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Is Panera OK for Bariatric Patients?

Note: Whether you’ve had bariatric surgery or not, you’ll likely visit a fast-food or fast-casual restaurant at some point. With our rushed and busy lives, fast food may cross our minds. Often, we can get something to hold us over without destroying the diet, but it’s important to choose right. Speak to your bariatric practice and dietician for guidance…do not rely on this guide alone.

Eating healthy on the go can be challenging, especially considering the number of calories in fast food (over 1200 for an average value meal!). Many fast-food options are packed with sodium, fat, and sugar, making it a generally poor choice for someone trying to watch their weight. It’s also associated with lower health outcomes; according to a study at the University of Minnesota, people who frequent the drive-thru twice a week are twice as likely to develop insulin resistance. This condition can lead to type 2 diabetes1.

Some restaurants certainly make healthy eating easier. Panera has many options for those looking to watch their weight. However, they also have menu items that are just as unhealthy as drive-thru fast food. Generally, avoid meal items loaded with cream (mac and cheese, anyone?) or fatty meats (ciabatta cheesesteak comes to mind). They also have various bakery options high in sugar and excess calories. Healthier options include salads, half-portioned deli sandwiches, and various vegetarian options.

Below is a list of healthy versus not-so-healthy options at Panera:

Best Choices:


Garden Avo and Egg White Sandwich

  • 340 Calories + 19 grams of protein. This breakfast sandwich also packs 5 grams of fiber for added fullness.

Greek Yogurt with Mixed Berries Parfait

  • 250 calories + 16 grams of protein. Although this yogurt has 18g of sugar, it’s a decent option for a high-protein breakfast and also packs a punch with probiotics from the yogurt.


Tuna Salad Sandwich (whole) with a side of Apple

  • 630 calories + 25 grams of protein. This classic staple is a great source of protein, and choosing wheat bread will help increase fiber for satiety.

Strawberry Poppyseed Chicken Salad (whole)

  • Without a side, this salad is only 370 calories and 30 grams of protein. It also has 8 grams of fiber, making it a filling and satisfying lunch.

Tip: Choose an apple for a side versus chips or bread to avoid adding extra calories.

Least Healthy:

Breakfast: Avoid pastries like the Cinnamon Roll (520 calories) and Bear Claw (500 calories). When choosing a breakfast sandwich, try to limit the ones with fatty meats (the Asiago Sausage & Egg Sandwich packs a whopping 820 calories) or Brioche Sandwiches (this type of bread is notoriously high in fat).

Lunch: Avoid options like Mac and cheese (1000 calories, even without bacon), Bread Bowls (800-1200 calories), and desserts (the Candy Cookie has 480 calories!).

Here are a few more tips to help you make a healthy choice at Panera:

  • Choose meals that contain whole grains to add fiber
  • Meals that contain lots of veggies/fruit are generally high in fiber and low in added fat
  • Since the calorie amounts are readily available on menus now, try to find meals that are 600 calories or below
  • Limit added sugars from desserts

Always chat with your dietitian if unsure how to build a healthy meal!


  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15639678/

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