Panera Bread During Pregnancy [Complete Menu Guide]

Last Updated on July 30, 2022

Panera Bread is unofficially dubbed as “healthier fast food” with everything from a cafe-like atmosphere to agave-sweetened teas. This fast-casual chain restaurant has a varied menu works in your favor during pregnancy.

With many options to choose from – including a variety of pregnancy-safe options without any special handling or modifications – Panera Bread offers healthy options for when you’re on the go. 

Enjoying a meal at Panera Bread while pregnant can be just as quick and easy as ordering your favorite dish. A few simple recommendations (such as skipping the salad and asking for sandwiches to be toasted until steaming hot) can transform nearly the entire menu into a filling pregnancy-safe meal. 

Which menu items are safe as-is and which require special requests? We will break down what to look for, how to modify, and ways to make ordering even easier. Consider this your official guide to safely and easily ordering both food and beverages at Panera Bread. 

Is Panera Bread’s Food Safe During Pregnancy?

Reading through a lengthy restaurant menu can be overwhelming enough, not to mention the added concerns of having to consider what is safe versus risky during pregnancy.

But, grabbing a quick bite to eat doesn’t have to be stressful. If you know what to look out for, many things on Panera Bread’s menu are safe as-is and with a few simple modifications, you can order nearly anything on the menu. 

Panera’s wide menu requires attention to detail in a few places: caffeine content of beverages, temperature of cold meat sandwich fillings, and their lettuces/salads. Concerns in these three areas are the most commonly due to the risk of Listeria.

When dining at Panera, the key to making these items pregnancy-safe is heating. Panera preps most of its veggies on-site, with the exception of the salad/lettuces which come bagged.

Bagged salads should be avoided unless you are washing them yourself at home or they are heated until steaming hot. Cold meats, such as deli meats, also need to be heated until steaming hot to reduce the risk of Listeria (source: APA)

The good news is that Panera easily allows you to customize both food and drinks, meaning requesting swaps such as decaf espresso or to have sandwiches toasted is a breeze. 

a Panera bread salad

Panera Bread’s Salads When Pregnant

Salads are a staple at Panera and for good reason. After all, how many other fast and fast-casual restaurants serve big, beautiful, and colorful salads year-round? Some of their most popular salads include Caesar, Fuji Apple Chicken, and the Green Goddess salads. 

Whether ordering a full-size salad or their half-size option as part of their popular “Pick Two” combo deal, ordering a salad sounds like the healthiest choice, right?

While hearty salads are not only tasty, but great sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, they also unfortunately carry a higher risk for foodborne illness. Panera (and most other quick-bite restaurants) use bagged salad which can be contaminated with Listeria.

Thorough washing is the key to preventing Listeriosis, and all restaurants are required to practice safe food handling. 

Women are generally advised to avoid bagged salad while pregnant unless you are washing it yourself. Unfortunately, because you have to trust that the restaurant is washing the bagged lettuce, it is best to avoid Panera’s salads during your pregnancy.

Similarly, it is also best to ask for your sandwiches and wraps to be made without lettuce as well. 

American-style chicken salad is also available on Panera’s menu. Mayo-based chicken salad is another type of salad that may or may not be safe, depending on how and where it is made. As a rule of thumb, any deli salads that are made in-store are best avoided as they also carry the risk of Listeria (source: FDA). This includes Panera’s chicken salad which is made on-site. Luckily, there are quite a number of ‘copycat’ recipes online so you can safely make it yourself at home when desired. 

If their restaurant’s salads are unsafe while pregnant, many women wonder what other veggie-packed menu options may be a better choice. Panera Bread’s Warm Bowls are similar to grain bowls and offer whole grains, protein, as well as freshly chopped veggies. Both the Teriyaki Chicken and Baja Bowls are lettuce-free. The Mediterranean bowl does contain arugula, so consider ordering sans greens.

Several of the Warm Bowls contain the same type of chicken used in Panera’s cold salads. This means the chicken needs to be reheated to steaming hot, just like other deli meats. When placing your order, kindly ask for the bowl (or even just the chicken) to be heated until steaming hot. 

Whether you’re ordering a cold salad or a Warm Bowl, the dressing might just be the tastiest part. Some salad dressings, such as Caesar dressing, are often made with raw eggs (consumption of which is advised against during pregnancy).

Luckily, Panera recognizes that some folks need to avoid unpasteurized or raw eggs and all of their dressings are pasteurized. We have even reached out directly to Panera Bread in the past, and received confirmation that their Caesar dressing is indeed pasteurized. 

panera tuna sandwich  on a plate

Panera Bread Sandwiches During Pregnancy

From hot to cold sandwiches to veggie-packed or more carnivorous options, Panera has a sandwich to fit every craving. Panera’s sandwiches are some of the most filling items on their menu and often this is exactly what you need as a busy mom! Here is a list of recommendations to ensure your Panera sandwiches are pregnancy-safe:

  • The dressings, mayo, and cheeses on Panera’s menu are all pasteurized for safety.
  • Panera chops and preps their veggie toppings on-site, making these safe as well. 
  • Skip the lettuce, which comes bagged and commercially prepped off-site. If you’d rather, you can ask for it to be heated to steaming hot before adding it to the sandwich to kill any potential bacteria.  
  • If you’re getting a sandwich with meat, ask for it to be toasted until steaming hot, even if the sandwich is traditionally served cold. Panera offers some toasted sandwiches and should be happy to heat your sandwich for you, but you can also let the store employee know it’s for a medical reason. 
    • The goal here is to get the sandwich fillings (the meat) hot enough to kill Listeria. Depending on which location you visit, you may need to request the sandwich be toasted for longer, even if the sandwich is one of their “toasted sandwiches” in order to ensure the meat gets hot enough. 
    • If you’d rather not have the entire sandwich toasted, request that any meat fillings be microwaved until steaming hot before adding them to the sandwich. Again, store employees should be able to do this for you if you let them know it’s for a medical reason. 
  • Panera sandwiches all comes with a free side of either bread, chips, or an apple. Since the apple is served whole and not pre-sliced, all three options are safe during pregnancy. Be sure to wash the apple (or ask for it to be thoroughly washed) before biting in.
a Panera bread sign

Panera Bread’s Soup When Pregnant

Between food aversions and morning sickness, many women, in their first trimester of pregnancy, look to soup for a comforting meal that’s easy on the tummy. 

