Panera High-Protein Options for Athletes
It can be helpful for athletes to have ideas for menu items at restaurants that can support them with meeting their protein needs. Panera Bread® is a restaurant that many athletes and athletic teams frequently visit for a quick meal. Thus, knowing high-protein options for athletes at Panera can be of help.
Let’s take a look at the nutrition needs of athletes. Then we will explore the Panera menu for high-protein options that athletes can enjoy as part of their sports nutrition meal plan.
Protein Needs of Athletes
Including lean protein in the diet is important for athletes. Protein has many essential roles in the body. Consuming adequate protein is necessary for supporting athletes with building and repairing lean muscle mass.
To get the most benefit from protein intake, athletes are encouraged to consume protein throughout the day with several meals and snacks. Athletes should aim to consume ~0.25 grams of protein per kg of body weight at each eating occasion (1).
As a general guide, athletes should plan to eat ~25-30 grams of protein at each meal/snack. In addition, athletes should also include protein in their post-workout meal to support their recovery nutrition needs.
As a reminder, eating protein alone will not result in muscle gain. Protein intake must be combined with a well-planned strength and conditioning program to promote muscle growth.
Building a Healthy Meal
In addition to protein, athletes looking to build a healthy meal at restaurants should focus on including foods that provide a good source of carbohydrates and provides healthy, unsaturated fats.
With the meal, athletes should also include a nutritious beverage, such as water, low-fat milk, or 100% fruit/vegetable juice, to support their hydration needs.
What is Panera Bread?
Panera Bread® is a fast casual restaurant with locations throughout the United States and Canada. The restaurant offers a variety of freshly baked breads, bagels, and pastries, along with a café menu featuring salads, soups, sandwiches, and bowls.
Panera focuses on providing menu items that use healthy, high-quality ingredients. In addition, Panera is committed to protecting the planet and reducing environmental impact. Panera has partnered with the World Resources Institute (WRI) on its Coolfood program and labels low carbon entrees on their menu.
Panera High Protein Options for Athletes
Let’s now explore the Panera menu for high-protein items athletes can enjoy with their meals.
All the nutrition information included in this article comes from the Panera Bread® website. Menu options and nutrition information may change as products are updated. For the most current nutrition information, refer to the Panera Bread website.
Panera High Protein Breakfast Options
Panera offers several options at breakfast that can help athletes with meeting their protein needs. Athletes may consider ordering two menu items or a beverage containing protein to create a breakfast that provides the energy and protein needed for the upcoming day.
Avocado, Egg White, Spinach & Cheese on Sprouted Grain Bagel Flat
The avocado, egg white, spinach and cheese breakfast sandwich is a great option for athletes to enjoy at breakfast. The breakfast sandwich contains 19 grams of protein. The avocado also adds healthy, unsaturated fats, as well as fiber, vitamins, and minerals to the breakfast sandwich.
Athletes looking to increase the protein content of the sandwich can order additional serving of egg whites (6 grams of protein) on the sandwich. This breakfast sandwich contains less saturated fat and is a healthier choice than Panera’s breakfast sandwiches that include bacon or sausage.
Panera offers hard-boiled eggs as a side item that individuals can order to enjoy with their meal. A serving of 2 hard-boiled eggs provides 13 grams of high-quality protein. A high-quality protein provides all of the essential amino acids that our bodies cannot produce. The body can efficiently utilize high-quality proteins to build muscle in the body (1).
In addition to protein, eggs contain choline, which is important for cognitive function. Eggs also provide selenium, riboflavin, Vitamin K, and antioxidants (1). Athletes looking to increase the protein content of their breakfast can enjoy a side of hard-boiled eggs for a nutritious addition to their meal.
Greek Yogurt with Mixed Berries Parfait
Another great high-protein breakfast option at Panera is the Greek yogurt with mixed berries parfait, which provides 15 grams of protein. The parfait includes a base of Greek yogurt topped with fresh strawberries and blueberries, as well as granola made with whole grain oats.
The parfait is a great option to order as a side with your meal or to order to-go and enjoy later in the day as a healthy snack.
Beverages Providing Protein
Another great way to add protein to your breakfast at Panera is with a nutritious beverage. Panera offers mango and strawberry smoothies that are made with Greek yogurt. The smoothies provide 13 grams of protein (16 fl oz), making them a great addition to your breakfast.
