Fit 5 on Friday: Panera Pitfalls for Diabetics

September 6, 2013By 1 Comment

images22I am as guilty as the next person, driving through the Panera drive-through to get a coffee and when the voice through the ordering microphone says “Anything else with that?”…I pause and say, sure, a cookie or a cheese Danish.  Damn it!

Now, I don’t always give into my cravings, and because there is a Panera right up the street from my house and easy access for me, I have come to know and learn the more nutritional and lower carb items by heart so that when I am given the option to add something else to my coffee order, I choose something a little better for my health and for my blood sugars.

While I personally feel that Panera coffee could use some improvement (again, it’s just easy access for me), I did find out that all their flavored Latte’s are Sugar-free, automatically.  Double-check this at your local Panera, but I thought that was pretty cool.

Keep in mind, ANY of the bread from Panera is still bread and needs to be accounted for, their Ciabatta, Focaccia, French Baguette and Whole Grain loaf bread all have roughly the same amount of carbs (between 27-30 g), however, the Whole Grain loaf has 3 grams of fiber versus 1 gram in the others, so you can bet that the whole grain option will at least have less of a post-prandial spike with your blood sugars.

Here is a top 5 list of poor choices followed by a healthier alternative, especially for those of us counting carbs and managing post meal spikes.  The great things about Panera is that they are always trying to stay on trend with not only healthy but smart food choices, such as antibiotic free chicken.  Disclaimer: no one is compensating me for this post and I am not trying to particularly endorse Panera… I just chose it because it is such a popular place with so many locations. Also, all the nutrition information was obtained from the Panera website.

  1. Craving a breakfast sandwich and you want to go with the Sausage, Egg and Cheese on Ciabatta bread? That will cost you 550 cals, 29 grams of fat and 44 grams of carb.  Try instead: The Breakfast Power Sandwich with ham and cheese on whole grain; this will be less shocking with 340 cals, 15 grams of fat and 31 grams of carb (4 grams of fiber as well).
  2. Ahh, now what about a salad for lunch?  They’re all healthy right?  WRONG!  One of the biggest mistakes people make with salads and assuming just because it has lettuce it’s healthy.  Toppings toppings and more toppings add calories!  So, if you think you want the Fuji Apple Chicken Salad?  Wowza…560 cals, 34 grams of fat and 36 grams of carb.  Instead, go for the Classic Salad with grilled chicken; 300 cals, 13 grams of fat and 10 grams of carb.  I was amazed when I looked at all the nutrition information for the salads, and it was difficult to find one under 500 calories or with less than 30 grams of carb!
  3. Soup anyone?  I LOVE soup, it is so tasty and perfect on a chilly day.  You would think you were making a smart choice by going with the Creamy Tomato with Croutons…well, if you want 410 cals, 29 grams of fat and 30 grams of carb, you may want to think twice!  The low-fat vegetarian Black Bean Soup is unbelievably yummy and packs so many great nutrients, it’s a must and a better option with 240 cals, 2.5 grams of fat and while it does have 50 grams of carb, 9 of that is coming from fiber, so you only need to really bolus for 41 grams.
  4. Okay, sandwich time.  If you are really hungry and think a salad just won’t do the trick on any given day, go ahead and enjoy a sandwich. I would recommend eating only half of the full-size sandwiches that Panera offers, and taking the rest home, this will cut all the calories and fat in half and if you give yourself a few minutes to let it all digest, you’ll realize your full in no time!  Or, you can do the ‘pick two’ option and get half a sandwich and a cup of soup.  The Sierra Turkey on Asiago Cheese Focaccia is a doozy at 920 cals, 49 grams of fat and 79 grams of carb.  A better option (even if you’re not a vegetarian, as this is a very yummy sandwich) is the Mediterranean Veggie on Tomato Basil, with 590 cals, 13 grams of fat and 96 grams of carb (you can sub out the tomato basil bread for whole grain to increase the fiber content and lower the glycemic effect of the carbs).
  5. It’s pastry time:  It’s okay, your allowed every now and again.  The Wild Blueberry Scone will cost you 470 cals, 20 grams of fat and 66 grams of carb.  While a cute little Chocolate Chip Muffie will run you 320 cals, 14 grams of fat, and 46 grams of carb.

Overall, you can have a healthy, nutrition packed lunch at Panera without sacrificing too much taste or too many high blood sugars.  Keep in mind, the average 2000 calorie diet should include  a lunch of between 500-700 calories of whole grains, fruits, veggies and lean protein.  Also, for help with blood sugar management, for those of you who wear an insulin pump, dual-wave or extended bolus is your best friend at Panera, so that bread spike that will happen 2 hours later can be leveled out.  Happy eating!

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  1. elizabeth shapiro says:

    A great eatery to cover…we usually visit on occasion for breakfast and i opt for the oatmeal with fruit, granola typing…keeping my fingers crossed there aren’t too many hidden negatives in it…there’s done brown sugar and if course the granola…but its sooo good!

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