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Panera Bread – The Healthiest Fast Food?!?

BREAKING UPDATE May 4, 2015: Panera Bread has agreed to remove 150 additives from their food. Starting this week, Panera Bread will only sell salad dressing made without artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors and preservatives. This is the direct result of the ongoing pressure you and the Food Babe Army have put on companies to serve safer and more healthful ingredients. Thank you! 

USA Today reported these additional details:

Some examples of artificial additive removal:

• Greek salad dressing — removed hydrogenated soy protein, maltodextrin, propylene glycol alginate, and the generic spice blend.

• Mozzarella on tomato mozzarella flatbread — removed titanium dioxide.

• Chicken noodle soup — removed hydrolyzed soy and corn protein, autolyzed yeast extract, and modified corn starch

• Poppyseed dressing —- removed cellulose gel and artificial flavors.

Please note: The action by Panera does not include the beverages it sells, though executives say they are working on that, too, particularly in bottled beverages.

The New York Times lists several other companies that are changing their ingredients (Hershey’s, Nestle, Chipotle, Nabisco, McDonalds and Tyson’s). This is all a result of our collective activism! Again, thank you for working for a better food system with me – we are winning!

Update June 3, 2014: Panera Bread announces they will remove all artificial colors, sweeteners, preservatives and flavors by 2016. Thank you #FoodBabeArmy for sharing this post continuously since April 2012 when it was first released. We are changing the world one company at a time by spreading the truth!

CNBC interviewed me about Panera committing to remove all artificial ingredients, here’s what I said: “Panera’s announcement is another example that consumer awareness and action is changing the food industry. … I appreciate Panera’s commitment to remove artificial ingredients and hope other major restaurant chains take notice to do the same.” (McDonalds, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, Domino’s, etc. – listen up!!!) I investigated Panera Bread back in April 2012 because so many people (including my own parents) were under the impression it was healthy. Panera was even voted one of the healthiest fast food chains despite their overuse of artificial ingredients! I wanted people to know the truth and when people know the truth, these companies have no where to hide – they have to change to meet demand! 

Original Investigation Published April 16, 2012:

My lovely mother sent me home with a bag full of home cooked food last week on Easter. It included her famous Indian flat bread stuffed with radishes, lentil soup and stir fried cauliflower.  While everything was super delicious as usual, something caught me a little off guard… the Panera Bread bag she reused for me to carry home all those goodies.

Panera Bread is popping up all over the place…I see one outside my office window at work. I drove past three on my way to the park last Sunday…

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And then while my friend Amy was traveling through a small town in South Carolina that I frequently visit, which is also a food desert (a place that shall remain nameless or my better half would kill me) … She texted with an urgent “Where do I stop to eat?” I didn’t have a good answer for her and I certainly didn’t suggest Panera Bread.

So given these signs, I had to feed my inner curiosity of why I just cringe at the thought of eating there. What I found was some startling ingredients this oh so fresh and so clean looking bakery style deli uses in their famous salads, sandwiches, soups and breads.  With industrialized food sourcing over 90% of what Americans eat – It’s easy to get fooled, even with the simplest and freshest sounding menu items.

Luckily, Panera (like all companies should) provides you with all the information you need at your finger tips via their website where they list all the nutrition facts including the ingredients for all of their dishes. Here’s just a sampling of some of the ingredients that might make you think twice before stopping off for a bite…

First up – The Fuji Apple Salad. Looks pretty healthy doesn’t?


But nope… This salad is heavily processed. Those apple chips on top are made with canola oil and corn syrup which is highly likely to be genetically modified. The greek dressing has an ingredient most people use in their car engines as anti freeze aka propylene glycol… (If you want to know more about this substance – I go into detail about it in a Supermarket Birthday Cake Exposé.) Oh and look at all those tasty “natural” flavors (probably from Givaudan, a chemical food manufacturer).

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And then if you are brave enough to order something as simple as a ham & swiss on rye… you’ll get a dosage of nitrates. Nitrates are dangerous for your health and are toxic to the brain. They are linked to Alzheimer’s and many forms of cancer. No one should be eating them. There’s really no reason to eat chemically preserved cured and smoked meat. Get it fresh, get it organic, and or don’t eat it at all.  It’s that simple.

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What about the whole grain bread… It’s got to be whole grain, right? They are Panera BREAD for goodness sakes.

