Eating healthy doesn't have to mean sacrificing going out. Panera, which has made a commitment to clean-eating recipes that do not have preservatives or highly-processed ingredients, has some of the best options if you're trying to eat light while eating out. But some are still surprisingly high in calories and fat. We searched the menu for the best options, and these soup picks at Panera Bread are healthiest.
Credit: Image source: Bloomberg / Getty

If you’re wary of preservatives and artificial ingredients, you can now order any of Panera’s soups with confidence—in January, the fast-casual chain officially removed all artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives from its soups, part of a larger plan announced to “clean up” the entire menu by the end of 2016.

While we couldn’t be more pleased about this news, it doesn’t exactly address nutrition. Many soups look great in terms of calories and fat, but those watching sodium intake may want to exercise caution. Portion control will keep nutrition in check, so start with a cup of soup and pair it with a healthy half-salad or fruit to make it a meal. 

To save big on saturated fat, avoid creamy chowders or cheese-based soups. Keep in mind that “vegetarian” doesn’t always mean healthy, either—just one cup of Vegetarian Summer Corn Chowder packs 8g of saturated fat! Lastly, the bread bowl may be tasty, but it’s not worth the massive additions in both calories and sodium.

Below are our picks for Panera’s healthiest soups and sides, but we encourage you to read the restaurant’s full nutrition information (available online) before visiting.

Healthiest Soups:

Low-Fat Vegetarian Black Bean Soup (Cup)

Cal: 90 Fat: 1g Sat Fat: 0g Sodium: 740mg Sugars: 1g

Credit: Photo: Panera Bread

Low-Fat Vegetarian Garden Vegetable Soup with Pesto (Cup)

Cal: 80 Fat: 2g Sat Fat: 0g Sodium: 750mg Sugars: 5g

Credit: Image source: Panera Bread

Cream of Chicken & Wild Rice Soup (Cup)

Cal: 180 Fat: 10g Sat Fat: 4.5g Sodium: 920mg Sugars: 1g

Credit: Image source: Panera Bread

Smart Sides

Half Seasonal Greens Salad (No Vinaigrette)

Cal: 90 Fat: 6g Sat Fat: 1g Sodium: 75mg Sugars: 7g

Fat Free Poppyseed Dressing (Half Portion)

Cal: 15 Fat: 0g Sat Fat: 0g Sodium: 45mg Sugars: 2g  

1 Apple

Cal: 80 Fat: 0g Sat Fat: 0g Sodium: 21mg Sugars: 15g

All recommendations follow Cooking Light’s nutritional guidelines.