As a writer, one of the things I must put up with are regular visits to Panera, whether it’s for a writers’ group meeting or a one-on-one writing session with another writer. When I worked from home, Panera was my salvation—sometimes it was the only place I could go to get out of the house for more than a few minutes without having to spend a lot of money (and where I could use their free WiFi to continue working).
However, as the full name of the restaurant suggests, Panera BREAD is not low-carb-lifestyle friendly. Not unless you really LOVE salads. And I don’t.
Tonight was an exercise in this frustration times ten.
You see, there is a salad on their menu that I do like (occasionally, not every single week on Tuesday night, and I’m at Panera almost every Tuesday night for a writing date with a friend). It’s the Chicken Cobb with Avocado. A whole salad is 650 calories and 10 net carbs (and that’s fully loaded, including the dressing). I usually end up leaving at least half of the dry, flavorless, rubbery, obviously frozen and defrosted chicken behind. It’s not why I get that salad. I get that salad for the avocado. Avocado makes everything taste better!
So, tonight, I had already planned to order that salad. And considering it’s been a while since I’ve had one, I might have enjoyed it.
But when I placed my order, the first thing the cashier said is, “We’re out of avocado.” So, scratch that idea.
There really aren’t many other low carb options that they make, much less were likely to have the ingredients for. They’ve taken the only other “fully loaded” but low-carb-friendly salad off the menu (I forget what it was called, but it had steak on it; and if you got them to leave the onion straws off, it was only 8 or 9 net carbs).
I was told of a super-secret “off the board” low-carb menu. REALLY?? Why is it secret??? Is it because you charge so much more for “low carb” offerings that are less than half the amount of food of everything else on the board? (Obviously, I have heard of this menu before, have ordered from it, and have been vastly underwhelmed by both the serving size and the flavor—and frustrated at the higher price; you can find them at the bottom of the last page of the nutritional info PDF on their website).
So I ended up ordering just a plain Caesar salad (and forgot to tell her to leave the croutons off, so I’m having to pick those out). Estimating I’ve removed 3 grams of carbohydrates for the croutons, this salad will “cost” me 11 grams of net carbs. Added to the 4 for breakfast (an Atkins frozen meal) and lunch (left over chicken cordon bleu and asparagus from last night, total of 4g net carbs), that puts me at 19g net carbs for the day.
Net Carbs in Panera’s Salads
According to their nutritional information provided on their website, here’s what the salads at Panera will cost you carb-wise (grams net carbs = GNC):
Asian Sesame Chicken = 21 GNC
Caesar Salad = 14 GNC
Chicken Caesar = 16 GNC (why does chicken add carbs???)
Chicken Cobb with Avocado = 10 GNC
Classic Salad = 14 GNC
Classic w/ Chicken = 16 GNC
Fuji Apple w/ Chicken = 29 GNC
Greek Salad = 9 GNC
Greek w/ Chicken = 12 GNC
Strawberry Poppyseed w/ Chicken = 27 GNC
Thai Chicken = 35 GNC