But don’t get too cozy. While Panera is home to a wide variety of seemingly healthy options like soups, salads and breakfast sandwiches, finding something that’s actually good for your weight loss goals is harder than it might appear. Menu items that are low 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 best choices.
And another tricky dilemma at Panera: In 2014, the restaurant announced a commitment to “clean” ingredients and full nutritional transparency. That means they no longer allow partially hydrogenated oils—those unhealthy trans fats you’ve been warned about—in their food. And yet, in some cases, you’ll notice that Panera actually lists trans fats in the nutritional breakdown of their menu items. What gives? The trans fat at Panera is a naturally occurring lipid called conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA, that’s found in beef and turkey (but not chicken or pork). This good-for-you fat actually helps burn off belly fat—so don’t freak if you see “trans fats” show up in some of our recommendations. (In fact, the healthier the beef, the more CLA you’ll get, which is why there’s a greater percentage of trans fats in Panera’s grass-fed beef than in, say, the conventionally raised meat at Subway.)
A little confusing, we know. So to cut through the noise — and all the numbers — we’ve sorted through the nutrition facts (everything from calories and fat to sodium and fiber) to find the best and worst sandwich and soup options at Panera Bread. To make sure we were recommending the absolute best choices, we iced all seasonal items and just included Panera’s regular menu. Although calories played a role in our rankings, we also dinged items that were too high in sodium and saturated fats. Now settle in on that couch and enjoy. (And for more great weight loss tips, check out these 50 Best-Ever Weight-Loss Secrets From Skinny People.)
SOUPS: FROM WORST TO BEST…
These satisfying soups will warm you up by the spoonful, but some might leave you loosening your belt. Read on to see how your favorite soups at Panera stack up.
New England Clam Chowder
Per bowl (1 ½ cups): 720 calories, 62 g fat (41 g saturated fat, 1.5 g trans fat), 1,020 mg sodium, 31 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 9 g protein
This thick and creamy bowl will not only cost you the most calories out of all of Panera’s soups, you’ll also get a heart-stopping 62 grams of fat and 1,020 mg of sodium — about as much as you’re supposed to consume of each in a whole day. Not to mention that 41 of those 62 grams of fat are saturated (which you’re supposed to get only 20 grams of per day). (Not all fat is bad, though. Learn more about the 20 Best Full-Fat Foods for Weight Loss!)
Vegetarian Creamy Tomato Soup
Per bowl (1 ½ cups): 450 calories, 32 g fat (18 g saturated fat, 0.5 g trans fat), 680 mg sodium, 33 g carbs, 7 g fiber, 12 g sugar, 8 g protein
Vine-ripened, antioxidant-rich, cancer-fighting tomatoes are pureed with a fatty medley of cream, asiago, parmesan, and romano cheeses and topped with even more cheesy croutons to boost this soup’s saturated fat content to just under your daily recommended intake. Even though this creamy vegetarian bowl is the second highest in calories and fat, there’s still one good thing about it—it has the lowest sodium out of all the soups, broth bowls, sandwiches and paninis (only the flatbreads beat it out).
Baked Potato Soup
Per bowl (1 ½ cups): 340 calories, 24 g fat (13 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,230 mg sodium, 27 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 6 g sugar, 7 g protein
Although this soup might be marginally healthier than a classic loaded baked potato, this rich creamy broth with potatoes, bacon, and chives has more sodium than the Triple Whopper at Burger King. If you find it irresistible, steer clear from Panera on Mondays and Wednesdays when it’s served.
Broccoli Cheddar Soup
Per bowl (1 ½ cups): 330 calories, 21 g fat (14 g saturated fat, 0.5 g trans fat), 1,390 mg sodium, 23 g carbs, 8 g fiber, 0 g sugar, 14 g protein
This traditionally rich soup is basically just chopped broccoli in a cheese sauce. Even worse than the massive saturated fat and sodium content, this has one of Panera’s “no-no” ingredients—hydrolyzed corn and soy protein—that the chain has promised to nix by 2016. Hydrolyzed corn and soy protein has come under fire for its manufacturing process, which involves extracting the protein by boiling it in a vat of sulfuric acid, which results in unhealthy chemical byproducts. (A far better option: Stay home and make one of these 20 Best-Ever Fat-Burning Soups.)
