Panera bread may seem like the last place you would go to when on a keto diet. After all, it has "bread" in the title and pastry is the company's specialty. However, what you may not have known is that this bakery-café also serves soups, salads, sandwiches, and specialty drinks.
Just like with many other fast-food places, Panera Bread also allows their customers to tweak their orders to suit their tastes and diets. That means you can go ahead and enjoy that family dinner and outing with your friends at Panera.
Here, we talk about keto Panera meal options, the quality of their ingredients, the health benefits you can get from certain meals, and about Panera in general to expand your knowledge on this famous fast-food chain.
Panera Bread is a chain of bakery-café fast casual restaurants in the United States and Canada. It's been in operation for over 30 years now, and its focus is on offering healthy food to its customers. In fact, Health magazine once named it North America's healthiest fast casual restaurant .
Being a restaurant with a focus on health and wholesome ingredients makes Panera a great option for keto dieters. There are no artificial ingredients in Panera's food and the company uses meat from animals not raised on antibiotics.
Unfortunately, Panera's focus is also on bread and pastry. The word "Panera" has Latin roots and means "bread basket." In line with the name, Panera Bread's most famous menu item is their bread bowl. However, if you happen to find yourself at Panera Bread, you probably won't be ordering their most popular dishes.
What Keto Panera Options Are There?
There are a couple of low-carb foods you can enjoy to make for a keto Panera experience. Many of these meals can help you stay within your 20-50 grams of net carbs limit. But what's also great is that they're tasty and exceptionally healthy. Below is a list of keto Panera options for you to try.
Eggs – Panera offers several eggs breakfast options. You can order scrambled eggs, over-easy eggs, and even egg whites (but you're better of with whole eggs on keto). Double your order to make egg-based meals more filling since you'll be skipping the bun. Another option is to order a bunless breakfast sandwich.
From these breakfast options, you get plenty of protein and fat (eggs, bacon, sausage, and steak) to make it keto. If you go for the avocado, egg white, and spinach sandwich, you'll also make it healthier. Avocados and spinach are both great sources of vitamin C and iron. Spinach is also a source of powerful antioxidants that studies found can even fight cancer .
To make your keto Panera breakfasts more wholesome, ask for some steak or ham to go with the eggs. You can also order a low-carb beverage to go with your meal (more on that latter)
Panera Bread used to have a "secret power bowl menu" that had some great low-carb lunch and dinner options. Unfortunately, this option was recently discontinued and you'll have to get creative with your orders to make it low-carb. Here are some lunch ideas to help you out:
There's are three customizable salad options at Panera Bread: Greek salad, Caesar salad, and seasonal greens salad. You can also always ask for extra vegetables or dressing, free of extra charge. The low-carb salad greens you will find are lettuce, baby spinach, arugula, napa cabbage, radicchio, red onion, tomatoes, cucumbers, and avocado.
The salads come with steak, bacon, tuna, eggs, and sliced almonds as protein sources. The dressings you should definitely go for are Greek dressing, Caesar dressing, olive oil, lemon juice, basil pesto, and Chili Lime Rojo.
For extra fat, add a cheese topping. Panera offers cheddar, gorgonzola, feta, swiss cheese, mozzarella, gruyere, parmesan, and American cheese. Except the feta, most are high in saturated fat which is a great thing for your keto diet.
There are some good cheese options as well, but I don’t know the nutrition info. Feta, gorgonzola, white cheddar, American, swiss, fresh mozzarella, sliced mozzarella, gruyere, and grated parmesan are the options on the menu.
You can order keto Panera soups either in a cup or bowl (skip the bread bowl for now). Keep in mind that not every one of these soups are served every day at Panera.
Low-fat chicken noodle soup – This one is, unfortunately, low in fat, but it's still pretty food. It has around 13 grams of net carbs per cup (most coming from the noodles). If you still don't feel like taking the risk with this one, then stick to the salads.
Low-Fat vegetarian garden soup with pesto – The soup contains zucchini, yellow beans, and a bit of barley in tomato broth and topped with nut-free basil pesto. Sure, it contains ingredients forbidden on keto, but it comes at just 11 grams of net carbs per cup. Again, it may be better to avoid the soups for now at Panera, unless you plan to carb load that day.
Other soups at Panera include their famous broccoli cheddar soup and cream of chicken and wild rice soup. Both contain around 20 grams of net carbs in a cup, so avoid those completely.
Smoked pulled chicken – Studies show that white meat such as chicken is protective or, at least, neutral on cancer risk . It's also a source of easily-digestible protein.
Roasted turkey– Turkey meat has more protein and less fat than chicken meat, which may not be the best thing on keto. However, it's also higher in calcium, providing 32mg per one 3.5 oz. serving. Calcium is particularly important for bone health but also for your nerves, blood vessels, muscles, and hormones .
Citrus pepper chicken – Pepper's main active component is an alkaloid called piperine. Research has found that piperine boosts nutrient absorption . What that means is that you'll get more vitamins and minerals out of your chicken dinner if it's spiced with pepper.
Most of these come with bread, rice, and other high-carb ingredients so do ask the server if you can get any sandwich or other meal with these ingredients without the buns and high-carb sides.
A refreshing drink to go with your keto Panera order is a must! Lucky for you, Panera offers low-carb drinks as well. Avoid adding sugar to these drinks and bring your own sweetener with you (preferably stevia). Optionally, you can use Splenda offered by Panera. Both work well with most without affecting the taste negatively.
Double-Shot Espresso – It has only 10 calories and 2 grams of net carbs. Recent studies show that coffee is good for you . It's loaded with antioxidants, even if it's decaf that help with cardiovascular health, blood glucose regulation, liver health, and digestive problems.
Almond Milk Latte – Panera offers an almond milk latte using almond milk from the brand Almond Breeze. It has only 30 calories and 0 net carbs per serving. You also get around 2.5 grams of fat from the 8 oz. bottle. Almond milk is one of the top dairy milk substitutes you should add to your keto meal plan.
Diet Pepsi– Has 0 sugar/carbs so feel free to order this one if you're craving something fizzy. Most diet soda is sweetened with artificial sweeteners like aspartame, so do keep that in mind as well.
Spindrift Lemon Seltzer – Another medium-carb option for your keto Panera visit. It has 14 grams net carbs, so it may not be the best option for you.
Panera Bread isn't exactly a keto-friendly restaurant. But it is a popular fast-food place where people like to meet up and enjoy a warm bread bowl. If your family or friends like going to Panera, you don't have to turn them down for fear of carbs. There are a couple of low-carb and keto-friendly meal and drinks options for you to enjoy.
The choices are limited to be fair. You'll likely have to stick to salads or egg-based breakfast to play it safe. You can also order a sugar-free coffee or latte to have with your meals. On the positive note, if you are on a cyclical ketogenic diet, then an occasional visit to Panera in between workouts may work for you. Other than that, stick to our low-carb options listed here and you'll stay keto at one of North America's healthiest fast food places.