Dr. Robert Cook - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Robert Cook

Is Panera Bread Bad For You?



Short answer

Most foods at Panera Bread are relatively healthy, and some are getting healthier. Some are high in sodium and others in fat, however - consider their wares individually when eating there.



Long answer

Panera Bread is a health food titan. They've got more than 2,000 stores across the United States. They present themselves of a healthy and conscientious alternative to fast food. This strategy has proved successful - Panera has gobbled up a significant share of the alternative fast-food market from competitors like Subway.

Panera has also been lauded for a progressive corporate stance that welcomes changes and new discoveries in the fields of food and medical science. They've pledged to remove artificial flavors and colors from their foods by 2017 and were one of the first companies to list calorie counts on their menus. Their meat is antibiotic-free, and they're transitioning towards grass fed meat and cage-free eggs.

Some orders at Panera are healthier than others. It's a good idea to pick bread that's whole grain over bread that's not, for example. If you're getting a salad dressing that's high in calories, you may want to get it on the side. Ordering the right way at the counter can help you to match Panera Bread's offerings to your specific dietary needs.

Order-tweaking will only get you so far, however. Some foods at Panera Bread are better for you than others. Many are distinguished by high calorie counts. A study done by the University of South Carolina found that many items at Panera Bread and similar fast-casual restaurants had higher calorie counts than those of fast-food competitors like McDonald's. A bread bowl at Panera Bread, for example, can have 500 calories on its own. Calories aren't the only thing you should focus on, of course, but they're still important. And many items at Panera Bread - as you can see from the labeling on their menu - have quite a few calories. Eat them sparingly or avoid entirely.

Other items at Panera Bread have high amounts of sodium. Your body need sodium to function. Too much, and you up your risk of high blood pressure, hypertension, and heart disease. Their bagel with bacon and cheese, for example, has more than 1,400 milligrams of sodium. That's close to the FDA's recommended intake for at-risk groups of 1,500 milligrams a day.

Other Panera Bread foods are high in sugar. These, too, should be eaten sparingly - sugar rots your teeth, can expand your waistline, and increases your risk of chronic disease when consumed in excess. The main culprits to watch here at the baked goods; their mini scones variety pack has almost 100 grams of sugar per serving. That's more than you need.

Ingredients to be aware of

  • calories
  • sodium
  • sugar
  • fat


  • healthy compared to many other fast food restaurants
  • artificial colors / flavors to be removed by 2017
  • transitioning to cage-free eggs / grass-fed meat
  • antibiotic-free meat
  • fairly transparent about ingredients / quality

Thank you for your feedback!

View Sources | Written by Sean McNulty
Published on: 11-17-2016
Last updated: 12-10-2016

Thank you for your feedback!

View Sources
Written by Sean McNulty
Published on: 11-17-2016
Last updated: 12-10-2016

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