Cream of Chicken & Wild Rice Soup
Per bowl (1 ½ cups): 310 calories, 20 g fat (8 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,390 mg sodium, 30 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 6 g sugar, 10 g protein
While some of the 20 grams of fat in this soup are unhealthy — via the rich cream and butter — the others are heart-healthy omega-3s thanks to the wild rice. This native American grain is a weight loss wonder food because it has nearly double the fiber and protein, and fewer calories than its arguably more popular cousin, brown rice. According to Penn State researchers, whole grains like wild rice helped dieters on a calorie-restricted diet to lose significantly more belly fat than those who consumed the equivalent number of calories from refined carbohydrates. Because the sodium content of this soup is unreasonably high, instead of going to Panera, check out our delicious and easy recipe for a Chicken and Rice soup. It’s just one of the 150+ belly-flattening recipes in the best-selling new Zero Belly Cookbook!
Low-Fat All-Natural Chicken Noodle Soup
Per bowl (1 ½ cups): 170 calories, 4 g fat (2 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,330 mg sodium, 20 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 14 g protein
Cold-weather classic and curer of colds, chicken noodle soup does everything a comfort food is supposed to do — and without a hefty caloric price tag. With a light broth base and packed with fresh veggies and antibiotic-free chicken breast, this is one of our favorite choices, save for the fact that the sodium content is right around a day’s worth.
Low-Fat Vegetarian Black Bean Soup
Per bowl (1 ½ cups): 230 calories, 3.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,120 mg sodium, 42 g carbs, 9 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 17 g protein
Do like nutritionist Ilyse Schapiro MS, RD, CDN, does and order this black bean soup on your next Panera trip. She says, “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.” On top of iron, beans are also full of anthocyanins, antioxidant compounds that have been shown to improve brain function. Learn more about What 8 Diet Experts Order at Panera!
Low-Fat Vegetarian Garden Vegetable Soup with Pesto
Per bowl (1 ½ cups): 140 calories, 5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 830 mg sodium, 24 g carbs, 11 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 4 g protein
This low-fat vegetarian garden vegetable soup with pesto is the winner by a landslide. It’s the only bowl that’s under 1,000 mg sodium and 200 calories. On top of that, it ties for the lowest amount of saturated fat. Packed with energy-boosting zucchini and appetite-suppressing barley, this soup will keep you going for hours, even though it’s just 140 calories. (Just make sure to get there Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.)
BROTH BOWLS: FROM WORST TO BEST…
Panera’s broth bowls are a refreshing escape from some of their more calorie- and fat-laden soups. Nutritious and low cal, they offer a combination of “exotic” ingredients (and some have more than 80 of them). The only problem? Every bowl has salty umami soy-miso broth, and with salt or soy sauce in nearly every other ingredient—from tomatoes to quinoa to chicken—the sodium count exceeds well over 1,000 mg for each bowl.
Soba Noodle Bowl with Edamame
Per bowl: 370 calories, 12 g fat (1 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,340 mg sodium, 52 g carbs, 7 g fiber, 6 g sugar, 17 g protein
Although this broth bowl ranks the “worst” because its high sodium, fat, and carb content, it really isn’t that bad. It has an impressively high amount of protein for having no meat, and that’s because of the edamame. Nutritionist Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN says that she loves to eat edamame because soybeans are a good source of plant-based protein, vitamins, and minerals. Read more about the Best Vegetarian Sources of Complete Protein!
Soba Noodle Bowl with Chicken
Per bowl: 390 calories, 9 g fat (1.5 g saturated, 0 g trans fat), 1,340 mg sodium, 47 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 31 g protein
Yes, it has 20 more calories than the same bowl with edamame, but those calories account for a broth bowl that is almost double the amount of protein and lower in fat, carbs, and sugar. All that extra protein will help you stave off stomach rumbles by stabilizing blood sugar levels and slowing digestion.
Lentil Quinoa Bowl with Cage-Free Egg
Per bowl: 360 calories, 12 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,310 mg sodium, 48 g carbs, 10 g fiber, 6 g sugar, 18 g protein
This bowl has two of our favorite fiber-packed grains: quinoa and lentils. Lentils are a resistant starch that has been touted by health experts for its ability to promote fat metabolism and quell appetite through the release of acetate—a molecule in the gut that tells the brain when to stop eating. Topping this bowl with a hard-boiled cage-free egg adds even more nutrients that may help lower the risk of heart disease, including protein, vitamins B12 and D, folate and riboflavin. Love quinoa? You’ll be sure to want to try these 10 Quinoa Recipes for Weight Loss!
