Making Healthy Selections at Panera
With over 2,000 locations nationwide, Panera Bread is a top choice for many hungry individuals for breakfast, lunch, and even dinner! Proudly proclaiming, “we’re all about making food you can feel good about eating,” Panera Bread embodies this mission through a variety of food choices that can be customized just the way you like. This makes a win-win for anyone eating with a goal of weight loss in mind.
Whether you’re just taking a few moments out of your day to relax and dining solo, having lunch delivered, catching up with friends, or meeting with coworkers, Panera Bread has a meal that can work for both you and your waistline. This blog will provide you with the tools you’ll need to confidently eat out at Panera without stressing about how the scale is going to look tomorrow! Whether you’re on an MRC weight loss program already or not yet begun, these tips will work for you!
Our Healthiest Picks When Eating out at Panera
- Familiarize yourself with the menu. Before you step foot in the restaurant, take a few minutes in a stress-free environment by yourself (e.g., home, office, car) to familiarize yourself with the menu, www.panerabread.com. If you’re on program, look at Panera’s menu side-by-side with your menu to ensure your choices match. Having a plan for what you want to eat is having a plan for weight loss success.
- Skip the croutons. Croutons are 90 calories per serving, contain 4 grams of fat, 11 grams of carbohydrates, and have no nutritional value. These calories are better spent on a healthy fruit carbohydrate. If you need that *crunch* then bring melba toasts to crumble on top or homemade croutons from low calorie bread.
- Decide what you will eat ahead of time. If you’re placing your order in the restaurant, then decide ahead of time what you will order. Don’t forget to consider any modifications you’ll need to create your perfect meal! *Bonus Tip: have a “Plan B” in the instance that your first choice is not available. It happens.
- Commit to your choice(s). Your local Panera is likely a wonderful place filled with tempting sights and smells. Make the commitment to yourself, prior to entering the restaurant, that you will stick to your choice! “No, I would not like to add a bakery item for $0.99 today.”
- Be the first to order. If you’re dining with others, opt to place your order first. This will prevent you from being tempted from changing your order to what someone else in your party is getting. Who knows, you might inspire someone else in your party to try your healthy option!
- It’s okay to have it YOUR way. Feel comfortable and confident asking for your meal just the way you want it. You’re not inconveniencing anyone by modifying your order. Trust us, Panera Bread is concerned first and foremost with your satisfaction. If that means an order with modifications, then they are happy to oblige however they can.
- Drink water before your meal. Combat the temptation to order more than you need by drinking an 8 ounce glass of water or two. Note: Panera Bread water cups are traditionally between 12-16 oz. *Program Tip: if your menu allows for a packet of Fulfill Mixed Fiber, then mix this mixed into hot water while you wait on your food to arrive! Along with its other health benefits, fiber helps you to naturally feel fuller (and less inclined to overeat).
- Take two capsules of MRC Fat & Carb Blocker before you eat. Fat & Carb Blockers are your perfect defense against hidden fats and carbohydrates in the foods that you do not prepare yourself. Learn more by speaking with a Weight Loss Specialist today!
- Just say “No” to offers of sharing dessert items or bites of foods that are not conducive to weight loss. Foods that are high in processed sugars can trigger you to crave more foods like them - derailing your previously established weight loss commitments. It’s okay to say “No”.
- A la carte is a-okay. Just because your meal comes with a side, doesn’t mean you have to order or eat it. If you’re trying to avoid bread, but you’re not in the mood for fruit either, then just skipping the side apple is perfectly fine.
Now that you know what you want to order, let’s talk a little bit about placing your order. If you’re ordering online, Panera has a ton of customization options for your food. What’s even better, is you can see in real time how the calories and nutritional makeup changes as you adjust your meal to fit your needs and preferences. Online ordering is available on both the website and the Panera Bread App. Watch this short video of this feature in use on a Salad order!
MRC’s Top Healthy Choices at Panera
When it comes to healthiest choices at Panera Bread, salads are queen. Here are some of our favorites below and how we would modify them to be plan compliant or just the best fit for you (and your favorite pair of Skinny Jeans).
Strawberry Poppyseed with Chicken salad (half 170 Cal / whole 340 Cal). Chicken raised without antibiotics, romaine, mandarin oranges and fresh strawberries, blueberries and pineapple tossed in fat-free poppyseed dressing and topped with toasted pecan pieces.
