Are Panera Bread potato chips healthy?

Panera Bread is a popular bakery-cafe chain that offers a variety of breads, sandwiches, salads, and soups. In recent years, Panera has expanded their menu to include items like flatbreads, pastries, and potato chips. Their potato chips in particular have grown in popularity as a crunchy, savory snack option to pair with sandwiches or salads. However, with potato chips, the question arises: are Panera’s potato chips actually healthy?

Nutritional Profile of Panera Bread Potato Chips

To determine if Panera Bread’s potato chips are healthy, we need to look at their nutritional information. According to Panera’s website, their sea salt potato chips have the following nutrition facts per 1 oz serving (about 15 chips):

Nutrient Amount
Calories 160
Total Fat 10g
Saturated Fat 1.5g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 170mg
Total Carbohydrate 15g
Dietary Fiber 1g
Sugars 0g
Protein 2g

Looking at these nutrition facts, a few things stand out. First, the calorie count is quite high for a single serving, packing 160 calories into just 15 chips. The majority of those calories come from fat, with 10g per serving. However, the type of fat is not too concerning, as only 1.5g is saturated and there are no trans fats.

Sodium is also quite high at 170mg per serving. The American Heart Association recommends limiting sodium intake to less than 2,300mg per day, so these chips provide over 7% of that in just a small serving.

On the positive side, the chips are low in sugar with 0g per serving. They also contain 2g of protein and 1g of fiber.

Overall, while the chips are not horribly unhealthy, the high calorie, fat, and sodium content for a relatively small portion are concerning from a nutritional standpoint.

Ingredients in Panera Bread Potato Chips

To better understand the nutritional value of Panera’s potato chips, we need to take a closer look at the ingredients:

– Potatoes
– Vegetable Oil (sunflower, corn, and/or canola oil)
– Sea Salt

Potatoes themselves are a starchy vegetable that contain some vitamins, minerals, and fiber. However, once they are sliced and fried into chips, the nutritional value decreases significantly.

The vegetable oils used for frying are high in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. In moderation, these oils are not necessarily unhealthy, but in the quantity used to fry chips, they can promote inflammation and weight gain.

Sea salt simply provides sodium and flavor. While some sodium is necessary in a diet, the high levels in these chips are concerning.

Overall, the ingredient list is not terribly long or artificial. However, the preparation process of frying in vegetable oils diminishes the natural nutritional value of the potatoes.

Health Claims on Panera Bread’s Website

Panera Bread makes the following health claims about their potato chips on their website:

– Made with simple, high-quality ingredients
– Flavorful alternative to greasy chips
– Baked chips available for a lighter snack option

These claims give the impression that Panera’s chips are a healthier option compared to traditional fried potato chips. By emphasizing the simple, high-quality ingredients, it leads consumers to believe these chips are more natural and nutritious.

The claim that they are a “flavorful alternative to greasy chips” implies that these chips are less oily and lower in fat and calories than regular potato chips. However, according to the nutrition information, Panera’s chips still contain 10g of fat per serving, which is considered a high-fat food.

Notably, Panera points out that they offer baked chip alternatives for a lighter snack. This suggests that the traditional, fried potato chips are in fact not as light or healthy, even if marketed as a better-for-you option.

In summary, Panera’s health claims about their chips only tell part of the story. While the ingredients may be simple and high-quality, the preparation method still produces a relatively high-calorie and high-fat snack. The baked chips are positioned as a more nutritious alternative, implying the fried chips should only be eaten in moderation.

Are Panera Bread Potato Chips Healthier Than Other Brands?

How do Panera’s potato chips compare to traditional potato chip brands in terms of nutrition? Let’s look at the numbers:

Nutrient (per 1 oz serving) Panera Sea Salt Chips Lay’s Classic Chips Pringles Original Chips
Calories 160 160 150
Total Fat 10g 10g 10g
Saturated Fat 1.5g 1.5g 2g
Sodium 170mg 170mg 180mg

As this comparison shows, Panera’s potato chips are nearly identical in nutrition to leading brands like Lay’s and Pringles. The calorie, fat, and sodium content are all very close. Pringles have slightly lower calories but higher saturated fat and sodium.

