Recently, the SpoonUCSD team ranked Panera items by their calorie count. But while it seems obvious to stay away from high cal items like that delicious pecan roll, if you’re on a diet, you have to be more careful. Sure, a bowl of chicken noodle soup only has 170 calories, but it also has 1330 mg of sodium. That’s almost half of our recommended intake for the day.

Although Panera does well with fresh, clean ingredients, you have to remember that you’re still eating out. Here’s some of the best menu items at Panera if you’re watching what you eat.

If You Want Something Sweet:

Smoothies:

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Unfortunately, most of the bakery items at Panera are irredeemable if you’re really health conscious. Your best bet to curve that sweet tooth is to stick to a smoothie. Smoothies can provide a ton of antioxidants and other health benefits and the high sugar content is all from natural sugars in the fruit. Some of the best options at Panera are the Superfruit Power Smoothie (210 calories/0 grams fat/30 grams sugar) or the Green Passion Power Smoothie (200 calories/0 grams fat/47 grams sugar).

Chocolate Chip Muffie:

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Although a cross between a muffin and a cookie doesn’t sound promising, if you can’t leave the store without a bakery item in your hand, you can compromise with the muffie. Everyone knows the top of the muffin is the best part anyway.

Calories: 320
Fat: 14 grams
Saturated Fat: 4 grams
Cholesterol: 35 milligrams
Sodium: 230 milligrams
Sugar: 28 grams

Cobblestone (1/2):

Photo courtesy of panerabread.com

Although it’s still not great for you, half a portion of the Cobblestone is a reasonable indulgence. The thick cinnamon raisin bread will be enough that just half of this massive portion should tide you over. It’ll even save you a couple bucks next time you want a sweet treat. Or, make these homemade copycat cobblestones instead.

Calories: 280
Fat: 6 grams
Saturated Fat: 3.5 grams
Cholesterol: 30 milligrams
Sodium: 250 milligrams
Sugar: 28 grams

If You’re There For Breakfast:

Oatmeal (Power Almond Quinoa or Steel Cut Oatmeal with Strawberries and Pecans)

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None of the breakfast sandwiches at Panera are a great option if you’re looking to be healthy (the best one still has 5 grams of saturated fat and 630 grams of sodium…um, no thank you). Instead, try a bowl of one of Panera’s oatmeals. They’re gigantic and loaded with tons of good for you, but still yummy toppings so you won’t be stuck with boring old oatmeal.

Calories: 300/340
Fat: 6 grams/14 grams
Saturated Fat: 1 gram/2 grams
Cholesterol: 0 milligrams/0 milligrams
Sodium: 220 milligrams/160 milligrams
Sugar: 7 grams/16 grams

Honey Almond Greek Yogurt Parfait

panera

Photo courtesy of panerabread.com

Panera does offer another parfait, with strawberries and granola, but although it isn’t too awful, the honey almond type is a better option. Granola’s one of those not so healthy “health” foods, which is what raises the sugar, calories and carbs on the strawberry parfait. You’re better off sticking with this one and its 13 grams of protein, which is guaranteed to keep you full until lunchtime.
Calories: 
180
Fat: 2.5 grams
Saturated Fat: 0 grams
Cholesterol: 0 grams
Sodium: 55 milligrams
Sugars: 22 grams

If You’re There After Noon:

Roasted Turkey and Caramelized Kale (1/2) Paired with Classic Salad (1/2):

panera

Photo courtesy of panerabread.com

Photo courtesy of panerabread.com

This sandwich is basically the grown up version of all the turkey sandwiches your mom used to pack you for lunch. Not only is it served on a Black Pepper Focaccia, it also has caramelized kale, fresh mozzarella and tomatoes (if you’ve been living under a rock and have no clue what kale is, check out this article). Plus, imagine the beautiful Insta photos you could take of those panini grill marks.

Calories: 280+80=360
Fat: 11+5= 16 grams
Saturated Fat: 3+1= 4 grams
Cholesterol: 30+0= 30 milligrams
Sodium: 620+70= 690 milligrams
Protein: 13+2=15 grams

#SpoonTip: Keep the dressings for your salad light. The Low-fat Thai Chili Vinaigrette, Reduced Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette and Asian Sesame Dressing are all healthy ways to make your salad less boring. 

Steak and Argula on Sourdough (1/2) and Mediterranean and Quinoa Salad with Almonds (1/2):

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The amount of sodium in this pairing is pretty unsavory, but remember that no pairing is going to be perfect when you’re eating out. It’s all about moderation, kids. Either way, the salad contains a ton of great ingredients, like kale, olives, quinoa and almonds. And over 20 grams of protein is guaranteed to keep you full and satisfied for awhile.

Calories: 250+230= 480
Fat: 9+18= 27 grams
Saturated Fat: 2.5+4= 6.5 grams
Cholesterol: 45+0= 45 milligrams
Sodium: 450+350= 800 milligrams
Protein: 12+10= 22 grams

Vegetarian Creamy Tomato Soup (Cup):

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On those cold days when you want nothing more than a cup of soup, this tomato soup is your best option. Instead of being a bowl full of salt, you’re getting creamy tomato-y goodness. Plus, it also has the added benefit of being vegetarian for all of you on a special diet (sorry, vegans, this doesn’t quite make the cut).

Calories: 210
Fat: 14 grams
Saturated Fat: 5 grams
Cholesterol: 35 milligrams
Sodium: 580 milligrams

Thai Flatbread with Panera Baked Chips:

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The Thai Chicken Flatbread has 7 grams of protein, which in comparison to some of the “healthy” protein bars out there, stacks up pretty well. Antibiotic free chicken, cilantro jalapeno hummus and nappa cabbage blend with peanut sauce and Thai dressing all combine to form this delectable flatbread that you can’t get just anywhere. Move over Subway.

Calories: 300+130=430
Fat: 11+2.5=13.5 grams
Saturated Fat: 4.5+0.5= 5 grams
Cholesterol: 35+0=13 milligrams
Sodium: 510+150=660 milligrams
Protein: 7+0=7 grams

If You Love Carbs:

Whole Grain:

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Panera is a bread company, so it feels wrong not to include your best bread options. Remember that whole grain is usually better for you than white breads are. The serving size is 2 oz, and if you don’t know how much bread that is (I don’t), it’s going to be a small slice, approximately the size of an index card. Go ahead and have two, if the carbs fit your macros.

Calories: 130
Fat: 1 gram
Carbs: 27 grams
Sodium: 250 milligrams
Fiber: 3 grams

#SpoonTip: Just like with salad dressings, watch your cream cheese portions. Panera has a lot more options than other brands, but the Reduced Fat Wild Blueberry, Reduced Fat Plain, and Reduced Fat Chive and Onion are some of the best choices.

Asiago Cheese Focaccia:

Photo courtesy of panerabread.com

Sometimes you’re just craving one of Panera’s specialty breads, like the Asiago Cheese Focaccia. It does have a bit of saturated fat and not as much fiber as the Whole Grain bread, but compare this to another Panera favorite, the cinnamon raisin swirl, and you’re making a much better choice. (12 grams of sugar makes the cinnamon raisin swirl another dessert, rather than a bread). Stick to one slice, and you’re in the clear, enjoying your cheesy goodness.

Calories: 150
Fat: 3.5 grams
Saturated Fat: 1.5 grams
Carbs: 24 grams
Sodium: 240 milligrams
Fiber: 1 gram