Following a clean diet means most of my food is bought at a grocery store, and most of my meals are prepared at home, by me, and either eaten there or taken on the go.
But today a project meeting (details coming soon) had me spending part of my morning at a Panera. (Possibly the worst place for a clean eater, let alone someone who is following a low-carb diet.)
Panera is one of those fast-food “in disguise” places that uses clever marketing to fool you into thinking the food is healthy. Bad news, very little of their menu is healthy. Much of it is very, very unhealthy. Browse their online nutrition calculator and you will see what I mean.
The good news is some of their menu items can be made much less offensive with a few additions or omissions.
For obvious reasons I avoided any sandwiches, as bread is not currently a part of my diet and this is where calories add up. Their soups are extremely high in sodium so I avoided those as well.
A salad on the menu caught my eye: Chicken Cobb with Avocado. It sounded interesting, but I made sure to ask the cashier exactly what was in it. The answer: romaine, tomato, grilled chicken, gorgonzola crumbles, egg, bacon, avocado, and greek dressing.
I ordered the salad without the gorgonzola, bacon and dressing. It was huge, delicious and filling.
Later I checked the nutrition stats on the website. Here’s the breakdown if you order the salad as is:
Fat: 43 g
Saturated fat: 9 g
Sodium: 1070 mg
Carbs: 16 g
Sugar: 3 g
Protein: 41 g
The calories aren’t too bad but wow- that’s A LOT of fat and A TON of sodium. According to Panera’s nutrition calculator, here’s what I ended up with by cutting out the dressing, cheese, and bacon:
Fat: 12 g
Saturated fat: 2 g
Sodium: 350 mg
Carbs: 14 g
Sugar: 2 g
Protein: 31 g
Much better. Removing the cheese and bacon dropped about 30 g of fat, and skipping the dressing cut the sodium by more than half.
Going online to calculate the nutritional cost of various menu items can help you make smart decisions without guessing.
If you know what to watch out for and order wisely, restaurant (and even fast-food) meals don’t have to be diet killers. However, they should still be few and far between if your overall goal is to lose weight and/or improve your health.