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Nope… Don’t get excited, it’s not 100% whole grain, just half. Like the rye bread that is used for the ham and swiss, the first ingredient after water, is enriched flour.  There is nothing whole grain about enriched flour – this bread should actually be called half white bread if they were really going to name this correctly and were telling us the whole picture.

The most upsetting menu items were in the soup department… check out the hidden MSG in this Broccoli and Cheese Soup & Low Fat Black Bean Soup under disguise names “hydrolyzed corn and soy protein, autolyzed yeast extract and yeast extract” This is food industry trickery at it’s best!  A little off topic, but relevant, the food company that makes Pop Chips is using this same trick too….I avoid this additive at all costs because MSG is an ingredient that literally excites your brain cells to death.

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Now comes the worst part of this whole story. Health Magazine rated Panera Bread as the #1 Healthiest Fast Food Restaurant in America.

REALLLLLLY?!  Is this the best fast food we can get?  Does fast have to automatically assume processed? Salad dressing with propylene glycol? Meats with nitrates? Enriched bleached flour bread? Soup filled with MSG?! A whole menu full of GMOs?

Health Magazine looked at the use of healthy fats, sodium content and the use of organic produce to determine their top 10 restaurants. Panera Bread got the #1 spot because they offer organic yogurt, organic milk, and organic cheese on their award winning kids menu, which I have to admit is a step above places like McDonalds but they are still using the same cheap ingredients that other fast food restaurants use to make money and to get you hooked.

If you don’t go into Panera knowing all the facts, you can get duped pretty easily.  Take for instance that acclaimed kid’s menu….if you end up ordering the kid’s ham sandwich instead of the grilled cheese for your little one, you end up feeding them nitrates, but it’s still considered the “healthiest” because your child has the option to wash it all down with organic milk.

Until fast food companies make some serious and bold decisions to be consistent in their messages about the quality of their food, what additives are in and not in their foods and use a measurable trusty worth standard – I won’t be buying it or supporting them. It’s far too confusing to keep up with all these ingredients for the typical consumer, so the food industry continues to win.

Luckily for us, in this case, we don’t have to work that hard to find the ingredient list. Let’s applaud Panera Bread for providing us the information to make good decisions about what we eat and what we feed our families.

Unfortunately for them, I’ll be looking elsewhere to spend my dollars. Where are you going to spend yours? And how do you get your food fast?

If you know someone who could benefit from hearing this information about Panera – please share this article with them.

In the Best of Health,

Food Babe

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662 responses to “Panera Bread – The Healthiest Fast Food?!?

  1. Thanks for the info. I think I just may stop eating completely. Is it possible to survive without eating? Food is overrated anyway, don’t you think. 😉 It’s awesome to know what’s going on out there and I am glad you enlighten us to the dangers out and about. With that being said, it seems to be exponentially more difficult to trust any company these days be it eating out or when getting food in the grocery store. Oh well, I’m sure the new Soylent Green will be just the ticket to proper eating.

    1. It certainly is difficult. Which is why buying whole foods from your grocery and organic when you can and cooking at home really is the best bet. Always check and read labels. When that’s not feasible and you’re on the road?

      Chipotle is like the only decent place I am aware of so far.
      Any fast food is horrible, and even restaurants like TGIF, Ruby Tuesday’s, etc. are all loaded with bad stuff. We’re a fast food nation for sure which certainly shows in our health and waist lines.

      1. Kristin, they’ve also stated they were going to be using GMO free oil in 2014.
        So I don’t see the problem.

    2. You can eat some Indian bread stuffed with radishes. And some stir-fry cauliflower. Doesn’t that sound yummy?

  2. sigh….whats the solution??? it seems you are pointing out issue without any solution!

    1. Subscribe to her page, (it’s free) I get hundreds of great food ideas from her that are healthy and delicious! Follow her and you will be solutioned out! lol Good Luck!

      1. Yep, if you dont have any kids her food ideas are great. But how can you afford to buy organic and feed 4 kids.

      2. We buy organic. We subscribe to a CSA and get all of our produce from our local farmer. Our meats come from the local natural foods store, and we counteract the cost by using less meat per person. We do our research on grains. We’re a growing family of four. I’d rather spend a little extra on food costs than a ton extra on medical costs.

