If you’re on the high-fat, low-carb keto diet, you have no choice but to pass right by crowd-favorite Panera Bread at lunchtime, right? I mean, the offending food group (hi, carbs) is literally right there in the restaurant name.
Before you start weeping into your meal-prepped Tupperware of protein and avo at your desk, you actually *don’t* have to detour around Panera every single time. There are a bunch of items you can order from the chain that can be keto-friendly…and they don’t totally suck, either.
“You can definitely make eating at Panera work if you plan ahead,” says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area. “Because you’ll have your daily limit for carbohydrates, you may end up needing to alter some of the meals you’re eating at home to compensate if your order at Panera isn’t super, super low carb.”
All it takes is a little creativity and the confidence to march up to the register and order a sandwich without the bread (you can do it—I believe in you).
Here are the ins and outs of ordering a keto meal at Panera.
You want an order that’s low in carbs, high in fiber, and high in fat. So if you’re trying to eat keto at Panera, check out the menu’s nutritional info online before you go. (Guess what: This “trick” works for eating keto at any restaurant as long it shares its nutrition facts somewhere.) Gorin reminds to zero in on the carb, fiber, and fat content of anything you’re thinking about ordering.
“I include the fiber content because when you’re on keto, you’re really looking at net carbs, which is the total amount of carbohydrates minus the fiber—this is the amount of carbohydrates that is absorbed by your body,” explains Gorin. Many keto dieters aim for less than 50 net carbs per day, as WH previously reported. So for a single meal you may want to keep your net carbs below 10 or 12.
But if you just don’t totally feel comfortable assembling keto-friendly meals yourself while eating out, you’re in luck: Gorin IDed eight keto-friendly options you can order at Panera without having to calculate carbs, fiber, and fat all by yourself. Request one of these delish, keto-compliant options (spoiler alert: the big thing is leaving out the bread in these items!) and banish your lunchtime FOMO for good.
1. Caesar salad with chicken
Nutrition info (including the croutons): 450 calories, 28 g total fat, 17 g total carbs, 2 g fiber, 34 g protein
Make it keto: Order the Caesar salad without the croutons to cut back on the carbs; the chicken will give you a satisfying boost of protein and help you feel full without ’em. The dressing choice is up to you. Although, Gorin says a serving (two tablespoons) of Caesar dressing contains about two carbs, so if you’re looking to really cut down on the carb count, ask for a drizzle of olive oil instead.
2. Half order of the seasonal greens salad with hard-boiled eggs
Nutrition info (for the half salad): 95 calories, 5.5 g total fat, 10 g total carbs, 1.5 g fiber, 2 g protein
Make it keto: “If you’re looking for more of a snack-sized option, this would be a good option because it comes in at less than 300 calories,” says Gorin. The greens themselves have 10 grams of carbs and the eggs have just 1 gram (along with a hefty dose of protein). Opt for the Greek dressing or plain olive oil for flavor.
3. Steak and egg breakfast sandwich
Nutrition info (with the bagel): 530 calories, 18g total fat, 59 g total carbs, 2 g fiber, 34 g protein
Make it keto: Okay, so Panera bagels are generally a no-go for keto dieters, but steak and eggs is a filling breakfast on its own. Gorin suggests asking for a side of avocado slices to boost the protein and fat content, giving you enough calories for a full meal.
4. Chipotle chicken avocado melt
Make it keto: This spicy, smoky, flavorful filling will make your tummy so happy you won’t even miss the focaccia (which, obviously, you’ll have to skip in order to keep it keto-friendly).
5. Greek salad with chicken
Nutrition info: 400 calories, 36 g total fat, 11 g total carbs, 4 g fiber, 5 g protein
Make it keto: This salad contains 11 grams of carbs, which means it could still fit into your daily keto goals if you’ve planned out the rest of your day to be low-carb. One thing to remember? “A full serving of the dressing has one gram of carbs, so if you’re really trying to cut your carb intake, use half of the dressing,” advises Gorin.
6. Steak and arugula sandwich
Nutrition info (with the bread): 470 calories, 16 g total fat, 50 g total carbs, 3 g fiber, 33 g protein
Make it keto: By ordering this sandwich without the bread, you’re getting solid protein along with vitamins and minerals from the arugula. But you do need some extra fat in there, so toss in some good ol’ fashioned avocado slices for an assist.
7. Heritage ham and Swiss sandwich
Nutrition info (with the bread): 600 calories, 26 g total fat, 50 g total carbs, 3 g fiber, 41 g protein
Make it keto: Just like the steak and arugula sandwich, Gorin recommends swapping out your bread for avocado slices, so you get extra fat and calories but not carbs. She also says you may want ask for tomato slices to get some veggies into the meal.
8. Espresso with an avocado, egg white, and spinach sandwich
Make it keto: “Sipping an espresso with your order can make it feel elegant and special,” says Gorin, “and this one contains no carbs.” Pair it with an avocado, egg white, and spinach sandwich (sans bread) to feel even more fancy-pants.
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