Finding high protein meals at your favorite fast food stops like Panera can be a challenge. Just because you’re picking something that appears healthy doesn’t mean it’s gonna have a lot of protein, and vice versa, a lot of protein doesn’t necessarily make a meal “healthy” either. Whether you’re trying to lose weight or simply looking to keep your body composition in check, choosing wisely at places like Panera can go a long way to helping you reach your goals.
Living with a sustainable nutrition plan inevitably means eating out. Especially during the week when you have a busy schedule and can’t quite manage food prepping all your meals for the day. While Panera Bread appears to have a wide variety of healthy options like soups, salads, sandwiches and fruits on the side, finding something that actually works for your goals can be harder than it seems. And it’s always difficult making choices when you find yourself on the spot and hungry!
Menu items that are lower in calories can carry up to half your daily recommended amount of sodium and a day’s worth of fat—while some of Panera’s more caloric entries may actually be among your better choices for a more balanced meal.
So I’ve gone through their entire menu and selected some of their best nutritionally balanced meals that also keep sodium reasonably in check. Don’t forget, you can always ask your server when you order not to add any additional salt to your meal and you can ask for dressings, cheeses or salad chips on the side so you can control how much you want to have of any extras.
RELATED POST: Find out more about how much Protein you should be eating.
1. Avocado Egg White & Spinach
This is a great breakfast option for all including vegetarians! There’s a good mix of healthy, satisfying fats and a decent amount of protein which will both keep you feeling fuller for longer. While you might be a little apprehensive about the carbs you don’t need to be. Having your carbs with protein and fat allows them to be digested more slowly, keeping your blood sugar levels stable. This breakfast should keep you going through to lunch!
2. Greek Yogurt with Mixed Berries
This is one of my favorite breakfasts that I frequently make for myself at home. When I’m on the road, I always pick up a couple of individual yogurt containers & berries from the store to keep in my hotel fridge. It’s such an easy breakfast as no cooking is required and it also happens to taste great! If you’re in a rush and forgot to get your breakfast in before leaving the house, swing by Panera on your way to the office & grab this parfait. It’s quick to eat & easily digestible keeping you energized so you can crush your morning meetings!
3. Asian Sesame Chicken Salad
Panera’s Asian sesame chicken salad is full of antibiotic-free chicken, romaine, toasted almonds, and topped with a light sesame vinaigrette. For the whole salad these macros and calories are on point! And even the sodium is low. It’s not often that you can get this much protein in a meal from a fast food chain without putting a serious dent in your carbs and fat too. This will for sure be my go-to the next time I’m caught out and need to swing into a Panera for lunch or dinner.
4. Southwest Chile Lime Ranch Salad with extra Chicken
Half a portion of the Southwest Chile Lime Ranch salad with extra chicken is a strong order if you’re looking to enjoy a lot of flavor but keep those calories in check. If you do go for a full size salad, ask for light ranch and cheese (or none, or on the side) to keep your fat intake lower.
PANERA SOUPS & CHILI
5. Low-Fat Chicken Noodle Soup
Albeit a little on the salty side, this chicken noodle soup is very modest when it comes to calories. If you need some extra carbs, enjoy sopping up your broth with some of Panera’s freshly baked bread. The sea salt focaccia, French Baguette and artisan ciabatta are all 160 calories or under and contain an additional 5-6g of protein.
6. Soba Noodle Bowl with Chicken
Panera Bread’s Soba Noodle Broth Bowl with Chicken features sliced chicken, soba buckwheat noodles, fresh spinach, napa cabbage blend, roasted mushroom and onion blend, sesame seeds, and cilantro in umami soy-miso broth. I’m practically drooling just listing out these ingredients! I love the blend of vegetables in this dish. So many soups skimp on the vegetables but Panera packs them in amongst the chicken and soba noodles with this bowl. Definitely give this a try if you haven’t already!
7. Turkey Chili
Another amazing soup option for a hearty meal is the turkey chili. One bowl provides 340 calories, 39 grams of carbohydrates, 16 grams of which is fiber. This is great for people looking for slower digesting and low glycemic carbohydrates. One bowl also has 24 grams of protein, so this soup will definitely sustain you.
PANERA SANDWICHES & FLATBREADS
8. BBQ Chicken Flatbread
This BBQ Chicken Flatbread is basically a pizza! Ingredients include smoked, pulled chicken raised without antibiotics, frizzled onions, mozzarella, smoked gouda, fresh baby spinach and cilantro with BBQ sauce on a freshly baked flatbread. Rumor has it that some locations are currently not serving this tasty dish! I hope it’s only temporary and that you see this option on your local Panera menu soon.
9. Steak & Arugula on Sourdough
For the meat lovers among you, the steak and arugula on sourdough is a good choice, especially if you’re bored of chicken. Packed with 33g of protein and 16g of fat, you’re sure to be satisfied with this choice.
10. Bacon Turkey Bravo Sandwich (Half)
While the whole sandwich is fairly calorically dense, if you just opt for half of the bacon turkey bravo sandwich, you’ll save yourself a lot of calories and be surprised by quite how filling it is. You’ll also do a good job at keeping your sodium intake low.
11. Tuna Salad Sandwich
If you’re pescatarian or vegetarian it can be tricky to eat enough protein to support optimal body composition, especially if you’re having to rely on foods out and about. This half tuna salad sandwich will give you 14g of protein and 17g of fat which isn’t bad at all. It’s a shame they use so much mayo in their mix but at least there is a fish option. As far as other vegetarian sandwiches go there is also a Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich, which again is best consumed as a half portion if you’re trying to keep your carb intake down.
We hope you found this guide helpful and that you now have confidence in knowing what to order when you’re in a bind and needing to rely on something quick and convenient. For quick and easy reference, CLICK HERE to go to our instagram post so you can easily bookmark these options.
Is there another chain restaurant you’d like recommendations on? Comment below and let us know!