I thought it would be fun and informative to give some nutritional perspective to menu items at local food chains everyone is familiar with. A friend of mine requested I look at Panera Bread, so I will start with sandwiches at this “cafe”. Have I eaten here? Yes, many times, particularly when I traveled with my son during the years he played junior golf. (One summer I actually spent more time in Pinehurst than in Wilmington!)
Let’s face it, most families and individuals have fast paced lives. We rarely stay in one place for long and we are frequently looking for quick and casual food on our travels. I think Panera fills the bill when it comes to casual and quick. But is it nutritious? Be careful making choices based on the cleaver taglines added to menu items such as these:
Fulfill more than your resolutions. Try a nutritious…
Bold Taste. Light feeling…
The only tried and true way of making healthy choices is by looking at the nutritional information. This is impossible to do when you are hungry and have a line of people behind you praying you’ll make up your mind before the next solar eclipse of the sun! That’s why I have reviewed the nutrition information for you. To be honest, both the hot panini sandwiches and the signature sandwiches at Panera Bread are no better nutritionally than a Big Mac from McDonald’s (some are actually much higher in calories, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium).
What is the worst choice at Panera Bread for a hot panini? The Full Steak & White Cheddar on French Baguette packs in : 970 calories, 33 g fat, 13 g saturated fat, 1 g trans fat, 120 mg cholesterol and , 1820 mg sodium.
What is the worst choice at Panera Bread for a signature sandwich? The Italian Combo on Ciabatta packs in: 980 calories, 41 g fat, 15 g saturated fat, 1 g trans fat, 145 mg cholesterol and 2620 mg sodium.
Panera cafe sandwiches are better choices (except for the Sierra Turkey on Focaccia with Asiago Cheese). My pick for a Panera Bread sandwich: Smoked Turkey Breast on Country: 420 caloires, 3 g fat, 0.5 g sat fat, 0 trans fat, 30 mg cholesterol, 1650 mg sodium (still hefty amount here).
Better yet, order the you pick two with 1/2 of the Smoked Turkey Breast on Country and one of the following:
Half Classic Cafe Salad with half low fat Thai Chili Vinaigrette
Low Fat Garden Vegetable Soup with Pesto
All Natural Low Fat Chicken Noodle Soup
Low Fat Vegetarian Black Bean Soup
If you have given the Big Mac the boot, be careful what you “pick up” at the next casual food joint. Nutritional information is online. Look at it and have a plan before you walk through the doors. Do you have a favorite restaurant item you’d like reviewed? Drop me a line in the comments section below or use the “contact me” button to send me an e-mail and I will do it for you! Happy trails!
Diane Boyd, M.B.A., R.D., L.D.N.