    2. There is a solution:
      Be in control of what you eat by cooking organic in your own kitchen. Cooking is easy if you keep it simple. 🙂

    3. The solution is to look for the ingredient list before going out to eat and then select safer items at safer restaurants. If you don’t know the ingredients, then don’t get that item. For example, if you go to Starbucks, get oatmeal and tea-bag tea or plain coffee. Stay away from the tea lattes, frappuccinos, and heavy deserts.

  3. I know what you mean! I started becoming aware of what I was putting in my body and the acute and chronic effects of it, and then I noticed that there really aren’t many healthy places to eat when you go out or healthy choices on menus. And something may sound healthy, but you don’t always know what the true ingredients are. We are also surrounded by available and quick food in large proportions, so our brains are constantly signaled to eat.

    I was out in an certain part of town and drove around for thirty minutes trying to find a place to eat. I finally settled on this one restaurant and had to request plain chicken and plain veggie sticks. I was also shocked at what is in all the fancy coffee and tea drinks at popular coffee shops. But the hidden ingredients have done their job to addict people and change taste buds .

    No, we don’t all have time to make our own food or have access to good markets and organic produce (nor the money for it). I think if you have to eat this stuff on occasion, fine. But people eat like this every day and then develop all kinds of health problems.

    I am sorry people are jumping on you and calling you rude for reporting on this. I do not find it rude at all. I find it to be a reminder of what our society has come to and how so much is added to our food for profit and large production and for addicting the consumer. People can be offended and go on eating the way they eat, or they can take the shock of it and do something about it– even small steps.

    I find date night is much more fun to shop and cook at home. I have found amazing recipes for sauces and dressings. There are meats without nitrates out there– just read the labels and research a little.

  4. Sooooooooo, what IS the healthiest fast food restaurant ?? OR, healthiest choices possible at a fast food restaurant?

    1. By definition, fast food can’t be good! Yes you can cook at home and make a nice lunch or dinner in 30 minutes. But you can’t trust the food you eat out.

      1. Chipotle all the way!! Even when they can’t get organic meat the put up a sign stating that they have switched to regular meat. Most honest restaurant I have ever known!!

  5. The solution is to make your own food. That is until these companies change their ways. wich they will not do unless they start losing your money. Thanks for raising awareness about these issues!

    1. The problem is people are lazy, uneducated ( by choice), and would rather be blissfully ignorant than stand up and fight for change… Its sad that millions of people who develop autoimmune conditions, cancer, and many other medical issues because of food filled with chemicals, and the fact that they would rather be oblivious to what is going on..

      1. To assume people with cancer deserve to be sick because they are lazy is a gross statement.

      2. Heidi, I don’t think she was saying anybody deserves to have cancer, only that some cancers are caused by a person’s own dietary choices. The same goes for heart disease, diabetes, kidney problems, and even some diseases most people wouldn’t associate with a bad diet, like depression and dementia. Science education is such a joke in this country that a lot of people have no idea that there’s any connection between diet and health. Then there’s the additional problem that even if a school does include diet information in its science programme at all, it probably features the USDA’s upside down, triangular empty carb/toxic waste diet.

    2. I hate cooking, and it isn’t because I am lazy. I just never cared to do it. I didn’t like it when I was a kid, and hate it even more now. On Tuesday I made soup or stew – chicken, chicken broth, celery, carrots, potatoes, onions, and spices – everything had to cut up and the potatoes and carrots had to peeled (my girls did the carrots.) Guess what, the youngest refused to eat it after all of that work.

      So when you figure out a way for me to eat without eating out and without cooking let me know. Until then, I’ll continue to eat out, thanks!

      1. And that is absolutely a choice you have! But don’t try to tell me that everything you said about cooking couldn’t be considered a lazy viewpoint–not to mention a WAY more expensive one.

      2. Im the same way….do NOT like cooking at all. Im not lazy either.

      3. sorry! but you are lazy if you don’t take the time to cook for yourself. This is lazy to me. My boyfriend for 5 yrs now says he likes to cook. Well he eats out everyday for lunch, Fast Food crap food. Cooking is easy, people make it hard. It is cheaper to eat from the grocery store then it is to eat out.

    3. Even if you cook your own food from the store, you still don’t know what is in it. The only way you really know is to grow it yourself. This is unrealistic for most of us. A fully operational farm would be needed. It’s certainly better cooking at home than dining at restaurants but no one is safe from pesticides, genetically modified and fertilizers.

