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The #1 Worst Bagel to Order at Panera Bread, Dietitian Says

A dietitian spreads wisdom about the bagel and cream cheese menu at America's biggest bakery chain.

Ooh, that feeling of anticipation when you're browsing Panera's bagel baskets to decide which pick you're in the mood for. But, if you're like a lot of bagel lovers, you know "bagel" is synonymous with "serious carbs." We're here to help: After Panera Bread's announcement last week that their company is about to go bigger, we teamed with a dietitian to research the Panera bagels (and cream cheese choices!) that are safe bets, if you're being mindful of your weight and health… as well as the one Panera bagel you should probably save for super-special occasions.

Dina R. D'Alessandro, MS, RDN, CDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist and lecturer at the City University of New York's Herbert H. Lehman College. D'Alessandro has reviewed Panera Bread's nutritional information to hone in on the best and worst bagels and cream cheese at America's biggest bakery chain. Keep reading—and, while we're talking morning must-haves, check out D'Alessandro's analysis of The #1 Worst Coffee Creamer on Shelves, Says Dietitian.

The worst bagel at Panera Bread…

panera cinnamon crunch bagel
Courtesy of Panera Bread
per 1 bagel: 420 calories, 7 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 380 mg sodium, 83 g carbs (2 g fiber, 32 g sugar), 9 g protein

Let's slice right in: D'Alessandro says the worst bagel at Panera Bread is their Cinnamon Crunch Bagel. ("Sadly, my personal favorite—haha!" she reveals.)

We know you might share this fave, but D'Alessandro notes that the Cinnamon Crunch Bagel comes in at the most calories per serving, with 420. This is "a little high if you're choosing this as a breakfast food," D'Alessandro says, adding that as a dessert option, it may be A-OK.

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Panera's Chocolate Chip Bagel is another less-than-ideal way to start the day.

panera chocolate chip bagel
Courtesy of Panera Bread
per 1 bagel: 330 calories, 5 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 370 mg sodium, 60 g carbs (2 g fiber, 12 g sugar), 10 g protein

"Again, fine if this is a dessert option," D'Alessandro says about Panera's Chocolate Chip Bagel, "but I'd be mindful of the 60 grams of carbs and 12 grams of sugar in one serving." ("Compare this to approximately 30 grams of carbs and three grams of sugar in two slices of plain bread," she suggests.)

RELATED: The Best & Worst Chocolate in America—Ranked!

The best bagel bet at Panera:

panera sprouted grain flat bread
Courtesy of Panera Bread

per 1 bagel flat: 180 calories, 2 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 410 mg sodium, 34 g carbs (3 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 7 g protein

Perhaps not a surprise, D'Alessandro says Panera's Sprouted Grain Bagel Flat contains the lowest calories of all the bagels (180), and only four grams of sugar. "Since this contains some whole grains, it also has slightly more fiber than the other options," she points out.

Why might this matter? A recent study revealed that whole grains impact blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and even your waistline.

Sometimes bagels mean indulgence… so what's another acceptable pick?

panera plain bagel
Courtesy of Panera Bread

per 1 bagel: 280 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 410 mg sodium, 57 g carbs (2 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 10 g protein

You know you're signing up for a treat when you order a bagel—so when you want the full-on bagel experience but you don't want to go entirely rogue on nutrition, D'Alessandro says Panera's Plain Bagel is fine. "With four grams of sugar and zero saturated fat," she says, "you can be a little more decadent with your cream cheese spread."

Speaking of Panera cream cheese, she analyzed those, too—keep reading.

The worst cream cheese at Panera Bread:

panera plain cream cheese
Courtesy of Panera Bread

per 2 tbsp: 110 calories, 10 g fat (7 g saturated fat), 85 mg sodium, 3 g carbs (0 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 1 g protein

Believe it or not, D'Alessandro says the worst of Panera's cream cheese choices is the Plain. "You would think the simplest option might be the healthiest, but not in this case," D'Alessandro says.

She explains that's "mostly because of its 11 grams of saturated fat . . . about half of the total daily recommended saturated fat intake for a 2,000-calorie diet."

RELATED: The Best and Worst Cream Cheese Spreads, According to RDs

A slightly better cream cheese choice: Chive & Onion.

panera chive onion cream cheese
Courtesy of Panera Bread

per 2 tbsp: 80 calories, 6 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 115 mg sodium, 1 g carbs (0 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 3 g protein

D'Alessandro points out that Panera's Chive & Onion Cream Cheese contains the lowest calories of all the spreads—but also, the highest amount of sodium at 190 milligrams. (Read The Surprising Effect Reducing Sodium May Have on Your Blood Sugar, New Study Says.)

The best cream cheese at Panera Bread is the Honey Walnut Cream Cheese.

Shutterstock

per 2 tbsp: 80 calories, 6 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat), 105 mg sodium, 5 g carbs (0 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 2 g protein

D'Alessandro calls Panera's Honey Walnut Cream Cheese "a good, overall distribution of calories, fat, and protein." She adds that if you stick with the two-tablespoon portion size, this delivers a cream cheese fix that's "not too sweet (with eight grams of sugar) in comparison to other spreads, but sweet enough to enjoy the natural honey flavor."

Are you curious how the Honey Walnut Cream Cheese has better nutrition facts than Plain? D'Alessandro shares something you might find unexpected: "Technically, the Honey Walnut Cream Cheese is reduced-fat, which is why it has less calories than its plain, full-fat counterpart." She explains that this isn't mentioned on the individual product name—"but it is mentioned on the Nutrition Info PDF and in the ingredients list."

So, the Cinnamon Crunch is maybe not your bestie after all… but if a Sprouted Grain Bagel Flat with Honey Walnut Cream Cheese sounds appetizing, this could be a nutrition-friendly swap instead.

Keep reading:

Krissy Gasbarre
Krissy is a senior news editor at <em>Eat This, Not That!</em>, managing morning and weekend news related to nutrition, wellness, restaurants and groceries (with a focus on beverages), and more. Read more