Known for its fresh choices, Panera Bread® is commonly touted as a healthy fast food choice. However, even though many of its choices may contain fresh ingredients, that does not mean that someone on a low FODMAP lifestyle can casually choose something from the menu. This because many items on the menu are baked goods, and freshly made soups or sides may contain lactose-rich dairy. Therefore, use the following tips to make a safe and delicious choice at Panera Bread®. Always cross check as menu ingredients may change.
Forgo the baked goods
Although the smell of baking bread can make your mouth water, the gluten in these baked goods will make your belly sad. Therefore, turn the other check and head for the register to place your order for a freshly made menu item that is low FODMAP friendly.
Skip the sandwich
Gluten-free rolls or bread are not available at Panera Bread®, so sandwiches are off limits unless you ask for a lettuce wrap. Other sandwich ingredients you will want to watch out for include onions, avocado, and any cream cheese or ricotta cheese-based spreads.
Start your morning off simple
For breakfast, Panera Bread® on a low FODMAP diet can be fairly simple: egg or egg white with cheese, add protein such as steak sausage, or bacon if you choose, and add safe veggie options like spinach. Just skip the bread or bagel and avoid avocado. Skip sauces too since current options contain garlic or molasses, which are high FODMAP. Other safe breakfast options at Panera Bread® include steel cut oatmeal with strawberries, blueberries, or pecans. Avoid honey, cinnamon crunch topping that includes honey, and granola that contains wheat.
Create your own salad
Salads can be a safe choice for those on the low FODMAP plan, as long as you control the ingredients and get dressing on the side. The salads at Panera Bread® provide a low FODMAP safe base of greens and leafy vegetables such as romaine lettuce, arugula, kale, and radicchio. Tomatoes, cucumber, olives, pepperoncinis, peppers, and carrots are safe vegetables to add as well as fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, mandarin oranges, and pineapple.
Proteins like bacon and hardboiled egg are good to go, but unfortunately the grilled chicken at Panera Bread® is marinated in a high FODMAP mix including dehydrated garlic and onion. Toppings like olives, feta cheese, and limited amounts of almonds (no more than 10) are ok. Herbs and seasonings like cilantro, black pepper, and salt are also safe.
Be sure to avoid onions, croutons, and dressings. Although they may look safe since they are not a cream-based dressing, the vinaigrette dressings contain dehydrated garlic and onion as seasoning, so best to stick with salt and pepper, or a basic oil and vinegar blend for your salad topping (ask your local restaurant for availability of this or bring your own dressing). Bottom line, stick to seasonal greens (no onion, of course) or just ask for some greens and ask if you can create your own salad with the safe ingredients offered (just let them know you have food intolerances and I am sure someone would be glad to help you).
Skip soup and pasta
The broth bowls at Panera Bread® contains many high FODMAP ingredients such as mushrooms, lentils, onions, and noodles, so they are off limits. Current soup choices at Panera Bread® also contain high FODMAP ingredients such as cream, garlic, cheese sauce (contains milk), egg noodles, and croutons. Pasta dishes are not safe on a low FODMAP regimen for the obvious reason that they contain wheat pasta. Therefore, unless a soup or pasta option arises that is marked as gluten-free and lactose-free, then such choices at this restaurant are not low FODMAP safe.
Stick to fruit as sides
Panera Bread® offers choices as side dishes with entrees, but they are typically either a wheat baguette, sprouted grain roll, apple, or chips. Since wheat is high FODMAP and apples are high fructose, then the only low FODMAP side option is chips. You can also choose a banana or summer fruit cup as a supplement to your meal as well.
No go on mango in your drink
Most drinks such as coffee and tea is safe, as long as you stick to cane sugar, no-calorie sweeteners, and almond milk to dress them with. Avoid agave lemonade since agave syrup is high in fructose, and also avoid any drink that contains high FODMAP fruits like mango, pear, plum, or apple. Also, avoid milk-based drinks and carbonated drinks, which are not the safest choice for those on a low FODMAP regimen.
Visit Casa de Sante for more tips on how to stay safe on your low FODMAP healthy lifestyle regimen.
Written by Staci Gulbin, MS, RD a Board-certified dietitian.