Healthy Modifications: Add extra protein. Bring your own dressing that is low calorie (like Walden Farms zero calorie in the travel pouch) if possible or opt for oil & vinegar. Panera Bread’s fat-free Poppyseed Dressing is only 15 calories and 3 carbohydrates per serving. Just ask for it on the side and dip (don’t pour) each bite.
Green Goddess Cobb with Chicken salad (half 280 Cal / whole 550 Cal) Chicken raised without antibiotics, arugula, romaine, kale and radicchio blend, vine-ripened tomatoes and pickled red onions tossed in freshly made Green Goddess dressing and topped with avocado, bacon and cage free hard-boiled egg.
Healthy Modifications: Add extra protein. Choose either the avocado or the bacon (not both!). Bring your own dressing (outlined above). This salad in particular pairs great with a couple splashes of lemon juice in lieu of dressing. Note: in this salad, the dressing accounts for 120 of the total calories!
Modern Greek with Quinoa salad (half 260 Cal / whole 530 Cal). Quinoa tomato sofrito blend, romaine, kale, cucumbers and kalamata olives tossed in Greek dressing and topped with feta and toasted almonds.
Healthy Modifications: Add extra protein. Bring your own dressing (outlined in Strawberry Poppyseed with Chicken salad). For those on the Metabolic Meat Lover’s Delight Menu(s) - this is a great salad option for Day 15 and beyond!
Seasoned Greens Salad (half 90 Cal / whole 180 Cal). Arugula, romaine, kale and radicchio blend, vine-ripened tomatoes, red onions and diced cucumbers tossed with reduced-fat balsamic vinaigrette.
Healthy Modifications: Add protein (+ extra). Grilled chicken breast is our favorite. Skip the red onion. Bring your own dressing (outlined in Strawberry Poppyseed with Chicken salad).
Making Panera Perfect for Your MRC Menu
(also great for those not yet on menu who want to take some simple extra steps to be healthier)
Protein is so important for weight loss and maintaining a healthy body, but it’s often underserved in restaurant food choices. Panera uses 1.75 ounces of meats in their meals. If you’re following an MRC menu, your menu likely calls for 3-6 ounces of protein per meal - so you’ve got a little bit of ground to make up to have a complete breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Some of our favorite ways to up the protein in your meal include:
- Order double meats
- Add a hard boiled egg
- Add cheese
When it comes to Panera and carbohydrates, stick to fruit. Program-friendly breads are hard to come by even at Panera. Your menu has several plan-friendly fruit options, and Panera can accommodate most. Alternately, if you’re not ordering a menu item at Panera with a carbohydrate serving, you can bring your own with you to the restaurant:
- Melba toasts to crumble on salads in lieu of croutons
- A slice of low-calorie bread
- A serving of brown rice
When it comes to your menu and vegetables, Panera salads are your best friend. Keep in mind that similarly to protein serving sizes being smaller than what’s on your menu, salad sizes are often only 4-5 ounces. Your menu calls for 8 ounces of fresh vegetables. You can either have extra veggies at breakfast or dinner, or bring your own with you! Fill a small baggie with 3-4 ounces of your favorite sliced fresh vegetables, and enjoy them as an appetizer while you wait on your food or put them right on top of your salad!
If your menu call for a healthy fat serving, and you’d like to consume it with your Panera meal, opt for options and/or toppings like avocado, bacon, and nuts! Or, you can bring your own plan-friendly salad dressing!
Let’s talk beverages. First, have an HNS before your meal. This will help curb your appetite and keep you on track to stick to your healthy plan! Water is always a good option, but if you’re in the mood for something with more flavor, we recommend giving the Plum Ginger Hibiscus Tea a try! With zero calories, you can add just a little bit of non-sugar sweetener or mix with your HNS like MRC’s Green Tea & Cranberry. Tea not your flavor? Then black coffee or diet sodas are okay, too.
The bottom line is to have fun and enjoy your food! Being on program or trying to eat healthy doesn’t mean you always have to say “no” to eating out. With just a couple extra minutes of preparation before you go out and the resolve to choose your health over your cravings, you can continue to eat the foods you love and still lose weight! More questions about eating healthy at Panera? Ask us!
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