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This cafe practically begs you to grab a pastry and get comfy, but there are healthy, everyday options are hiding in plain sight.

Cecily McAndrews
November 19, 2014

With cozy seats all around and the smell of baking baguettes wafting through the air, Panera Bread practically begs you to pull up a chair, grab a pastry, and get comfy.

In that sort of soothing atmosphere, it's easy to end up with a more hefty meal than you intended (we're looking at you, 980-calorie mac and cheese!), but some healthy, everyday options are hiding in plain sight.

We enlisted 5 nutritionists to tell us what they choose from this cafe's extensive menu.

Here are their top picks:

If you like to mix and match

"One of my go-tos is half the chicken cobb salad with avocado and a veggie soup (like their seasonal autumn squash or the garden vegetable with pesto). And I get the apple option on the side."

—Anne Mauney, MPH, RD, creator of the Fannetastic Food blog

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If you're in the mood for a satisfying salad

"With the calories right on the menu, Panera makes it easier to choose lighter items right at the point of purchase. I like to get a Greek Salad with Chicken or the Asian Sesame Chicken Salad."

Marisa Moore, RD

If you're craving gooey cheese

"I actually love the kids' meal that comes with a normal-sized grilled cheese (like one you would make at home) and a yogurt squeezer by Stonyfield. They even serve organic milk!"

Laura Cipullo, RD

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If you like to customize your order

"I like to have the You Pick Two with black bean soup and the classic salad, but instead of the dressing I ask for avocado and fresh lemon wedges, which I mash up to coat the greens and veggies as a dressing."

Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, Health‘s contributing nutrition editor

If you need a post-workout boost

"Between the hummus and the chicken, the Power Chicken Hummus Bowl is packed with healthy protein, and the portion size is substantial without being too large. It's a great lunch or dinner option!"

Brittany Kohn, RD

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