What to Eat and Drink at Panera

Six out of ten Americans drink coffee every day. And millions pick up their cup of joe (or their Caramel Mocha Cookie Chip Whip Latte) at a Starbucks, Panera, or other coffee shop.

What’s in that cup…or in the breakfast sandwich, pastry, or parfait you may grab with it? Maybe more than you think. Here are some of your best bets for a breakfast and beverage on the go from Panera.

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Drinks

Panera has a Caramel and a Pumpkin Spice Latte with enough added sugar (6 or 9 teaspoons), whipped cream, and 2% milk to drop nearly 400 calories and half a day’s saturated fat (10 grams) into your 16 oz. morning java.

Even worse: a 16 oz. Frozen Caramel or Mocha. Each has about 550 calories plus 12 grams of saturated fat (thanks to half-and-half and whipped cream) and 16 teaspoons of added sugar. And who would expect 510 calories in a Signature Hot Chocolate, which comes with a bonus 11 teaspoons of added sugar and 10 grams of saturated fat? A better option:

Smoothie. The 16 oz. Fat-Free Superfruit Power Smoothie beats the other flavors. Thanks to its unsweetened greek yogurt, you get 14 grams of protein for just 210 calories. And stevia helps cut down on added sugar, so most of the 7 teaspoons’ worth comes from fruit juices (not great) and purées (better).

Other 16 oz. Panera smoothies have around 300 calories, half the protein, and more added sugar. Not worth it.

Food

Ignore the pastries (400 calories), the muffins, scones, and coffee cake (500 calories), and the cinnamon rolls (650 calories).

Also skip the soufflés. They’re buttery white-flour croissant dough filled mostly with eggs, cheese, and/or bacon. Each has about 500 calories plus 15 to 20 grams of saturated fat and roughly 900 milligrams of sodium you could do without. Instead, try:

Oatmeal. The thicker- than-instant Steel Cut Oatmeal (180 calories) comes with pecans (100 calories) and either strawberries (10 calories) or apple chips (40 calories). Just ask them to leave off the Cinnamon Crunch (50 calories).

With either topping, you get 8 grams of fiber, but just 6 grams of protein. You can boost that to 14 grams by having your oatmeal with a nonfat Caffe Latte.

Strawberry Granola Parfait. On the plus side, you get fresh strawberries, low-fat yogurt, and granola with no refined grains. And its 310 calories include 9 grams of protein and a quarter of a day’s calcium. But you also get about 4 teaspoons of added sugar and 5 grams of saturated fat (largely from the granola’s coconut). Memo to Panera: try higher-protein plain greek yogurt. And let patrons add their own nuts and fruit.

Egg white sandwiches. The Egg White, Avocado & Spinach, the Turkey Sausage, Egg White & Spinach, and the Mediterranean Egg White beat the other breakfast sandwiches.

All three hover around 400 calories (instead of the usual 500+) and have around 6 grams of saturated fat (rather than 10-or-so grams). And their sodium (640 to 830 milligrams), though still high, is lower than the usual 1,000 mg.

What’s more, they come with 11 to 16 grams of protein, thanks to the egg whites and cheese (and, in one case, turkey). And you can get all three on a partly whole grain Sprouted Grain Bagel Flat. Not perfect, but not too shabby.

Breakfast bowls. On Panera’s “Hidden Menu” (ask the manager if you get a blank stare), you’ll find the Egg White with Roasted Turkey Power Breakfast Bowl, which includes warm baby spinach, roasted peppers, and basil pesto. It squeezes 26 grams of protein into just 170 calories, with virtually no saturated fat. It’s not low in sodium (500 mg), but sugar and white flour are missing in action.

It’s got a tad more protein than the 270-calorie Egg with Steak Power Breakfast Bowl, which piles two whole eggs (and their cholesterol) and avocado slices on top of red meat. The steak is (lean) sirloin, so the saturated fat stays at 5 grams.

Other relevant links:

• The healthiest beverage options at Starbucks. See: What to Eat: What to Drink at Starbucks

• Your best options for food on the go at Starbucks. See: What to Eat at Starbucks

• Muesli makes a great fiber- and protein-packed breakfast. See: Give Muesli a Try

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