Panera Bread just moved in across the street from my office. I love their hot panini sandwiches on fresh baked bread. However, I suffer from high blood pressure, so I know it was important to check out the menu for low sodium options. Below are the salt content of some of Panera Bread’s popular lunch items, and menu suggestions for those of us looking to limit our sodium intake to recommended 500 mg per meal.
The Mayo Clinic recommends people at risk for heart attacks, high blood pressure, swelling, and strokes consume less than 1,500 mg of salt per day. That’s an average of 500 mg per meal.
Only two of Panera’s soups contain less than 1,000 mg of salt. (See how Bob Evans’ soups compare in sodium). The Creamy Tomato with Croutons contains the least amount with 680 mg of sodium followed by the low fat garden vegetable with pesto at 920 mg. The Bistro French Onion (topped with asiago croutons and gruyere) contains a whopping 1,780 mg of salt!
While salads are generally considered a “healthy” alternative, salads can contain a large portion of sodium due to the toppings like bacon bits, ham, cheese, olives, and salad dressings, which are very high in sodium. Panera’s Fuji apple chicken salad contains 620 mg of salt. A Spinach power salad contains 700 mg of salt. A chicken cobb with herb vinaigrette contains 970 mg of salt. A Greek salad contains 1,140 mg of salt. Add chicken and your salt content jumps up another 200 mg.
Sandwiches & Panini
Bread and cheese are two foods many people do not realize are high in sodium (check out the full list here) Because of these sandwich staples contain so much sodium, there is not one single Panera sandwich or panini that contains less than 500 mg of salt. In fact, only the roasted turkey and avocado BLT on sourdough contains less than 1,000 mg of salt!
Five of Panera’s sandwiches contain less than 1,500 mg of salt, including the Tuna salad on honey wheat (1,150 mg), the Napa almond chicken salad on sesame semolina (1,180 mg), the Chicken caesar on three cheese bread (1,260 mg), the Asiago steak on asiago cheese bread (1,310 mg) and the Mediterranean veggie on tomato basil (1,400 mg).
The following six sandwiches contain over 1,500 mg of salt, more than you should eat in an entire day! Tomato and mozzarella on ciabatta (1,550 mg), Smoked turkey breast on country (1,790 mg), Frontega chicken on focaccia bread (2,090 mg), Chipotle chicken with bacon on French bread (2,140 mg), Smokehouse turkey with bacon on three cheese (2,590 mg), and the
Bacon turkey bravo on tomato basil with a whopping 2,990 mg of sodium!
Low Sodium Options
So what low sodium options are available at Panera for less than 500 mg of salt? A Caesar salad with dressing contains 480 mg of salt. A classic salad only contains 140 mg. Add the white balsamic fuji apple vinaigrette (180 mg) and you are considerably less than your allowed 500 mg of salt. You could still add a 1 oz bag of baked potato crisps (125 mg) or even a 1 oz bag of kettle chips (170 mg).
Or you could opt for half of the roasted turkey and avocado BLT on sourdough for 490 mg of sodium. Add an apple and you are still consuming less than 500 mg of salt. Half of a Fuji apple chicken salad contains 310 mg of salt, and half of the spinach power salad contains 350 mg of salt. (For more low sodium options, check out Panera’s breakfast menu).
While Panera Bread’s low sodium lunch options are limited, it is not impossible to eat a low salt lunch at your favorite restaurant. Making smart decisions is key, as well as knowing which if your favorite foods to stay away from and which of your new favorites you can enjoy!