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Panera Bread Is Much More Than Just Healthy Bread

Don’t let the word “bread” in its name fool you. Panera Bread offers a lot more than delicious traditional, artisan, and healthy breads. And it’s not your average deli-style restaurant offering the same sandwiches and salads found on every corner. With locations throughout the state, Panera Bread is a popular spot with diners looking for a fresh, somewhat-healthier approach to a broad range of breakfast items, soups, sandwiches, flatbreads, salads, pastas, sides, and bakery items.

And if you’re still not convinced it’s time to deviate from your regular deli spot, consider this. Anytime a restaurant has a plethora of “copycat recipes” on the internet posted by Americans seeking to recreate their favorite Panera Bread item, it’s worth a closer look.

I can’t speak to every menu item, but for the most part, Panera Bread seems to make a valiant effort to offer healthy – or at the very least – healthier fare that is fresh, innovative, and tasty. It’s notable that a calorie count is provided on the menu. So before you deviate from your diet, you can at least make an informed decision.

Now, about those tempting menu items. Panera Bread’s menu contains 18 different sandwiches, including my favorite, roasted turkey and avocado BLT ($10.79). The sandwich contains sliced turkey, avocado, sliced vegetables, and bacon on rustic whole wheat bread. At only 686 calories, I could afford to enjoy a side of chips.

Others in the $7 to $10 range include roasted turkey, apple and cheddar, toasted steak and white cheddar, chipotle chicken avocado melt, toasted Tuscan grilled chicken, grilled chicken parmesan, Cuban, Caprese, bacon and turkey, steak and arugula, bacon tomato grilled cheese, Napa almond chicken salad, four cheese grilled cheese, ham and Swiss, tuna salad, and Mediterranean veggie.

Served on a variety of delicious breads – after all, you’d expect nothing less from a place with bread in its name – all are sandwiches worth trying in either classic sandwich style or as a panini.

Signature salads are filled with a variety of meats, cheeses, fruits, and sliced vegetables. In the $7 to $11 range are ranch with chicken, Southwest chili lime ranch with chicken, Green Goddess Cobb with chicken, spicy Thai with chicken, Fuji apple with chicken, Greek with quinoa, Asian sesame chicken salad, Caesar with chicken, Greek, and seasonal green. As with sandwich, each salad lists nutritional information.

In the mood for something a little different? Try a healthy bowl meal filled with your favorite meats, grains, and vegetables. There’s the Baja warm grain bowl with or without chicken, Mediterranean warm grain bowl with or without chicken and Soba noodle bowl with chicken or edamame. The healthy selections contain between 300 and 700 calories and are in the $9 to $10 range.

If you enjoy pairing sandwiches and salads with soup and for a heartier twist, mac and cheese, you’ve come to the right place. However, don’t expect the can or made-from the-box versions of either one. These are two of the most-copied items on the internet food boards, and here are some reasons why.

Panera Bread’s mac and cheese is delicious on its own, but adding barbecue chicken or other tasty ingredients turns a basic dish into a crowd-pleaser.

If soup is more to your liking, there are plenty of homemade varieties from which to choose, like turkey chili, vegetarian autumn squash, ten vegetable and sprouted grain, chicken noodle, broccoli cheddar, creamy tomato, and New England clam chowder. Each of these items is in the $6 to $10 range.

Other menu offerings are pasta dishes like chicken tortellini alfredo ($9.49), breakfast items that include a variety of sandwiches, wraps and soufflés filled with scrambled eggs, bacon, chicken, cheese, and vegetables and healthy sides like apples, bananas, fruit cup, and sprouted grain roll.

After watching your fat and calorie intake with healthy lunch and dinner selections, a visit to Panera Bread’s in-house bakery is a required stop. There you’ll find homemade bagels, cookies, brownies, scones, muffins, and assorted pastries, all of which make reducing the meal’s calorie intake worth it.

In addition to in-store dining and takeout food, Panera Bread offers a catering menu that includes large sandwich trays, desserts and side dishes. The restaurant also provides boxes lunches for take-out.

Panera Bread’s Mississippi locations include Olive Branch, Oxford, Ridgeland, Flowood, and Hattiesburg. Check out their website for detailed information and menus at

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