  6. The solution is to Just Eat Real Food! Plan ahead. Carry some Bison Bars or organic nuts! Stop eating at these “healthy” restaurants.

  7. Even the Veggie Grill vegan restaurant chain uses extremely processed prebought frozen foods from Gardein and Match Meats. You should do a similar expose of Veggie Grill. But what is the healthiest of the fast food type places? I say get a few pieces of organic fruit and raw nuts 🙂

  8. I am curious as to what you think the healthiest fast-food restaurant is. That is a genuine question. The way I see it is just because it was named “healthiest Fast Food Place” doesn’t mean it is healthy. To me that means it the lesser of many evils. I was surprised at some of these horrible ingredients, but Panera Bread is still healthier than McDonalds and some of the other fast food places. So if someone is eating at McDonald’s every day I would say starting to eat at Panera is still an improvement. I am not recommending people eat there. I am just saying just because they have awful hidden ingredients doesn’t mean they aren’t the healthier option if people are eating fast food anyway. Once again, not defending Panera.

  9. I saw Panera posted this response “We currently do not offer any products that contain MSG. It is important to note that some consumers are also sensitive to “free glutamate” products with MSG, but MSG is only one of several forms of glutamate – a building block of proteins. Free glutamate occurs naturally in many foods, such as meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, dairy products, and some vegetables, including mushrooms and tomatoes.”

    What is your take on this? Legit?

  10. I think people get annoyed that there seem to be no good options for “convenience” food because the average American lifestyle leaves us so swamped. Time is spent on other things and food is just an afterthought or indulgence. I felt annoyed when when switching my family over to a healthier way of life. But my son was sick, and so I knew I needed to make the change. Once you live healthier and cook yourself, it just starts to become second nature. You can get used to anything. Just because we got used to convenience food doesn’t mean we can’t get used to taking more time to cook for ourselves and read labels. It doesn’t mean I never eat a packaged product but it is becoming increasingly rare and/or saved for special occasions. And life still goes on.

    1. Thank you Greg! !

      There are times when I’m out & about and I get hungry. I drive around searching for something that is not loaded with unhealthy ingredients. Now I know I can stop at Panera and get something decent.

      My only question is why is this menu “hidden”. My guess is that they don’t make as much profit. Still… this is great news for those of us who care about what we feed our bodies.

      1. The Power meals are not hidden. They’re on their website. They may not be known when you’re in the store – but I order meals from Panera for my work and am very aware of their Power meals.

      2. I’ve worked at Panera now as a cashier for over a year.
        Honestly I don’t much understand why we have a hidden menu either.
        The only explanation I received on it when I was hired was that it would kind of be like a special insider thing to have with the customers. “Oh!!! So you’re friend told you we have a hidden menu huh? 😉 Awesome!”

  11. For your information,propylene glycol is not in antifreeze. Ethylene glycol is in antifreeze and is a different chemical. So, get the facts straight before criticizing others.

  12. It should have been noted that the PG used in antifreeze is different from food grade PG.

  13. Thank you so much for writing this. I have always felt this way about Panera but didn’t have the data to back it up (didn’t invest the time in the research). I’m very sensitive to MSG (I guess everyone is, though!) And one day after eating a sandwich at Panera I became so violently ill that I was hospitalized for 2 days. It disgusts me that people, including my own friends and family, applaud each other for going here as a “healthy choice”.

  14. Have you ever baked bread yourself? If you had, you’d know it isn’t made with all whole grain flour. It must be made partly from regular flour (I use unbleached) or it will not rise. The usual ratio is 50/50, though it does vary by recipe.

    1. The yeast is what makes it rise I think. Not the flour. The yeast is in the flour. Correct me if im wrong though

  15. I quit eating there when the last two times I got food posioning from soup that had exceeded the hold time late in the day near closing. It had also turnned to mush. Never again.

    I now try to go to a fresh food salad bar at Farm Fresh that sells by the pound. Most is fresh from the counter veggies and deli. Still have to be careful, but you get what you pay for.

    Most fast food places are all pre-packaged completly or split into compoents then heated up. The problem now is the corporate chain restaurants are doing the same. Most of which is micro-waved and nothing is fresh grilled or prep-ed. Some grilling is done, but still pre-package. They cannot get food out in 15 minuets any other way.

  16. I took my son, who is dairy allergic, in there. They have pasta with butter on their kids menu. I asked if I could get plain noodles. No, their noodles come precooked from the company with the butter already on them.