Lentil Quinoa Bowl with Chicken
Per bowl: 390 calories, 8 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,390 mg sodium, 49 g carbs, 10 g fiber, 6 g sugar, 34 g protein
Nutritionist Lisa Moskovitz, R.D. says, “If I found myself at Panera on a cold day, a Broth Bowl would be my 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 [like kale and tomatoes] 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.” We agree! Even though this bowl has a higher amount of calories and sodium than the others, it’s not by much, and those extra calories bring with it the lowest amount of fat and saturated fat.
SANDWICHES & PANINIS: FROM WORST TO BEST…
The best sandwiches start with great bread, and Panera has certainly mastered that, offering a wide variety. Yet the high-sodium trend continues, and many of these sandwiches rack up an entire day’s worth of sodium—and then some. But you can customize any order to your liking, which means the calorie-cutting power is in your hands. We’ll help you use it.
Italian Combo Sandwich on Ciabatta
Per whole sandwich serving: 1,000 calories, 41 g fat (16 g saturated fat, 1 g trans fat), 2,810 mg sodium, 97 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 8 g sugar, 59 g protein
The combination of four types of meat skyrocket this sandwich’s calorie, fat, and sodium count beyond reason. For a more classic Italian sub, hold the turkey. With that substitution, this sandwich would jump to #8 on our list. And speaking of diet-derailing foods, check out these 20 Unhealthiest Foods on the Planet—and be sure to stay away.
Bacon Turkey Bravo Sandwich on Tomato Basil
Per whole sandwich serving: 800 calories, 27 g fat (10 g saturated fat, 1 g trans fat), 2,910 mg sodium, 85 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 8 g sugar, 52 g protein
Don’t be fooled by this sandwich’s moderate calorie count. Anything that has almost two whole days’ worth of sodium is not good for you, regardless of the fact that this sandwich has fewer calories and carbs and less fat than the next. If you’re still craving the flavors, try swapping the smoked turkey for roasted turkey and lose the cheese. You’ll slash more than 1,000 mg of sodium and drop 70 calories full of saturated fat.
Steak & White Cheddar Panini on French Baguette
Per whole panini serving: 1,060 calories, 46 g fat (17 g saturated fat, 1 g trans fat), 1,810 mg sodium, 104 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 52 g protein
See those little grill lines on the panini sandwiches? They turn a normal sandwich into a 1,060-calorie blow-out. This sandwich has more carbs than every pasta dish offered at Olive Garden (which we’ve also ranked, by the way). We know it isn’t really a panini unless there’s hot, melted cheese dripping down your hands, so leave the cheese but swap the white cheddar for sliced mozzarella. You can keep that cheesy taste you love while saving 10 g fat, 7 g saturated fat and 150 calories.
Frontega Chicken® Panini on Focaccia
Per whole panini serving: 740 calories, 24 g fat (7 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 2,150 mg sodium, 86 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 8 g sugar, 46 g protein
The salt content in this panini is a little out of control. Follow the advice of nutritionist Jim White RD, ACSM, HFS if you’re really craving this smoked pulled chicken sandwich and use the “You Pick 2” option: “I really like doing the pick two at Panera because it gives you a great variety and cuts the portion sizes—and calories—in half.” Pair it with a cup of the low-sodium garden vegetable soup and you’ll be good to go.
Smoked Ham & Swiss on Rye
Per whole sandwich serving: 620 calories, 18 g fat (9 g saturated fat, 0.5 g trans fat), 2,230 mg sodium, 67 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 6 g sugar, 45 g protein
We urge you not to go HAM on this sandwich. There’s no getting around the fact that Panera’s ham is super salty, but on top of that, they up the sodium ante by adding more salt and pepper. To keep your levels in check, ask them to hold the S&P, and go with the half-sandwich option with a cup of low-fat black bean soup.
Sierra Turkey Sandwich on Asiago Cheese Focaccia
Per whole sandwich serving: 730 calories, 27 g fat (7 g saturated fat, 1.5 g trans fat), 1,930 mg sodium, 81 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 6 g sugar, 40 g protein
This one’s for you heat lovers. Asiago cheese focaccia is smothered with a layer of spicy and creamy chipotle mayo, then topped with lettuce, onion and smoked turkey breast. Lower your fat and sodium count by subbing your roll for the plain focaccia, so you can enjoy your spicy sandwich without worrying about an expanding waistline. A bright spot: Spicy foods are on our list of the 26 Foods That Melt Love Handles!
