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, Taco Bell and KFC. Three were good and two were 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!
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!
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?