A few of their most popular options include: Broccoli Cheddar, Tomato, Chicken Wild Rice, and Chicken Noodle. 

Many are curious to learn if Panera’s soups are safe during pregnancy, particularly the ones with chicken and/or cheese as these ingredients are more temperature-sensitive. Luckily, because the soups should be served hot and not just mildly warm, they are safe to enjoy while pregnant. 

All of Panera’s soups are quite high in sodium. A bowl of tomato soup comes in the lowest with 1100 milligrams of sodium in a serving. For reference, the FDA recommends limiting sodium to no more than 2300 milligrams daily (source: FDA).

If you’re craving a bowl of Panera’s soup, consuming more than the recommended sodium limit won’t cause you or baby any direct harm. But, eating large amounts of sodium can cause bloating. Staying hydrated can offset the effect by keeping you feeling comfortable and bloat-free. 

two glasses of panera  strawberry smoothies with straw

Panera’s Smoothies and Other Drinks When Pregnant

What’s a cafe without drinks? Panera has a long list of drink options, enough to satisfy any thirst. The restaurant chain also recently launched their Unlimited Sip Club, where members can receive bottomless drinks (lemonades, sodas, coffee, and teas) at any location for a flat monthly fee. 

With so many options, we’ll break down the details on each drink category, including anything you should bear in mind when choosing your beverage. 

Smoothies: 

  • Each of Panera’s smoothies are made with frozen fruit puree, fresh fruit, juice concentrates and ice. The Strawberry Banana, Mango, and plain Strawberry smoothies also have Greek yogurt for added protein and satiety. All of these ingredients are pregnancy-safe.
  • True to its name, the Green Passion smoothie is made with fresh spinach. Fresh spinach comes bagged, and just like bagged lettuce, it needs to be thoroughly washed before eating. Since you’re not washing the spinach yourself this smoothie is best avoided while pregnant. 

Teas and Lemonades:

  • Regular teas, iced teas, and lemonades at Panera come in fun and fruity flavors. Many of them are sweetened with 30-45 grams of added sugar per serving- as much as a regular soda! Online, the only teas and lemonades available were the sweetened versions, however when visiting in-person, the chain often does offer some unsweetened or lightly sweetened versions.

    If you’re choosing sweetened tea or lemonade, it’s best to enjoy them in moderation. 
  • Panera just launched their new line of Charged Lemonades. These caffeinated, fruity lemonades are comparable to Starbucks Refreshers. Charged Lemonades are supercharged on caffeine, with nearly 300 milligrams of caffeine in a 20-ounce drink. Starbucks Refreshers, on the other hand, have just 45 milligrams of caffeine in a 16-ounce size.

    Generally, women are advised to keep caffeine intake under 200 milligrams daily during pregnancy (source: American Pregnancy Association). The smallest size of Charged Lemonades is 20 ounces. If you’d like to try this new drink, it may be best to split with a friend or save half for later to avoid overdoing it on caffeine. 
panera coffee latte on a saucer

Coffee:

  • In addition to Panera’s fruitier drinks, they also have an entire line of coffeehouse-style drinks. These coffees are Panera’s take on standard coffee-based drinks including lattes, cappuccinos, cold brew, and iced blended coffees. Just like other restaurant coffees, Panera’s flavored coffee drinks are made using sweetened flavored syrups and the sugar in these drinks can add up quickly.

    The guidance on sugar-sweetened beverages, including sweetened coffees, is to limit to no more than 5 servings weekly while pregnant (source: Proceedings of the Nutrition Society). Choosing the regular-sized drinks or asking for fewer “pumps” of the syrup can allow you to continue to enjoy your favorite treats without spiking your blood sugar. 
  • Another common concern many pregnant women have when it comes to coffees is the caffeine content. During pregnancy the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends limiting caffeine to 200 milligrams daily (source: ACOG).

    Panera’s “regular” sized caffe latte is made with 2 shots of espresso and boasts 145 milligrams of caffeine – nearly reaching the recommended daily limit in one drink.
  • Unfortunately, Panera doesn’t offer as many sizes of drinks as other popular restaurants. Instead, they have a standard “regular” and a “large” size (with some drinks only being offered in one size). While this does limit your options when it comes to downsizing your drink to keep caffeine and added sugars in check, Panera does allow some drink customizations.

    Similar to Starbucks, Panera’s website and app allow you to customize your drink. This means you can opt for less sweetener or change to decaf in most drinks. Swapping just one of the espresso shots in the caffe latte to decaf decreases the caffeine content to only 73 milligrams.

Not short on options, Panera’s menu offers something for everyone – even during pregnancy! Eating out doesn’t need to be complicated or leave you questioning if what you ate was “safe.” Hopefully, this menu guide has helped you confidently order delicious meals during pregnancy! 

This article has been reviewed and approved for publication in line with our editorial policy.

Samantha Broghammer, RD

Samantha Broghammer, RD is a Wisconsin-based registered dietitian and nutrition writer. In addition to contributing to Pregnancy Food Checker, she serves the mental health and wellness population as a clinical dietitian providing medical nutrition therapy to those of all ages, from toddlers through senior citizens.

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