the bagel!)
  • The cheese is real cheese. Just ask yourself if you eat cheese or not!

Side Items

You are always asked what side you want with your meal. It’s easy… apple or pickle spear!

New England Clam Chowder Soup

Order as is. Just remember that it has cream, and butter. It also contains a little flour and modified food starch. I ate this last time I was at Panera Bread and felt awesome afterwards. Half order of this and one of the three salads above will last you a while and should not make you sick unless you are extremely intolerant to gluten and/or dairy.

Why Fat Free Poppy Seed Dressing?

It is the best choice. It is still not at all ideal but they do not carry olive oil. At least that is what the employee told me on the phone a few days ago. This is what it  contains according to this page on Panera’s Bread website (link is no longer valid):

Fat free poppyseed dressing (water, evaporated cane juice, distilled vinegar, orange juice concentrate, contains less than 2% of dehydrated onion, cellulose gel and cellulose gum, poppy seeds, salt, xanthan gum, spice, rebaudioside A [a non-nutritive sweetener from stevia], natural flavor).

I am not sure what rebaudioside does to our bodies. I know stevia is ok but that does not mean that rebaudioside is. Nonetheless, its a very tiny amount. How many times in your life are you going to consume it? Stressing out about it is worse than actually consuming once or twice in your life.

Keep the following in mind…

I do not choose to eat at fast food joints often. There are plenty of decent choices out there such as Moe’s and Chipotle. Elevation Burger is possibly the best option but they are new. They serve 100% grass fed beef  hamburgers and cook their fries in olive oil. Thankfully they are franchising like crazy.

I plan on doing a lot of traveling over the next 5 to 10 years. I will always prefer to make my own food or enjoy a local restaurant but sometimes that is not an option. Fasting is always a choice but sometimes I want food. This post showed you exactly how I would personally order at Panera Bread. I urge you to make your own choices. With that said, mine are always pretty ideal in non ideal environments.

Leave a comment below while thinking about the following questions…

  • How often do you eat at Panera Bread?
  • When you do, what do you order? Anything that I discussed in this post?
  • What are your favorite fast chain restaurants when you go that route?
  • What fast food joint do you want me to dissect next?
  • If I started a primal “fast food” joint would you eat there?

photo credit


  1. When I took a poll on my facebook fan page I learned that most will never eat at Panera Bread again. Really? It is one of the best options unless I am unaware of some magical fast food restaurant chains!

  2. I personally love Panera. I do a lot of business lunches there because it is fast, inexpensive and, like you mention in this post, you can make good choices. My salad choice is the fugi apple chicken. Thanks for the heads up on the dressing, I will have to look at the ingredients before I order again. But it is so tasty!

    • Most of my facebook fans dismissed Panera Bread… they should be ashamed of themselves!

  3. Love the Fuji Apple salad…though its so hard to pass up on those tasty pastries they have on display

  4. The Chopped Chicken Cobb Salad, without dressing, is 10 grams of carbs. Dressing adds a carb. It has 38g of protein, and so fits in as a complete meal for someone eating anywhere in the 90 grams of protein per day range. The macro-nutrient make up is 62% fat, 29% protein and 8% of the calories from carbs. It is an almost perfect low carb meal!

    • Did I not mention the salad? Their must be some reason why. I remember looking at that one and dismissing it. I probably was not a fan of the ingredients in some of the foods in the salad.

  5. I’m going to pick apart one little section of this very good article. Rebaudioside is simply one of the 2 major molecules making up Stevia. Much like High-Fructose Corn Syrup, is sometimes written as glucose/fructose (especially in Canada), stevia sweetener could be written as stevioside/rebaudioside (although the former is obviously not primal). Now basically, the verdict on stevia is in. It presents no glycemic response, it is heat and pH sensitive, is WAY sweeter than sugar (sucrose) and, best of all, it comes from a leaf! Recent studies have shown that stevia is non-carcinogenic and non-genotoxic (WHO, 2006). Looking at all of the items on the list of ingredients, it’s not 100% primal, but none of the ingredients on there are extremely toxic in the amounts you’d be likely to ingest.

    • Thanks for the comment Tyler! No, its not 100% primal but we just need to do the best we can. I won’t ever personally suggest going to Panera Bread but if I am with someone who does then I will order without guilt or stress!

  6. Been eating Paleo for a few months now. Started with The Zone in January and switched to Paleo around March. Did my first Whole30 May 1 to May 30. It was great! I will start another late July. It’s too easy to have too many treats!

    I love your website. I can’t believe I just barely found it today! I thought I’d found all the Paleo sites out there.

    You should definitely innovate Paleo fast food. I love the challenge of finding Paleo meals at my favorite eateries, but it gets old.

    Thanks for the great blog!

    • Thanks for all the great feedback Lisa! I’ll for sure venture into all that awesome stuff in the future. I have no idea when but I do wan to make it happen. I have a lot of awesome things in mind. I just need to enjoy the present and let it all happen as it wants too 🙂

  7. Thank you for this article. I have a little trouble with the Elevation Burger suggestion. For nearly 2 years, they have been reluctant to release the nutritional data and ingredients list on their menu items. You can read the long thread on this, on their Facebook page. They give no reasons.
    Consider the irony here – a company which states that “ingredients matter” to promote their restaurant as a healthier option. It smells like they are hiding something.

    • That’s interesting. I decided to ask that question on their facebook wall. That was 5 hours ago and I have not received a response. I will have to give them a call before I do a review on them. I was planning on doing a post within the next 4 weeks. I guess it will be quite interesting!

  8. Thank you for this. I am about to go into Panera to meet a friend and re-read your post before ordering.

    • You bet! My sister chose Panera bread the other day… I had to refer to this post!

  9. I eat at Panera 4-5 days a week…. The salads are great… Every three to four months they change the menu. The also got hidden menu item like the power salads, they come with olive oil on or on the side. They have added even more tasty salads. My personal favorite for time being is the Casablanca shrimp salad. They make every item as u like take away or add. Soups i like garden veggie soup. The Panera i eat at, they are a test item cafe… They get healthier items and sell and gather information on what each item was missing etc. . . I have love it from day one two years ago and i still eat there. I love it.

Comments are closed.