Can I Eat Low Sodium at Panera Bread?
In our quest to find low sodium options while dining out or on the go, our next stop is Panera Bread. Panera has over 1900 locations in the U.S. and Canada. They have been a staple spot for meetings with clients in my day job doing PR and Marketing. So I have been to their locations multiple times. Post heart transplant and on my Low Sodium Journey I needed to find better options to stay within my daily allotment of sodium milligrams. So it was time to hack the menu and see what I could find out. Here’s the answer to “what can I eat low sodium at Panera Bread?”
Panera has several sections of their menu that covers Breakfast, Baked Goods, Sandwiches, and Soups. Here is the link to their nutrition page if you want to follow along. Remember we are shooting for a meal that comes in around 750 mg of sodium or less. You may have higher or lower restrictions and my needs to further scrutinize the choices.
In the category of Breakfast Sandwiches, the Avocado, Egg White & Spinach Breakfast Power Sandwich would be the best choice at 650 mg. The Egg & Cheese on Ciabatta is second, at 720 mg.
The Four Cheese Souffle is the only souffle that comes in in our range at 690 mg.
A better choice all around would be any of the oatmeal choices, the parfait, or the fruit cup. They all run under 220 mg. and the fruit cup is only 10 mg.
Bagels and Cream Cheese Spreads:
The bagels at Panera may be a bit better than store bought, as they bake them fresh on site, and can use less sodium as a preservative agent, but still some run scarily high. Plus the spread that you choose could end up doubling the sodium counts. Here are a few options. The Sprouted Grain Bagel Flat is the best choice at only 340 mg. The worst is the Jalapeno and Cheddar Bagel at 740 mg (without any spreads).
For a spread option, the Reduced-Fat Wild Blueberry Cream Cheese is your best bet at 200 mg. of sodium per their 2 0z. cup that they give out. If you are good with willpower and restraint, you could try using only an ounce of the spread for your bagel. The worst choice is the Reduced-Fat Chive & Onion Cream Cheese at 370 mg. Plain old cream cheese comes in at 210 mg. per the 2 oz. cup.
Part of the allure of Panera is the large glass pastry case that features many little goodies and treats. There are many options that are available here. The pastries, cheese, chocolate, or cherry and the pecan braid all come in under 330 mg. The Sweet rolls are not as good of a choice, although the pecan roll is 320 mg, the Cobblestone sweet roll is 520 mg.
A Triple Berry Mini Scone is ok at 220 mg, but a large scone, like a Wild Blueberry is 900 mg and not good at all. The same holds true for Muffies v. Muffins. The smaller Muffie is lower sodium than the full size muffin. one of my personal favorites is the Strawberry Rhubarb mini cake and lucky for me it is only 170 mg. Sadly though, one of my other faves is the Carrot Cake with Walnuts, and that is now off of my list as it comes in at 670 mg.
The cookies all come in under 350 mg. just make sure to limit yourself to just one.
Fresh Baked Breads:
You might be better served to grab a loaf of bread from Panera as they are also baked fresh and tend to have less sodium than a store bought bread full of preservatives. The Ciabatta bread will run you 240 mg for a 2 oz. slice from the loaf. The Rye has the highest sodium at 420 mg per 2 oz. slice. You should avoid ordering a Sourdough Bread Bowl for your soup, you will start the meal at 1340 mg of sodium without even adding soup to it.
Sadly all of Panera’s Panini’s come in over 1000 mg of sodium. Even going with half a panini, and selecting the Steak & White Cheddar Panini on French Baguette only gets you down to 960 mg. So you will have to stick to sandwiches.
A Roasted Turkey & Avocado BLT on Sourdough ordered as a half sandwich is 550 mg. A half of a Steak & Arugula on Sourdough is the best at 430 mg. Finally, they do offer Flatbread sandwiches, but you need to order it as a one flatbread sandwich, rather than with two to get the lower sodium options. That way, the Tomato Mozzarella Flatbread comes in at 460 mg.
Salads operate the same way as sandwiches, you need to stay at a half salad to get a lower sodium option. Also remember these counts are not including the dressing. The Strawberry Poppyseed & Chicken Salad is the best choice. You can even eat a whole salad for only 300 mg. Dressings need to be ordered on the side, and then only use half of the dressing cup they give you. If you do that, then the Reduced Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette is the best choice at 55 mg.
Broth Bowls, Pastas, and Soups:
None of Panera’s bread bowls are under 1000 mg. so avoid ordering those. The same can be said for the pasta. the lowest choice is the Pasta Primavera at 850 mg. so again it is too high for the points for just one meal. All of the other pasta choices are over 1000 mg. There are only 3 soups that would fit our requirements, and you will need to stick to just ordering a cup of the soup. The Vegetarian Creamy Tomato Soup is 510 mg., the Low-Fat Vegetarian Garden Vegetable Soup with Pesto is 560 mg., and the New England Clam Chowder is 680 mg.
Ordering off of the kids menu:
Like most restaurants, when you order from the kid’s menu you get smaller portions and therefore less sodium. That does not hold true for Panera though. You have to also watch your choices here. The Kids Salads are OK. For pastas though, the Buttered Ribbon Noodles are fine at 170 mg., but the Mac N Cheese is over 1000 mg. The Peanut Butter & Jelly is the only low sodium sandwich choice at 470 mg. the kids soups are the same as the soups above, and the yogurts for kids are a fine choice.
What are some of your favorites to eat at Panera? Are they on the low sodium choices above? let me know in the comments below.