Eating out with food sensitivities is difficult. Heck, just trying to eat healthy when you go out is a challenge! Luckily, restaurants are getting a clue and offering online menus so you can plan your meal before you go. Panera Bread goes one step further with their Nutrition Calculator.
Yesterday when I visited my local Panera Bread cafe, I had a Fuji Apple Chicken Salad, which was delicious. It looked fairly healthy, but I wondered how many calories it had and what kind of hidden ingredients it contained that I needed to avoid. (I forgot to ask them to take out the obvious Gorgonzola Crumbles, which I picked out, and the White Balsamic Fuji Apple Vinaigrette. My bad.)
Using the calculator, I took off the cheese and vinaigrette – items that I can easily request they remove when I order the dish next time. It now had 300 calories, 13 grams of fat and 4 grams of fiber or 6 Weight Watchers POINTS – awesome!
Checking the ingredient list, I saw there was sugar and lemon juice in the dressing (two things I need to avoid) and there is corn syrup on the apple chips. (I have to avoid corn products, too.) Removing all the foods I’m sensitive to, like the red onions, the salad went to 210 calories, 9 grams fat and 3 grams fiber – or 4 Weight Watchers POINTS.
Then I noticed that the delicious chicken was cooked with a lot of lemon juice and lemon peal, so it looks like for me this wasn’t a good choice at all. Bummer. But for others, this would be a very healthy salad entree at 6 Weight Watchers POINTS.
Using the calculator and clicking on the ingredients list, better choices that would work around my food sensitivities would be:
- Greek Salad without feta cheese
- Low-Fat Vegetarian Black Bean Soup
- Classic Cafe Salad
The nutrition calculator also lets you make substitutions like soy for skim milk in your cappuccino or a lite dressing for a full fat one.
Panera Bread also offers healthy choices like apples, fruit salad and to drink, coffee, tea, iced tea, diet soda, and best of all water. And while you’re there, enjoy the lovely classical music, the meeting room, the fireplace, and the free wifi.
Disclosure: I received compensation to write this post and a gift card to pay for my meal.