How many calories are in a small mac and cheese from Panera?

Quick Answer

A small mac and cheese from Panera contains 400 calories. This is based on the nutrition information provided on Panera’s website.

Detailed Answer

Panera Bread is a popular fast casual restaurant chain that serves soups, salads, sandwiches, and baked goods. One of their most popular menu items is their classic mac and cheese.

Mac and cheese is a classic comfort food made from macaroni pasta and cheese. It’s a indulgent, cheesy dish that many people love. However, it can also be high in calories, especially restaurant versions made with full fat cheese and added ingredients.

When dining out, it’s important to pay attention to nutrition information to make informed choices. Panera provides nutrition facts for all of their menu items on their website.

For a small mac and cheese from Panera, here are the nutrition facts:

Serving Size 1 bowl (small)
Calories 400
Total Fat 19g
Saturated Fat 12g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 55mg
Sodium 730mg
Total Carbohydrates 41g
Dietary Fiber 2g
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 16g

So a small mac and cheese from Panera contains 400 calories. This accounts for about 20% of a standard 2000 calorie daily diet.

The calorie count comes mostly from fat, with 19g total fat and 12g saturated fat per small bowl. It also contains 41g of carbohydrates and 16g of protein.

Compared to other menu options, the small mac and cheese is on the higher side for calorie density. For example, a small broccoli cheddar soup has 310 calories while a small garden vegetable soup has 100 calories. A toasted turkey sandwich from their You Pick Two option has only 200 calories.

Of course calories aren’t the only thing to consider when choosing menu items. The mac and cheese also provides protein, calcium from the cheese, and some carbohydrates from the pasta. But for those counting calories, the 400 calorie hit for a small bowl is good to keep in mind.

Nutrition Tips for Panera

Here are some tips for eating healthy and managing calories at Panera:

– Opt for a You Pick Two combination. You can get half portions of soup, salad, or sandwich. Splitting one of their larger bowl items is an easy way to control portions.

– Customize sandwiches and salads by skipping high-calorie ingredients like bacon, cheese, avocado, dressings, etc. Stick to veggie-based sandwiches and salads with light dressing on the side.

– Choose broth-based soups like the garden veggie over cream-based ones like the broccoli cheddar. Broths have fewer calories than creamy soups.

– Skip the bakery items like muffins, scones, and pastries which tend to be very high in calories.

– Ask for dressing and croutons on the side for salads. You’ll likely use less than the standard serving they provide.

– Be mindful of beverages too. Opt for unsweetened tea, coffee, or water instead of fountain sodas and juices.

Making customizations and swaps where possible lets you still enjoy Panera while keeping calories in check. Checking the nutrition info online can help guide lower calorie choices.

How Many Calories Should You Consume Per Day?

The number of calories a person should consume per day depends on many factors like age, gender, activity level, current weight, and weight goals.

According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, here are some general calorie intake recommendations:

Gender Sedentary Moderately Active Active
Women 1600-2400 2000-2600 2400-3000
Men 2000-3000 2400-3200 3000-4000

These are estimated ranges for total calorie needs based on gender and activity level. However, individuals can vary greatly within those ranges based on body composition, height, current weight, and goals.

Here are some general guidelines around calories:

– Sedentary – Little physical activity beyond basic movement like walking from place to place. Desk job lifestyle.

– Moderately Active – Light exercise 1-3 times per week. May include walking, bicycling, golfing, yardwork, recreational swimming, etc.

– Active – Moderate/intense exercise 6-7 days per week. May include running, swimming, HIIT workouts, competitive sports, etc.

– To lose weight – Reduce calories 15-20% below maintenance level
– To gain weight – Increase calories 15-20% above maintenance level

To determine your specific calorie needs, you can use an online TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) calculator. This will estimate your maintenance calories based on your height, weight, age and activity level.

From there, you can adjust up or down depending on your goals. Re-calculate your TDEE every 4-6 weeks to account for any changes in weight.

Common Calorie Goals

Here are some common calorie goals:

– Average man – 2500 calories
– Average woman – 2000 calories
– Moderately active person – 3000 calories
– Very active person – 4000+ calories
– Weight loss – typically 1500-1800 calories
– Extreme weight loss – 1000-1200 calories (should be supervised by doctor)
– Weight gain – 3000-3500+ calories

Again, the best amount for each person will depend on individual factors. But these general figures can provide rough guidelines for calorie intake goals. Speak to your doctor or dietitian to determine the right plan for you.

Tips for Counting Calories

If you’re looking to manage your calorie intake, here are some helpful tips:

– Use a calorie tracking app to easily look up and log foods. MyFitnessPal, LoseIt, and Cronometer are popular options.

– Weigh and measure portions to understand accurate serving sizes, especially for calorie-dense foods.

– Use measuring cups, food scales, and nutrition labels. Don’t just eyeball portions.

– Log everything you eat and drink, even samples and tastes. Little bites here and there add up.

– Focus on whole, minimally processed foods like fruits, veggies, lean proteins, whole grains. These promote fullness and nutrient density at fewer calories.

– Be mindful of beverages from juice, soda, coffee drinks, and alcohol which can pack excess calories.

– Allow yourself the occasional treat, just account for it. Deprivation leads to binges while flexibility leads to sustainability.

– Track your intake and weight over time. Adjust your calories gradually as needed based on your rate of weight loss/gain vs goals.

– Be patient! Consistent small changes over time lead to big results. A calorie deficit of 500 calories per day can lead to 1 pound lost per week.

Counting calories isn’t necessarily required for weight loss, but it can provide useful data to help strategize your nutrition and reach your goals in a healthy way. Even if you don’t track long-term, doing so for a few weeks can give you a sense of appropriate portions and where you may be overeating.

The Bottom Line

To summarize key points:

– A small mac and cheese from Panera contains approximately 400 calories

– This accounts for about 20% of a 2000 calorie daily diet

– Calories mostly come from fat (19g) and carbs (41g) along with 16g protein

– Make customizations at Panera to lower calorie options

– Use TDEE calculator to estimate your calorie needs for weight loss or gain

– Download a tracking app, use a food scale, and pay attention to serving sizes for the most accuracy in counting calories

– Focus on whole, filling foods and beware of liquid calories for best satiety

– Allow yourself treats in moderation as part of an overall balanced diet

– Make gradual nutrition changes you can sustain long-term

Knowing the calories in standard restaurant items allows you to make informed choices and build meals to suit your goals. A small Panera mac and cheese packs a caloric punch at 400 calories. But you can enjoy it in moderation or opt for lower calorie alternatives. Pay attention to portions and nutrition information and you can still achieve your desired weight and health goals.

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