Panera Just Released 2 Healthy Grain Bowls—Here's What We Thought
We love Panera Bread for its great selection of veggie-forward menu items—and the fact that you can pick up a healthy meal in minutes with their handy mobile app. It's a happy discovery to find a Panera during layovers at the airport or on the way to cheer on your kids' team. And now Panera has given us two delicious and nourishing new options, just in time for those cooler temperatures. The restaurant just launched warm grain bowls made with whole grains, fresh veggies, chicken and wholesome dairy options, and we couldn't be more excited.
Filled with protein, fiber, whole grains and healthy fats, these grain bowls have everything you need to stay powered all day. And if you don't eat meat and/or dairy, these bowls are made to order to meet dietary needs or restrictions. Check out the two options—and what we thought about them, below:
Related: Best Vegetarian Choices at Panera
Baja Grain Bowl
The Baja Grain Bowl comes with a cilantro-lime rice and quinoa blend, black bean and corn salsa, salsa verde, grape tomatoes, avocado, crumbled feta and whole milk Greek yogurt. While we wouldn't exactly seek this bowl out over our favorite Chipotle order, this new offering from Panera is a great way to get your Mexican fix when you're there. Just be warned, there is a bit of a spicy kick to it!
This option (with all the fixings) clocks in at 690 calories, 31g fat (6 grams of which are saturated), 55mg cholesterol, 1340 mg sodium, 80 grams of carbs, 11 grams of fiber, 9 grams of sugar and 30 grams of protein.
Mediterranean Grain Bowl
This grain bowl is made with brown rice with cilantro-lime flavors, a quinoa blend, arugula, grilled chicken, tomatoes, kalamata olives, cucumbers, hummus, feta, Greek yogurt and a zesty lemon-tahini dressing. This bowl has a nice lemony flavor with a peppery kick from one of our favorite greens—arugula. Plus, if you're a fan of Mediterranean fare, this bowl will hit all of the flavor notes you love.
This bowl has 650 calories, 30 grams of fat (7 grams of which are saturated), 55mg cholesterol, 1340mg sodium, 66 grams of carbs, 7 grams of fiber, 6 grams of sugar and 29 grams of protein.
All in all, these bowls were pretty tasty—especially for a fast-casual spot—but the Mediterranean bowl has our hearts. This option was more veggie-packed, while still being absolutely delicious. We talked to one of our dietitians on staff, Jessica Ball, R.D., to see what she thought about the nutritional content of these offerings, and she said while she is a big fan of the ingredients used here, that doesn't mean these new grain bowls should become an everyday affair.
"Both bowls are high in protein and fiber to help keep you full and satisfied, however they are very high in sodium," Ball says. "Each one has more than half of your recommended daily allowance—likely from pickled, pre-seasoned or shelf-stable ingredients. They could make for a good hearty meal in a pinch, but they might not be the best option for a regular lunch."
If you want to slash the sodium, you could ask for no chicken. This will shave off between 80-90 mg of sodium, and you'll still get plenty of protein from the beans, cheese and Greek yogurt.