Asiago Steak Sandwich on Asiago Cheese Demi
*Per whole sandwich serving: 810 calories, 38 g fat (17 g saturated fat, 1 g trans fat), 1,340 mg sodium, 67 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 50 g protein
This sandwich seems like a dieter’s nightmare: mounds of beef on a massive, cheese-crusted hoagie roll topped with a generous layer of smoked cheddar cheese. Luckily, you can have your steak and eat it too. Panera uses beef sirloin tip, a cut of steak that helps you lose weight. A leaner cut like sirloin has significantly less fat and saturated fat than some other popular steak cuts, but it still packs plenty of protein to keep you full and satisfied. It’s even been shown that lean meat like this steak can have a thermogenic effect, meaning some of the calories in that lean meat are actually burnt off while your body digests.
Smoked Turkey Breast Sandwich on Country
Per whole sandwich serving: 430 calories, 3.5 g fat (1 g saturated fat, 1 g trans fat), 1,790 mg sodium, 67 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 33 g protein
A simple sandwich calls for simple substitutions, but these easy fixes have huge results. Customize this turkey sandwich by subbing smoked for roasted turkey, country for whole grain, and ask them to leave off the extra salt and pepper. You’ll be left with a slimmed down, belly-approved version that’s 140 calories and 730 mg sodium lighter.
Classic Grilled Cheese on All-Natural White Bread
Per whole sandwich serving: 580 calories, 19 g fat (15 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,450 mg sodium, 74 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 6 g sugar, 26 g protein
Panera keeps this American classic as simple as can be: just some white bread and cheese. And who doesn’t love the comfort food combo of oozy grilled cheese and a cup of warm tomato soup? Because the white bread contributes to this sandwich’s high saturated fat to fat ratio, sub it for the healthier whole grain for your half sandwich when you pair it with the fatty vegetarian creamy tomato soup. Speaking of bread, check out our report on the Best Brand-Name Breads for Weight Loss!
Napa Almond Chicken Salad Sandwich on Sesame Semolina
Per whole sandwich serving: 690 calories, 26 g fat (4.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,150 mg sodium, 90 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 13 g sugar, 30 g protein
Unlike homemade chicken salads, Panera makes theirs sans mayo, replacing it with much healthier ingredients like soybean oil, honey, cider, and vinegar. As an added bonus, this chicken salad contains antioxidant-rich grapes. Not only will grapes help you burn fat, but because they also contain the antioxidant anthocyanin, they may help boost collagen structure in the retina, protecting your eyes and helping to guard against macular degeneration.
Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich on Tomato Basil
Per whole sandwich serving: 570 calories, 12 g fat (3 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,430 mg sodium, 94 g carbs, 7 g fiber, 10 g sugar, 20 g protein
The medley of tomatoes, onions, feta cheese, hummus and cucumbers found in this sandwich is also included in the Mediterranean diet that prevents about 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease in people at high cardiovascular risk, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Tuna Salad Sandwich on Honey Wheat
Per whole sandwich serving: 510 calories, 16 g fat (4 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,100 mg sodium, 65 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 12 g sugar, 28 g protein
Tuna or to-not? That is the question. At Panera, we say go for it! As a prime source of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)—a fatty acid that down-regulates fat genes in the abdomen, preventing belly fat cells from expanding in size—tuna is one of the best fish for weight loss! Dr. Sean M. Wells, DPT, PT, OCS, ATC/L, CSCS says this sandwich is his choice at Panera because it “provides a robust 14 grams of muscle-building protein for just 260 calories, which is a hard nutrient ratio to beat in the world of fast-casual dining. And with just 550 milligrams of sodium, it won’t send your blood pressure soaring. I’ll often ask for an apple, too, to add more nutrients to my plate and make my meal more filling.”
Roasted Turkey & Avocado BLT on Sourdough
Per whole sandwich serving: 540 calories, 22 g fat (4 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 950 mg sodium, 48 g carbs, 6 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 37 g protein
This sandwich is a healthy alternative for you salad lovers out there that find yourselves craving carbs. Even with the bacon, this sandwich is the only one of the bunch under 1,000 mg of sodium. Plus, because of the layer of heart-healthy avocado, the fats you see in the nutrition include monounsaturated ones that play an important role in lowering elevated cholesterol—a factor in insulin resistance, excess weight, and obesity. Learn more about the 9 Ways You Can Lower Your Cholesterol in 10 Seconds!
