Panini at Panera: is it a Healthy Sandwich?

A trip to the local Panera bakery may be a weekly – or daily – habit, and it’s hard to miss the hot panini’s served up each day, fresh off the grill. The hot panini at Panera is a popular choice at lunchtime, and features a wide range of tantalizing combinations such as turkey with artichoke, Portobello mushroom with cheese, and chicken pomodoro. These grilled sandwiches even look healthy, a colorful mix of vegetables and meat surrounded by a blanket of focaccia or sesame bread. But are those hot grilled sandwiches really a healthy choice? Here’s what you need to know:

The Panini Sandwiches at Panera

Panera now offers five choices on the Hot Panini menu. You can choose from the:

Chicken Pomodoro – smoked chicken with mozzarella, basil, and Pomodoro sauce

Smokehouse Turkey – smoked turkey, bacon, cheddar, and sun-dried tomato mustard

Portobello amp; Mozzarella – portobollo mushrooms, mozzarella cheese, and caramelized onions

Frontega Chicken – smoked chicken, mozzarella, tomatoes, and chipotle sauce

Turkey Artichoke – smoked turkey, spinach artichoke spread, a cheese blend, tomatoes and onions

Some of the panini sandwiches are served on freshly baked Focaccia brad, while other are served on Panera’s Sesame Semolina or Artisan Three Cheese bread. In general, you cannot take out any ingredients upon request, as most sandwiches are pre-prepared and ready for grilling.

While the panini sandwiches pack in plenty of flavor and tasty combinations, the half sandwich portions are fairly small; if you’re looking for a full-fledged meal, the whole sandwich will be your best bet.

Does a Healthy Panini at Panera Exist?

In order of calories and fat content:

-Portobello amp; Mozzarella contains 650 calories and 24 grams of fat

-Frontega Chicken contains 800 calories and 32 grams of fat

-Chicken Pomodoro contains 710 calories and 20 grams of fat

-Smokehouse Turkey on Three Cheese Bread contains 700 calories and 23 grams of fat

-Turkey Artichoke contains 700 calories and 22 grams of fat

These are all substantially higher than most sandwich shops such as Quizno’s and Subway where you can enjoy a grilled or toasted sub for less calories and larger portion sizes. Still, when it’s a gourmet panini you crave, the Portobello or Turkey Artichoke are your ‘healthiest’ options.

You do have a choice of bread for the Chicken Pomodoro or Smokehouse Turkey sandwich; choosing French bread instead of Semolina for the chicken sandwich can cut out almost 200 calories per serving to bring down the calorie count to 560 calories and 21 grams of fat. Switching bread on the turkey sandwich shaves off about 30 calories and 2 grams of fat.

Bottom Line: If you really want to try the panini at Panera, the healthiest option is to order a half sandwich with a soup and sandwich or salad and sandwich combo. The half sandwich does come with your choice of chips or an apple as well. Still, Panera offers at least one low fat soup each day, and almost any salad can be served with a lowfat dressing. The hot panini sandwich is a great choice for lunch or dinner, but enjoying it with your diet in mind requires some portion control.

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