Eat by Stars checks out “You Pick Two”

Eat by Stars is eating out!  This week we’re headed to Panera Bread.

Panera Bread is often viewed as a healthier eating out alternative to fast food.  Ultimately, it is.  But it’s not as healthy as you’d think.  Most of their sandwiches are loaded with sodium.  And a full sandwich with chips is only a rung below a burger and fries in calories, fat, and unhealthy carbs.

Still, Panera offers a better chance for a healthy lunch than any value menu.  All the salads are good choices provided you mind your dressing.

For ease of discussion, let’s look at a few soup and sandwich options available in their popular “You Pick Two”. It’s no coincidence these are my favorites.

(Here’s the full menu nutritional info.)

Sandwiches (All values for half sandwiches)

Smoked Turkey Breast on Country Café Sandwich 

Per half: calories 210, fat 1.5g, carbs 33g, protein 14g, (sodium 34% DV)

As a rule, the café sandwich options are the healthiest between-two-slices group (execption: Sierra Turkey).  The smoked turkey breast is the best of the class.

Tomato & Mozzarella Panini on Ciabatta

Per half: calories 380, fat 15g, carbs 48g, protein 15g (sodium 27% DV)

My favorite and one of the best Panini options (turkey artichoke is slightly better).  It’s high in carbs but relatively low in salt.  Not for every day consumption, but a solid occasional lunch choice.

Bacon Turkey Bravo Signature Sandwich on Tomato Basil 

Per half: calories 400, fat 14g, carbs 42g, protein 26g (sodium 58% DV)

A turkey sandwich is usually a smart choice, but this one adds an unbelievable amount of sodium.  Unfortunately that’s a pretty common theme at Panera.

Soups (Values for “Pick Two” serving)

Broccoli Cheddar 

Per cup: calories 200, fat 12g, carbs 14g, protein 8g, (sodium 34%)

Oftentimes, the creamy base of broccoli cheddar soup makes it a poor option.  Not at Panera.  Pair it with the Smoked Turkey Café Sandwich and you’ve got yourself a healthful and downright satisfying lunch.

French Onion 

Per cup: calories 180, fat 9g, carbs 20g, protein 8g, (sodium 68%)

I’m not sure if this counts the cheese and croutons.  It certainly doesn’t appear so.  In any event, not a horrible choice, but the high sodium keeps it out of 4 star range.

Creamy Tomato 

Per cup: calories 300, fat 18g, carbs 29g, protein 6g, (sodium 23%)

The “creamy” in the title is a dead giveaway.  Unfortunately, nothing “creamy” is healthy (insert juvenile joke here).  It’s low in sodium, but decidedly a treat, not a lunch staple.

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