    1. It would be nearly impossible for Panera to actually cook all of their pastas to order. None of the pastas are ordered often enough for that to be efficient for the company. There are some sandwiches or salad you can get without dairy. One or two of the soups aren’t made with dairy as well.

  17. Panera is a for profit business and they sell a product to make money. If the demand for their products declines, they will offer different products. I think the problem here is that more consumers aren’t interested in what is in their food and aren’t demanding better quality food. I wouldn’t eat 97% of the items on their menu because I am an educated consumer and I know that all commercially produced salad dressings have questionable ingredients. I don’t eat the bread because I don’t eat grains, but if I did eat bread I still wouldn’t eat it at panera because I have yet to find a bread at a chain restaurant that is pure and natural. When I eat at panera, I order off their hidden menu. It’s much less processed, but still somewhat processed nonetheless. If I want to be really informed about what I am eating I will eat at home. You give up that control when you eat out. While companies should be more responsible and ethical with their products, I have to say that the main responsibility lies in the consumer’s hands.

  18. Although it’s sad that these companies are knowingly compromising the health and genetics of uninformed, hungry people. Our industrialized food system will truly be altered when people stop placing blame on companies and take back control with heirloom seeds and land.

    I can see America slowly making a transition and placing more importance on food origin. You can’t get too frustrated with people who don’t wan to change and be completely organic, because it’s likely that their brain may not be functioning properly. What we eat really affects our critical thinking and decision making.

    What’s really interesting is if you look at the history of job titles in the early history of America, nearly everyone was a farmer. Everyone understood the process of creating food. If we learned it before, we can regain the knowledge.

    Time to start farming.

  19. I once believed that bakery bread had more nutrition/less additives – until a baker friend of mine told me that his sacks of bread flour come with all sorts of additives already mixed in with the flour, just like the additives found in supermarket bread. If you are buying from a local bread baker, ask what’s in the flour. The answer should be “nothing”.

    1. Pam, “Nothing” really is what’s in flour, which is why the industry started enriching it in the first place. Unfortunately, they enrich it mainly with synthetic vitamins derived from everything from coal tar to industrial wastes, transforming a meritless product into a poisonous one. Remember all of the studies that say that high doses of various vitamins cause cancer? I’m sure that Big Pharma and the chemical industry were studying their own toxic waste vitamins, not natural ones extracted from food, since natural vitamins cannot be patented and are needed only in tiny quantities. As for Panera, the word “Bread” on their signs was enough to keep me out of their

      1. Greg, I wasn’t referring to the “enrichment” of white flour with synthetic vitamins – back in the day, they processed good whole wheat to make it “white”, eliminating nearly all of the nutritive value, and then replaced a few of the nutrients with vitamins, called it “fortified” (“Helps Build Strong Bodies 12 Ways”: Wonderbread). I was talking about dough conditioners, preservatives, anti-clumping chemicals, etc., etc., which I NEVER would have expected in a sack of bakers’ bread flour!!

        Big Pharma is a rant for another day, though….. keep fighting the good fight!

  20. Thank you for sharing. The more people are educated on this, the more they will pay attention to what they put in their bodies, creating a healthier society overall. I believe many people are not just physically ill, but also mentally ill due to what they are ingesting. We are all individuals, so we can’t eat the same things and expect that our bodies will react the same. Some people have food allergies and aren’t aware. Let’s keep educating others on what to avoid and healthy alternatives.

  21. Solution – Purchase organic food from the store and make your own meals. I know … it sounds lame, but is the healthiest solution.

    Q: How long does it take to drive to a restaurant, wait in line, order, pay, and wait for your food?
    A: In an hour, you can make several meals for later. This will probably give you 2 extra hours a week.

    Q: Are WE up for the challenge? I am.

    If we all start taking care of ourselves, perhaps … these restaurants will start thinking of us instead of their profit margin. WELL, maybe not, but I am hopeful 🙂

  22. Great post! But what is the solution? I see a lot of “fast food and health don’t mix.” Duh! But I travel four days a week for week – meaning planes and hotels. Eating healthy at home is not an option. If Panera isn’t an option for a fast lunch, what is? Or is the punishment from my job chemical poisoning? Hardly seems fair…

  23. After this and finding out Trader Joes’ is using ConAgra for private labeling [The people that put 8Million dollars into dumbfounding Californian voters [Not a hard task 😉 ] into voting against labeling for GMO’s I am having an AIR SANDWICH WITHOUT BREAD!!!