Athletes can also order Horizon® Organic reduced-fat milk or reduced-fat chocolate milk with their meal. Each 8 fl oz container of milk provides 8 grams of protein. Similar to eggs, milk is a source of high-quality protein. Milk also provides 13 essential vitamins and minerals that are important for an athlete’s health.
Panera High Protein Sandwiches
Panera offers several sandwich options that provide a good source of protein. With the sandwich, athletes should select a healthy side, such as a fresh fruit cup, apple, banana, or Greek yogurt parfait.
When ordering the sandwich, athletes should request the dressing or sauce (i.e., mayonnaise, aioli, signature sauce) be served on the side. This allows the athlete to control the amount of the dressing/sauce added to their sandwich.
Sandwich options at Panera that provide a good source of protein include:
- Deli Turkey on Country Rustic Sourdough: 35 grams of protein
- Napa Almond Chicken Salad on Country Rustic Sourdough: 27 grams of protein
- Tuna Salad on Focaccia: 35 grams of protein
*Protein content listed above is for the whole sandwich.
Panera High-Protein Warm Bowls
Panera offers a variety of warm bowls that feature whole grains, such as brown rice and quinoa, along with fresh vegetables. Several of the bowls can be ordered with chicken, which adds a good source of high-quality protein to the bowl.
Athletes can consider enjoying the following warm bowl options to help meet their protein needs:
- Teriyaki Chicken and Broccoli Bowl: 46 grams of protein
- Baja Bowl with Chicken: 28 grams of protein
- Mediterranean Bowl with Chicken: 26 grams of protein
Homestyle Chicken Noodle Soup
The homestyle chicken noodle soup served at Panera can also be a way for athletes to add protein to their meals. The soup is made with white-meat chicken and egg noodles, providing 9 grams of protein per bowl.
Athletes looking for a high carbohydrate post-game meal that contains lean protein can order the homestyle chicken noodle soup served in a bread bowl. This meal option provides 148 grams of carbohydrates and 35 grams of protein. It is also high in sodium, which can help athletes with replacing sodium sweat losses.
Note: Athletes who have been advised to restrict sodium in their diet should work with a sports dietitian nutritionist to develop an individualized plan for meeting their sports nutrition needs.
Panera High Protein Salads and You Pick Two® Options
In addition to sandwiches and bowls, Panera offers a variety of fresh salads that athletes can enjoy as healthy additions to their meals. Their unique salad blends contain a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, nuts, and seeds.
The following salads at Panera provide a good source of protein:
- Asian Sesame Salad with Chicken: 30 grams of protein
- Citrus Asian Crunch Salad with Chicken: 36 grams of protein
- Fuji Apple Salad with Chicken: 30 grams of protein
- Strawberry Poppyseed Salad with Chicken: 27 grams of protein
*Protein content listed above is for the whole salad.
You Pick Two®
On days when athletes are training or competing, a salad alone will likely not provide enough carbohydrates to fuel their activity. However, Panera offers a “You Pick Two®” menu option that allows individuals to pair together two menu items, including: half-salad, half-sandwich, warm bowl, a cup of soup, as well as a variety of other selections.
The “You Pick Two®” menu item can be a great option for athletes. Athletes can pair together one of the high-protein salads, sandwiches, soups, or warm bowls discussed above to create a nutritious meal. By mixing up the selections, athletes can enjoy a different meal combination each time they visit Panera.
My personal favorites include the Mediterranean Bowl with Chicken and the Strawberry Poppyseed Salad with Chicken, which makes for a nutritious lunch.
Panera High Protein Options for Athletes
You are now set with a variety of high-protein menu ideas that athletes can order at Panera. For additional high-protein ideas for athletes at restaurants check out my recent blog on building a high-protein Chipotle bowl.
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About the Author
Mandy is a Sports Dietitian Nutritionist in the San Antonio, TX area. She is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian, a Board-Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, a Licensed Athletic Trainer, and is a Certified Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine. Mandy has experience working with athletes at the high school, collegiate, and professional levels. She believes the key to reaching one’s full potential, both in everyday life and in sports performance, relies on a healthy nutritional foundation. Learn more about the work Mandy does here.