For a bakery breakfast, comforting hot beverage, cozy soup, or fresh salad, Panera is a go-to spot—but at the end of the day (or rather, the middle of the day), it's best known as a sandwich joint. Panera's sandwiches are the mainstay of its menu, with options to satisfy all sorts of cravings. From New York-style cured meats to the spicy flavors of the Southwest, these sandwiches span a culinary spectrum.
If you're looking for a quick lunch, a sandwich at Panera can be a healthy choice, but not every option is brimming with nutritional value. Despite the restaurant's reputation for healthy, freshly made meals and wholesome ingredients, some of its sandwiches are surprisingly heavy on calories, saturated fat, sodium, and more. As a nutritionist, I'm sharing every single sandwich on the menu, ranked by nutrition, in descending order from worst to best.
Read on, and for more, check out the 20 Best & Worst Panera Breakfast Orders, According to Dietitians.
Chicken & Pepperoni Mozzarella Melt
What happens when you layer chicken, pepperoni, mozzarella, and fontina cheese on a French baguette and top the whole thing with tomato sauce? A hulking, pizza-like order that falls to the bottom of the list of Panera's healthiest sandwiches. If there's one sandwich to skip at Panera, it's this one.
Chicken Cordon Bleu Melt
Seventy-three grams of protein are a selling point for the Chicken Cordon Bleu Melt—but that's about the only element in this sandwich's favor. The sodium count alone (150% of the recommended daily limit) is worth turning this one down.
Chicken Green Goddess Caprese Melt
Another baguette sandwich, the Chicken Green Goddess Caprese Melt is a calorie torpedo of a lunch. It's similar to the regular Green Goddess Caprese but with chicken, and if you choose this one, make it the biggest meal of the day.
Pepperoni Mozzarella Melt
The Pepperoni Mozzarella Melt is another pizza sandwich—so it's no surprise this one isn't terribly nutritious. When you want pizza at Panera, the Margherita Flatbread Pizza is a better choice with fewer calories and significantly less fat.
Don't be fooled by the low-ish calories in the Grilled Cheese. This sandwich is loaded with saturated fat and sodium, with little to redeem it aside from calcium and protein from the cheese.
Bacon Turkey Bravo
I can't say "bravo" to this heavy option, which packs more than the recommended sodium target for an entire day. Try ordering the Bacon Turkey Bravo on a different bread than the tomato basil (such as sourdough or whole wheat) to lower sugar and salt.
Toasted Steak and White Cheddar
Marinated sirloin, aged white cheddar, and artisan ciabatta—what could go wrong? This combo pushes 1,000 calories and contains no vegetables aside from some red onion slices.
Chipotle Chicken Avocado Melt
Avocados are full of healthy fats and fiber—which may be why the Chipotle Chicken Avocado Melt contains more fiber than most of Panera's sandwiches. On the other hand, this option racks up sodium and fat to achieve its spicy, cheesy flavor.
Green Goddess Caprese Melt
With a name like Green Goddess Caprese, this melt gives off light and breezy vibes. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite live up to its healthy-sounding title. Served on a large baguette, it's high in just about every undesirable nutrition category.
Roasted Turkey and Avocado BLT
You usually can't go wrong with ingredients like roasted turkey, lettuce, tomato, and avocado. But if you're craving this combo, you're better off making it at home so you don't incur the 52 grams of fat and over 900 calories in Panera's Turkey and Avocado BLT. On the plus side, though, this sandwich does come with a sizable 7 grams of fiber.
Black Forest Ham and Gouda Melt
As appealing as the European flavors of Black Forest ham and gouda cheese might be, they also add an eyebrow-raising jolt of sodium and saturated fat to this sandwich. And since processed meats like ham have been linked to increased risk of some cancers, you may want to choose this one infrequently.
Smoky Buffalo Chicken Melt
The beauty of most of Panera's sandwiches is that you can order them as a full or half size. I advise choosing half of the Smoky Buffalo Chicken Melt. This way, you'll cut its tremendous sodium back to around 1,500 milligrams—still high, but nothing close to the 131% of the recommended daily limit you'd get from the whole sandwich.
Bacon Avocado Melt
Don't get me wrong, I love bacon as much as the next person. But when it's the centerpiece of a sandwich, it doesn't have a lot to offer nutritionally. It's no wonder the Bacon Avocado Melt is relatively low in protein and high in fat.
Toasted Frontega Chicken
The Toasted Frontega Chicken's sliced tomatoes and red onions add vitamins and antioxidants to your lunch, increasing its healthiness. Still, high fat and sodium keep this one from climbing higher in rank.
Smokehouse BBQ Chicken
Nutrition-wise, the Smokehouse BBQ Chicken Sandwich falls somewhere in the middle of Panera's offerings. It's fairly low in calories, but packs plenty of sugar from its sweet barbecue sauce, not to mention ample saturated fat and sodium from white cheddar and fried onions.
Southwest Chicken Melt
Smoked pulled chicken is an excellent source of protein, and you'll get 43 total grams from the Southwest Chicken Melt. Then again, this spicy sandwich leaves a lot to be desired with its 40 grams of fat and low fiber content.
The full Tuna Salad Sandwich may be high in sodium (and, no lie, it's pretty high-calorie, too), but at least it's a vehicle for getting more seafood in your diet. Fatty fish like tuna contain healthful omega-3 fats, which support heart health.
The Spicy Take Chicken Sandwich
Just about everybody's got a spicy chicken sandwich these days, and Panera is no exception. As hot chicken sandwiches go, you could do a lot worse. Though Panera's version is heavy on salt, its calorie count is far lower than some fast food spicy chicken sandwiches (like Popeyes). Increase its health factor by requesting mixed greens on top.
The Signature Take Chicken Sandwich
Although the Signature Take Chicken is fried, this option ties with the Deli Turkey as the lowest-calorie full sandwich on Panera's menu. Go easy on the crispy parmesan chips to scale back on total fat and saturated fat.
Not far behind the deli turkey is Panera's Deli Ham Sandwich. It's served on sourdough, which some research suggests could be a good choice for gastrointestinal comfort, increased sensation of fullness, and better blood sugar response. Just note that, like most ham sandwiches, the sodium here is quite high.
A simple, tasty deli turkey sandwich? Yes, please! Panera's version keeps things reasonable in the calorie department and contains a mere 2 grams of saturated fat. It's also loaded with lean protein from antibiotic-free turkey breast.
Sometimes you have to look not only at individual nutrients but at the ingredients as well. Though the Mediterranean Veggie contains more calories, sodium, and carbs than some other sandwiches further down the list, I place it near the top for its mountain of fresh vegetables. Here, you'll get a heaping helping of cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, and greens.
The Healthiest Panera Sandwich: Napa Almond Chicken Salad
I personally love the Napa Chicken Salad, not only for its relatively low calorie count, but for its tasty mix of crunchy almonds, creamy dressing, and meaty chicken pieces. This one tops the list with a nice blend of plant and animal protein, plus built-in fruit from fresh grapes.
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