  24. Jeannine..You are right…sit at the Neuro clinic at Mayo/UCLA and one will realize we are sheep!

  25. Next time you order an Italian Combo Sandwich, you will be disappointed bug time.

    The ” seared steak” they have as an ingredient is really a one thin slice of roast beaf cold cut , size of 1-2 inch square , thin as a quarter. Fat in about 20% of it. This is your “Steak” !!. The hot pepper is the same you get from super market 1.49 for 24 OZ jar. Except here Panera slice it and give one the size of quarter. They give another slice of cheese and another slice of ham and salami. The taste is bland as heck.

    In early days Panera used to have all sorts of whole wheat bread rolls. They no longer exist. The bagels now are made with worst type of dough. The Asiago cheese bagel is sodium filled which gives you gas and a nice bloat after you are done.
    small coffee for $1.90???
    Panera is a big joke.

    Alternative: Try Pot Belly chicken sandwich or Mediterranean Salad and look for how generous the ingredients are.

    1. Moe,
      Not supporting Panera, but I used to work there. If this is really the portions you are getting you should complain as it’s not spec.
      Unless you are just trying to promote Potbelly. 😉

  26. The fuji appel chicken salad does not come with greek dressing it comes with a white balsamic fuji apple vinaigrette.

  27. Go see the movie FedUp and you will learn so much more. I can’t believe we let the food industry kill us! This is SO upsetting. Quit going to those unhealthy places and give them Your money!
    Be in control of what you eat ( at least we should trust organic food) and cook organic at home!
    Please question what is in your food!

  28. I love your research you are doing for all of us. I really appreciate all that you do. I am changing as you give the information. I am also replaying the information to my family and friends. I wish I could afford to subscribe. ( lost my job). Only the essentials for now.

  29. I tend to like their “half and half bread”. Whole wheat and I will never be friends, my stomach just cant handle it. I don’t eat there often and when I do its usually for a bagel and coffee with my boyfriend. Shame their ham has nitrates in it. Its the only place I’ve ever been where I would actually eat the ham ( I usually don’t like ham). I do have to say that as far as “Fast Food” goes Panera isn’t horrible. Its certainly better than most. If you were so inclined you might be able to eat there and still avoid the various nasties. But all in all, when exam week hits and I need to eat out, this is better for me than say, McDonalds or any of the other choices around here.

    Just found your blog. Looks interesting. Keep it up.

  30. Panera puts these things in their food because they don’t want it looking like and tasting like mulch.

  31. So compared to other fast foods is it the healthiest? If I want to cook I might check labels but when I’m going out to eat and need something fast I’m going to get what I can. Telling everyone to just eat in all the time or tell us not to eat at a place without telling us where is a safe place to eat at is a waist of time.

  32. I appreciate the information provided in this article and agree that we all need to be informed consumers. I applaud Panera for making the information easily accessible, like having the calorie information available on menu. While Panera needs to make some changes to the ingredients used (I for one would love to have more organic vegetarian and vegan options), they are a company with a conscience. They are one of the few companies I’m aware of that has a pay-what-you-can program to help end hunger. I don’t want this comment to be misconstrued as my saying that it doesn’t matter what the poor eat – it does. But how many people or companies do you see out there trying to address the issue of hunger in this country? It’s a step in the right direction. I think if more people express they want healthier options available, Panera will listen and take action. My $.02. As you were…

  33. I LOVE Panera!!! You just need to know what to order! I get a cob salad – romaine, grilled chicken, avocado, hard boiled egg, bacon and tomato. I skip the cheese and dressing and instead us olive oil which they give you in individual packs, and lemon. I get a yummy little mini apple as a side – I wouldn’t eat any bread anyway (regardless of whether or not they call it whole grain or not). I also wouldn’t think of eating sandwiches of any kind – processed meat? YUK. Panera has seriously saved me when I ‘m on the road, hungry and need real food real fast. I think it’s nice that you are letting everyone know what NOT to eat there, but be fair and admit that there are foods you CAN eat and still be healthy. Just my .02.

