UPDATE 6/23/2011: While specific information isn’t available yet, Panera has reformulated a few of its soups, created a lower-calorie salad and reduced the amount of sauce on its sandwiches after consumers’ reactions to calorie counts were posted directly on menus in New York City and California. By the end of the year, the Food and Drug Administration is expected to announce new regulations that require any U.S. chain restaurant with 20 or more locations to post calorie counts for every item on its menu.
I am a huge Panera fan. I love their soups and salads and lattes and the like. Over the course of the last five years or so I’ve had my healthy Panera standbys that I knew tasted good and weren’t too high in calories or fat. However, once the new daily sodium recommendations were released, I knew it was time to go back to the Panera nutritionals and see how they stacked up. Below are the results of my research according to the guidance and expertise of registered dietitian Rebecca Scritchfield, who recommends that all meals should contain less than 500 calories and less than 500 milligrams of sodium.
Healthiest Meals at Panera
1. Half of an Egg & Cheese on Ciabatta with Half of a Strawberry Granola Parfait. If you pop into Panera for breakfast, skip over the high-calorie sugary desserts and order an egg and cheese sandwich on ciabatta bread and a strawberry granola parfait. Eat just half of each (breakfast for tomorrow!) for a filling and protein-packed breakfast with just 350 calories and 405 milligrams of sodium.
2. Half Tuna Salad on Honey Wheat with an Apple. Sadly, this is the only sandwich offering on the menu that meets our sodium recommendation. Pair it with an apple for a meal total of 320 calories and 490 milligrams of sodium.
3. Half Asian Sesame Chicken with Half Packet of Herb Vinaigrette. Although Panera has low-calorie salad options, most of them- especially when paired with a dressing- are very high in sodium. However, this combo comes in at 300 calories and 490 milligrams of sodium.
4. Full Classic Cafe with Caesar Dressing and an Apple. This meal doesn’t have much protein, but it does have fiber to help keep you full. And with just 400 calories and 460 milligrams of sodium, it meets our healthy guidelines.
I really wish some of the soups were lower in sodium so that they could make the list. Panera’s black bean is…was…my favorite.