SALADS: FROM WORST TO BEST…
These fresh salads will keep you full and focused for hours after you devour them. Some of them, though, are best left unordered because of their calorie-heavy dressings. Thankfully, Panera Bread allows you to customize your dishes and opting for a lighter dressing that’s on the side will almost always turn a disastrous dish into a balanced, healthy meal.
Read on to see how your favorite salad at Panera did in this lettuce showdown—and devour our tips on how to amp up the lesser plates to their full healthy potential.
Tie: Chicken Cobb with Avocado
Per whole salad: 660 calories, 50 g fat, 11 g saturated fat, 970 mg sodium, 14 g carbs, 7 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 39 g protein
The main problem with this salad, and most of the salads on the top (aka the bottom) of the list, is the dressing. Innocently named “Herb Vinaigrette,” it packs 230 calories, 25 grams of fat, and 300 milligrams of sodium into the 3-tablespoon serving that comes with the salad. On top of that, the salad is sprinkled with health-hindering bacon and fatty gorgonzola cheese. To make this a worthy choice, you’d have to ditch the diet-derailing toppings and dressing, but we’re pretty sure those tasty crumbles were what you wanted in the first place.
Tie: Chicken Cobb
Per whole salad: 560 calories, 41 g fat (10 g saturated fat, 0 trans fat) 960 mg sodium, 9 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 40 g protein
This salad is basically the same as the Chicken Cobb with Avocado, minus the only source of healthy fats, but with all the same fat filled bacon, cheese and dressing. Yes, it’s lower in calories but that’s because it’s missing the avocado—one of the best healthy fats to eat.
Power Kale Caesar Salad with Chicken
Per whole salad: 600 calories, 40 g fat, 16 g saturated fat, 1280 mg sodium, 11 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 49 g protein
Don’t be lured in by king kale; this salad is such a sneaky death trap that it’s actually ranked #9 on our exclusive list of the 20 worst restaurant salads in America. The trendy green is definitely not worth the 270 calories and 1,280 milligrams of sodium that the grated parmesan and parmesan crisps packs into this mix. If you’re not ready to ditch the kale, we suggest ordering the salad without the unnecessary cheeses, or at least leaving one out.
BBQ Chicken Salad
Per whole salad: 450 calories, 20 g fat (3 g saturated fat, 0 trans fat), 500 mg sodium, 37 g carbs, 6 g fiber, 19 g sugar, 25 g protein
Most of the flavor this salad offers comes from not one but two calorie-ridden sauces and the “frizzled onions” topping. In our opinion, fried onions have no place in a salad. Take these three components out and all you’re left with is lettuce, chicken, and corn—kind of a bland dish if you ask us. We suggest opting for a salad with more nutritious ingredients and less calorie filled condiments.
Caesar Salad with Chicken
Per whole salad: 430 calories, 27 g fat (7 g saturated fat, 0 trans fat), 650 mg sodium, 15 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 28 g protein
With 170 calories and 18 grams of fat, Panera’s caesar dressing is better than most, but it’s still far from healthy. When you add on the Asiago Parmesan and Black Pepper Croutons, this salad isn’t as nutritious as some of their other options. If you’re set on getting this classic choice, ask for the dressing on the side and only allow yourself a couple of spoonfuls to save yourself a good amount of calories and fat.
Chicken Soba Noodle Salad with Peanut Sauce
Per whole salad: 480 calories, 15 g fat (3 g saturated fat, 0 trans fat), 1040 mg sodium, 52 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 10 g sugar, 25 g protein
If you’re in the mood for noodles, we suggest going with either one of the Soba Noodle Broth Bowls before this salad. Both bowls have fewer calories and fat (and more protein if you opt for the Soba Noodle Broth Bowl with chicken). The salad version brings with it unnecessary calories and sodium from the Orange Miso dressing.
