With its cozy couches, free WIFI and fresh-baked smells, Panera Bread has always felt a little like your mom’s living room, a place where you can relax with a cup of soup, a turkey sandwich, and nice helping of high-fructose corn syrup.
Okay, Mom might not have used industrial corn sweetener in her recipes. But here’s the good news: Pretty soon, Panera won’t, either. Panera’s head chef, Dan Kish, recently told the New York Times that Panera was removing all HFCS from its foods and beverages — even if that means banning Pepsi. Panera recently told its soda provider, “With you or without you, we are getting high-fructose corn syrup off our menu,” according to Kish.
And while that’s good news for those of us who love to loaf on the bread company’s couches, navigating the chain’s menu still takes a little caution. Although Panera offers a great selection of soups, many of its sandwiches still top the 600-calorie mark, and even some salads can carry up to half of the daily recommended amount of sodium and a day’s worth of fat. (Avocado Chicken Cobb with Ranch, we’re looking at you!) Eat This, Not That! magazine asked a group of nutrition and weight loss experts what they order from the popular fast-casual chain. Next time you’re there, pick up one of the fat-blasting, muscle-building orders below. And keep your waistline toned and tight—in record time—with these essential 7 Best Foods for Rapid Weight Loss!
Avocado, Egg White & Spinach Breakfast Power Sandwich
“This 400-calorie meal is a great way to kick off your day,” says Jim White RD, ACSM HFS, owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios. “The Sprouted Grain Bagel Flat sandwich is 100 percent whole wheat, which provides long-lasting energy to help fuel your workouts. Plus, you get 12 grams of protein from the egg whites, which will help with lean muscle growth. To top it all off, the avocado is brimming with health-boosting monounsaturated fat and the spinach serves up vitamins A and C.”
Ham, Egg & Cheese on Whole Grain
“When I’m at Panera for breakfast, I like to order the Ham, Egg & Cheese on Whole Grain bread,” says Sarah Koszyk, MA, RDN, founder of Family. Food. Fiesta. “It only has 340 calories and is packed with protein and four grams of fiber, which helps fill you up. I typically eat it with a piece of fruit for a complete, well-balanced meal.” And start losing weight even before breakfast, with these essential 14 Ways to Wake Up With Zero Belly!
Greek Salad with Chicken
“When it comes to mealtime, I am a sucker for anything Mediterranean, so I would almost immediately go for the voluminous, heart-healthy Greek Salad with Chicken,” says Lisa Moskovitz, R.D., founder of The NY Nutrition Group. “It’s chock-full of high-fiber veggies, serves up some anti-inflammatory olives and provides staying power thanks to the chicken’s lean protein. With the dressing on the side, this 500 calorie salad goes down to about 300 calories, so I’d take a couple small spoonfuls of the high-calorie, oil-based dressing and leave the rest aside so I don’t go over my 400-calorie meal limit.”
Small Superfruit Power Smoothie + Half Chicken Kale Caesar
“This is Panera’s lowest sugar smoothie, so when I want something on the sweet side, this drink satisfies my craving without overdoing it,” says Lauren Minchen MPH, RDN, CDN, a Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist based in New York City, who admires its low 210 calorie count, and 34 grams of total carbs. “I pair it with a small Chicken Kale Caesar salad to make sure I’m getting adequate protein that helps prevent a blood sugar spike—and subsequent crash. I ask for the dressing on the side and then mix in about half of it myself.” Speaking of smoothies, melt fat with each sip by making the The Best Weight-Loss Smoothie Ever!
Garden Vegetable Soup + Half Roasted Turkey Avocado BLT
Jim White RD, ACSM HFS, says go for the “pick two” menu option. “It gives you a great variety and cuts the portion sizes—and calories—in half. For 393 calories, you can get a small Low-Fat Vegetarian and Garden Vegetable Soup, Half a Roasted Turkey Avocado BLT on wheat and an apple.”
Low-Fat Vegetarian Black Bean Soup + Classic Salad
“I typically order a Low-Fat Vegetarian Black Bean Soup”—which has 230 calories and 17 grams of protein—“with a side salad or an apple,” says Ilyse Schapiro MS, RD. “The soup alone has nine grams of fiber and 17 grams of protein, which keeps me full for hours. Plus, the beans are rich in energy-boosting iron.” Soups, smoothies and teas can lead to major weight loss—we love green tea so much, we made it part of our brand new weight-loss plan, The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Diet and Cleanse! Test panelists lost up to 10 pounds in just one week!
Lentil Quinoa Bowl with Chicken
If Lisa Moskovitz, R.D. found herself in a Panera for lunch, a broth bowl would be her top pick. “For only 390 calories, the Lentil Quinoa Bowl with Chicken has everything I need for a filling and nutritious meal. The chicken provides a lean source of protein and the quinoa and vegetables serve up a ton of fiber and protein, too. The combination of nutrients is enough to keep my energy levels stable and my tummy happy for several hours,” she says.
Loow-Fat Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup + Power Kale Chicken Caesar Salad
“Regardless of whether I go to Panera for lunch or dinner, I usually order a cup of a broth-based soup,” says Christine M. Palumbo, MBA, RDN, FAND, a Chicago area registered dietitian. “Two of my favorites are the Low-Fat Lemon Chicken Orzo (which has 120 calories) and the Low-Fat Vegetarian Garden Vegetable Soup with Pesto (at only 90 calories). I typically pair the soup with a half-sized Power Kale Caesar Salad with Chicken,” which has 260 calories. She also customizes the order. “I request that they mix the salad with just half the dressing and then I add a squeeze of fresh lemon. Since the sodium can be a bit on the higher side at Panera, I typically only eat there on days that I’ve had a good sweaty workout!” To blast even more fat and reduce bloat instantly, don’t miss these essential 8 Secret Superfoods for Weight Loss!
Tomato Mozzarella Flatbread with Chicken
“When I eat at Panera, I like to order the Tomato Mozzarella Flatbread,” which has 340 calories, says Elisa Zied, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist and author of Younger Next Week. “To boost the staying power of my meal, I typically ask them to add on some chicken or roasted turkey. The extra protein, along with the fresh fiber-rich veggies that are already on the flatbread, is filling without being high in calories. And the mozzarella provides some protein and calcium.”
Strawberry Poppyseed and Chicken Salad
“I like this salad because it’s satiating without being high in calories,” says Elisa Zied, RDN, of the 350 calorie treat, which packs 29 grams of protein. “The fruits and veggies are loaded with belly-filling water and fiber and the pecans provide a mix of healthy fats, fiber and protein — along with a satisfying crunch. This is a great pick for those who regularly eat out because it provides a nice dose of fruits and vegetables that many of us tend to fall short on when we’re not preparing our own meals. I ask for dressing on the side and then use about two or three tablespoons worth to keep calories in check.” Speaking of calorie-saving tricks, try the super-effective, ab-defining “75/25” rule and learn How Maria Menounos Dropped 40 Pounds!
Classic Salad with Chicken
“The Classic Salad with Chicken is filled with wonderful leafy greens and cucumbers that provide vitamins A and C, beta-carotene, fiber and additional phytonutrients and antioxidants that prevent chronic disease,” says Dana Kofsky, a licensed nutritionist. “The cucumbers in the salad are 95 percent water, which keeps the body hydrated and eliminates toxins, and the protein in the chicken aids muscle growth.” And it’s under 400 calories. “I know that I’m getting nutrients from the vegetables and lasting energy from the protein,” seconds Shapiro, who also orders this dish. “Sometimes romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and grilled chicken are all I need.”