The bottom line is that Panera’s chips may be marketed as a fresher, healthier option, but nutritionally they offer little advantage over the leading potato chip brands. The preparation method of frying in oil results in a similar nutrition profile high in calories, fat, and sodium regardless of the ingredients used.

Health Risks of Consuming Panera’s Potato Chips

Regularly consuming fried foods like potato chips carries some health risks, even if the chips are made with high-quality ingredients like Panera’s:

– Weight gain – The high calorie and fat content can lead to excess weight gain over time if consumed frequently. Just 1 oz (15 chips) contains 160 calories and 10g of fat.

– High blood pressure – The relatively high sodium content of 170mg per serving contributes to hypertension risk.

– Increased inflammation – Frying potatoes increases the amount of AGEs (advanced glycation endproducts) which can promote systemic inflammation.

– Nutrient imbalance – Chips are high in fat, sodium and carbohydrates while being very low in vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber. This can promote an imbalanced diet.

– Lack of fullness – The starchy carbs and fats in chips do not promote a lasting feeling of fullness compared to healthier snacks like vegetables, nuts, or yogurt. This makes overeating chips easy.

While an occasional serving of chips is not harmful for most people, regularly consuming them in large quantities may negatively impact overall health and weight management. Moderation is key.

Healthier Snack Alternatives to Panera’s Potato Chips

If you enjoy the crunch and savoriness of potato chips, but want a more nutritious snack from Panera, consider these options:

– Baked chips – As mentioned previously, Panera offers baked potato chip varieties that are lower in fat and calories. The Garden Vegetable Baked Chips have just 70 calories and 2.5g fat per serving.

– Apple Chips – These crunchy baked apples offer sweetness along with fiber and vitamin C. A serving has 100 calories and no fat.

– Fruit Cup – Fresh melon, grapes, and berries provide ample vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The Small Fruit Cup has 60 calories and no fat.

– Greek Yogurt – Protein-rich Greek yogurt makes for a satiating snack and offers probiotics. A serving of plain Greek Yogurt at Panera has 140 calories. Add blueberries for more nutrition.

– Kale Crustini – A crispy flatbread snack topped with kale, cheese, and tomato. One Crustini has just 50 calories and 1g fat.

– Salad – Snack-sized portions of Panera’s tossed salads provide filling fiber and nutrients without excess calories. Try the Green Goddess Cobb Salad with 110 calories and 4g fat per half portion.

While Panera’s potato chips can fit into a healthy diet in moderation, there are many more nutritious snack options to choose from at Panera that satisfy crunch and flavor cravings without the excess calories, fat, sodium and health risks. Focusing on whole, minimally processed foods provides optimal nutrition.

Tips for Healthier Snacking at Panera Bread

Here are some tips to keep your snacking on a healthier track when visiting Panera Bread:

– Opt for baked chips or apple chips rather than fried
– Choose fruit, yogurt, salads or greens as snacks over pastries
– Be mindful of portion sizes; chips and bakery items add up fast
– Pair snacks with protein like nuts, cheese or hard-boiled eggs
– Avoid high-sodium snacks like chips and pretzels if watching salt intake
– Customize sandwiches/salads by asking for easy oil/sauces on the side
– Don’t drink your calories; skip sugary sodas and juices for water or tea
– Check out all the menu categories – you may find something new that’s nutritious
– Enjoy treats like pastries in moderation; share them or get a half-portion

Following healthy snacking habits at quick-service chains like Panera Bread is very possible withsmart choices. Focus on whole, nutrient-dense foods and moderate treats. Consider options across the menu to keep variety up and prevent boredom.


Panera Bread’s potato chips are marketed as a fresher, high-quality alternative to traditional fried chips. However, their preparation method still results in a snack high in calories, fat, and sodium compared to most other menu options. While not the worst occasional indulgence, regularly consuming Panera’s potato chips, or any fried chips, is linked to increased risk of obesity, heart disease, and other health conditions.

Potato chips remain a processed food with low nutrient density. Anyone looking to follow a healthy diet should limit intake of fried foods like chips overall, even those made from quality ingredients. Panera Bread offers many more nutritious snack choices focusing on whole foods like fruit, yogurt, salads, and baked crisps. Moderating potato chip consumption and focusing on more vitamin and fiber-rich picks can help support a balanced, healthy lifestyle.

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