Fuji Apple Chicken Salad
Per whole salad: 550 calories, 34 g fat (7 g saturated fat, 0 trans fat), 580 mg sodium, 34 g carbs, 6 g fiber, 20 g sugar, 29 g protein
Though we appreciate the inclusion of apple chips in this salad, which contain quercetin (a fat burning phytochemical), the 10 grams of sugar in the White Balsamic with Apple Flavored Vinaigrette are what muddies the nutritional value of this salad. Swap the sugary stuff and opt for a simple drizzle of balsamic vinegar and olive oil to get a solid, protein-packed meal.
Greek with Chicken Salad
Per whole salad: 500 calories, 36 g fat (9 saturated fat, 0 trans fat), 1310 mg sodium, 13 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 31 g protein
Again, the insanely caloric Greek Dressing does some serious damage to an otherwise commendable salad; kalamata olives, feta cheese, red onion and wedge tomatoes pack in tons of flavor and good-for-you nutrients. We suggest swapping out the fat-filled dressing for a light drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar instead. The simple yet flavorful duo won’t hinder your diet goals and your waistline will thank you for it. And definitely ask them to hold off on the salt and pepper mixture; it’s listed as a separate ingredient on the list and is the reason this salad appears to have such a high sodium content. Speaking of things that have way too much salt, don’t miss these 20 Restaurant Desserts With More Salt Than A Bag of Pretzels.
Thai Chicken Salad
Per whole salad: 490 calories, 19 g fat (3 g saturated fat, 0 trans fat), 870 mg sodium, 40 g carbs, 8 g fiber, 14 g sugar, 25 g protein
Cashews and edamame pack an extra boost of protein in this Thai-themed salad, and the Thai Chili Vinaigrette is surprisingly harmless with its 50 calories and 1.5 grams of fat. With such a great dressing already included, the calorie-packed Thai Style Peanut Sauce is totally unnecessary. Skip it and save yourself 150 calories and 12 grams of sugar.
Asian Sesame Chicken Salad
Per whole salad: 400 calories, 20 g fat (3.5 saturated fat, 0 trans fat), 520 mg sodium, 25 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 25 g protein
Cilantro gives this salad a flavorful kick, and Asian Sesame Vinaigrette is actually one of Panera’s better dressings at only 90 calories!
Mediterranean Quinoa Salad with Almonds
Per whole salad: 460 calories, 36 g fat (5 saturated fat, 0 trans fat), 710 mg sodium, 29 g carbs, 8 g fiber, 4 g sugar,19 g protein
For this to be number 2, it’s crucial that you swap the ridiculously salty Greek Dressing for a more reasonable option like the Reduced-Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette. Doing so saves you major calories and fat. This salad has so many good characteristics, from weight-loss-aiding quinoa to health-boosting nutrients, but that pesky fat-filled Greek dressing that comes with it is a death sentence for your waistline. But without it, this salad makes a great, balanced vegetarian option. So opt for either the reduced fat balsamic that we put in place here or go for a squeeze of lemon juice and healthy olive oil to dress your salad; it’ll save you over 300 mg of belly-expanding sodium.
Classic with Chicken Salad
Per whole salad: 300 calories, 13 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat, 0 trans fat), 320 mg sodium, 20 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 13 g sugar, 25 g protein
As is, the classic salad with chicken is the best option for those watching their weight. With only 300 calories and simple ingredients like chicken, tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onions, this option leaves you feeling full and satisfied without any of the extra calories and fat.
BONUS: Side Salads
We separated the following salads because they lack a complete protein, making them unfit for a meal on their own. When paired with a protein-filled entree, however, these have the potential to add a nutritional flair to your lunch hour.
Per whole salad: 300 calories, 25 g fat (6 g saturated fat, 0 trans fat), 480 mg sodium, 13 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 8 g protein
This simple salad contains just three ingredients; romaine lettuce, asiago-parmesan, and caesar dressing. As usual, we recommend barely touching the dressing.
Per whole salad: 370 calories, 34 g fat (8 saturated fat, 0 trans fat), 1140 mg sodium, 11 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 6 g Protein
The Greek salad is full of wonderful, nutritious add-ins; unfortunately, they’re masked by the same calorie-dense Greek Dressing as its bigger, chicken recipe cousin. We suggest asking for the “light” salad dressing.
Per whole salad: 170 calories, 11 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat, 0 trans fat), 140 mg sodium, 18 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 13 g sugar, 2 g protein
This obvious pick is exactly what a salad is meant to be: low in calories, filled with fresh veggies, and right in line with your diet goals.