  34. ick. I’ve never liked Panera but have eaten it on occasion with friends. Nothing ever tastes fresh to me there so this doesn’t surprise me at all. When I need “fast” food and I’m away from home I generally look for a grocery store and put together a roadside picnic. I pick up some fruit, maybe cheese or a yogurt, veggies and hummus… the same types of things I eat at home. It’s isn’t always packaged as conveniently as a traditional “fast food” restaurant but it’s just as fast and it’s much easier to be discerning about what ingredients I’m eating.

  35. Look, those ingredients that are in Panera food are in all salad dressings you buy at the grocery store, as are nitrates in many things. As far as I’m concerned, Panera is the healthiest choice when eating out. I mostly cook at home, but sometimes enjoy Panera when I’m out shopping in another town. We grow most of our own food or buy fresh from our neighbors. Don’t be so hard on Panera, they’re better than most.

  36. This is the first time I have seen a complete ingredient list, and NOW I know why I can not eat there without having an allergic reaction. My sinuses fill up by the time I’m done with my meal. It always surprised me because I thought I was making a healthy choice by going there. I had convinced myself that I was allergic to the rinse agent used on the dishes and silverware!

  37. Do you know what other labels nitrates can be “disguised” as? I’ve always wondered as my husband eats sandwiches regularly and I want to find a healthy lunch meat…if that’s possible!

  38. MSG is natural. It’s in everything from breast milk to beets. Your body cannot distinguish between the glutamates found in naturally occurring food sources (read: organic) and MSG that is added to foods. You can’t be allergic to glutamates, and you can’t avoid them; you’d be dead. – 25 years experience in the food and hospitality industry speaking here.

  39. I think they probably aren’t any worse than any other fast-food place. It is better to make your own food at home. I would still eat there if I had to eat somewhere.

    Two more things:

    1) Their bread may not be 100% whole grain, but half isn’t bad compared with (for example) a typical 100% white bun from most other fast-food places.

    2) Did you know that Panera donates their leftover bread to organizations that feed hungry poor people? These are people who would usually buy (because it is the cheapest) or be given standard 100% white bread, if they had any bread at all to eat.

    I’m all for them improving their products and I hope they do. I hope ALL the fast-food places in America get wise and start selling food that actually nourishes people.

    I also hope more Americans learn how to buy AND make their own healthy food.

  40. It’s funny to think that so many people criticize panera for “unhealthy food”. I personally work for the company. Every 6 months we make changes to become a healthier restaurant and company. To degrade a company solely based on your own thoughts and so called “research” is not right. I was talking to my manager about this article yesterday. Although some ingredients are frozen we still live up to the standard of being healthy. Our power hidden menu is a great place to find a good source of protein and nutrition without all the added dressing and high calorie salad toppings. It was originally released on Facebook only, but now some stores feature the items on the menu. If ever interested in one of the hidden menu items then simply ask an associate. They will gladly tell you the choices and what is on them. As for nitrates, those are found in most an kind of meat. You most likely eat them everyday anyway. Yes some items like soup and pasta are frozen and that is because we are focused, as a fast food restaurant to give the customer their food in a fast timely manner. Our goals are speed and accuracy. This article broke my heart when I read it and the same with most of the comments. We are not trying to make people sick. If there is anything that is ever wrong with any of your food then we please ask you to please give us a call and let us know something was wrong. We promise to fix the problem and compensate you for the order. I’ve personally been with the company foe 3 years now. We have made so many changes to become healthier and to become more economical friendly. Most of our packaging comes from recycled material, we’ve reduced or water usage and electric usage. We also change some of the ingredients in our food to make them more health. I am not a baker, so I could not tell you about the bread, but we use all natural ingredients and all pastries, bagels, bread, sandwiches, salads and paninis are made fresh every day with fresh ingredients. If its not fresh than its no good. Ingredients and soup temperatures are taken each hour to ensure freshness. So yes, compared to any other fast food restaurant we are the healthiest.

  41. I like the food but the prices are overpriced. I ordered a smoothie and a little cup of soup because I was sick. It was over $10. When I told the waiter she “Yes it is, that is why she eats there only when she is working for discount.” Everyone that was at pick up station for food ordered said the same comment. TO EXPENSIVE. CAN EAT THERE REG.

  42. I worked at Panera when I was in high school and their secret bread ingredient that makes all the varieties taste fantastic? Brown sugar. In all their bread. Not a joke.

  43. I have a problem with these put off dates. Panera doesn’t have to wait to be GMO & poison free by the end of 2016. They should have the guts to do it now! I’d be more impressed if they said by the end of this year – 2014.

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