Chicken noodle soup is a classic comfort food that many people turn to when they are feeling under the weather. The savory broth, tender chicken, and noodles are soothing and easy to eat when you have a cold or flu. But is the chicken noodle soup served at Panera Bread actually good for you? In this article, we will examine the nutritional value of Panera’s chicken noodle soup and see how healthy it really is.
Let’s start by looking at the basic nutritional information for Panera Bread’s chicken noodle soup:
|1 bowl (280g)
At first glance, the nutritional profile of Panera’s chicken noodle soup looks relatively healthy. It is low in calories, fat, and sugar. It also provides a decent amount of protein. However, there are some elements that are less than ideal.
The most concerning aspect of Panera’s chicken noodle soup is the very high sodium content. A single bowl contains 730mg of sodium, which is 31% of the recommended daily limit. Consuming high-sodium foods on a regular basis can increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and other health problems.
On the positive side, Panera’s chicken noodle soup does contain 2g of fiber per serving. Getting enough fiber promotes healthy digestion and can help lower cholesterol. The 14g of carbohydrates are also coming mostly from nutritious sources like vegetables and grains rather than added sugars.
The 8g of protein is another nutrient highlight of this soup. Protein helps keep you feeling fuller for longer after a meal. It also provides essential amino acids that support muscle maintenance and repair.
To get a better idea of how healthy Panera’s chicken noodle soup is, we need to look beyond the basic nutrition facts and examine the ingredients list:
- Chicken Bone Broth
- Cooked Chicken Breast
- Elbow Macaroni
- Chicken Flavor
- Onion Powder
- Garlic Powder
The ingredients list for Panera’s chicken noodle soup contains mostly whole, recognizable foods. This is a good sign. The main ingredients – chicken broth, chicken breast, carrots, celery, and noodles – are all healthy choices.
However, there are also some additives like “chicken flavor” that are less than ideal. The combination of salt and sodium-heavy flavorings and powders contribute to the high sodium content. It would be better to see low-sodium or no-salt-added broth used instead.
No Artificial Ingredients
On the plus side, Panera’s chicken noodle soup does not contain any artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. This is an advantage over some commercial canned soups which can be packed with artificial additives.
In addition to the ingredients, the way that soup is prepared can also impact its nutritional value. Many restaurants use excessive amounts of oil, butter, and cream to add flavor to soups and sauces.
However, according to Panera, their chicken noodle soup is prepared without adding any butters or cream. This helps keep the total fat and saturated fat content relatively low.
The chicken and vegetables are simmered in broth to produce a flavorful, comforting soup without needing to overload it with fat, salt or sugar.
One of the reasons that soup can be a healthy choice is due to its high water content which helps fill you up without adding too many calories. However, this only applies if you pay attention to portion sizes.
Panera Bread’s chicken noodle soup is served in 16oz and 32oz portions. Consuming multiple servings or an extra-large portion can cause the calories, fat, and sodium to quickly add up.
A 16oz bowl provides a reasonable meal for most adults. But be cautious of ordering the 32oz soup unless you plan to share it or take some home for later.
Nutrition Compared to Homemade
To fully analyze how healthy Panera’s chicken noodle soup is, it also helps to compare it to homemade chicken noodle soup.
Homemade chicken noodle soup has the potential to be lower in sodium, provided you use low-sodium or no-salt-added broth. You can also control how much oil and butter is used in homemade soup.
However, unless you use organic vegetables and chicken, the homemade version may contain more pesticides or hormones. The Panera soup uses antibiotic-free chicken and organic vegetables which is an advantage.
Preparing homemade soup also requires a significant amount of time. Panera’s ready-to-eat soup offers more convenience for busy schedules.
Chicken noodle soup, in general, has many potential health benefits beyond basic nutrition. The ingredients in chicken soup may have anti-inflammatory, hydrating, and immune-boosting properties.
The combination of chicken, vegetables, and broth provides vitamins and minerals as well as electrolytes like sodium and potassium. This makes chicken noodle soup a great food choice when you are sick.
The steam from hot chicken soup can also help clear nasal congestion and soothe sore throats. This helps explain why chicken soup is recommended as a home remedy for colds and flu.
While Panera’s chicken noodle soup offers some nutritional and health benefits, there are also some downsides to consider:
- Very high in sodium, which may contribute to high blood pressure and heart disease.
- Relatively low in fiber compared to other whole foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, etc.
- Lower nutrient density than a salad or bowl with lean protein and veggies.
- Easy to overeat, especially if ordering large 32oz portion.
- Not organic or locally sourced. Ingredients are mass-produced.
Who Should Avoid It
While Panera’s chicken noodle soup can be part of a healthy diet for many people, there are some individuals who may want to avoid it or limit intake:
- People on a low-sodium diet due to high blood pressure, heart failure, kidney disease or other conditions.
- Individuals who need to watch their cholesterol levels.
- Anyone with wheat/gluten sensitivity or celiac disease (the noodles contain wheat).
- People following very low-carb or ketogenic diets.
- Children under 12 months old due to risk of botulism from honey in broth.
The Bottom Line
So is Panera Bread’s chicken noodle soup healthy? Overall, it can be part of a nutritious diet when enjoyed in moderation. The soup provides lean protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals without too much fat, carbs, or sugar.
However, the exceptionally high sodium content is concerning. This soup also cannot be considered a low-calorie or very low-carb option due to the pasta. Finally, those with certain medical conditions or dietary restrictions should use caution or avoid this soup.
In conclusion, Panera’s chicken noodle soup is a tasty and comforting option that has some nutritional merit when portion sizes are controlled. But the high sodium prevents it from being an ideal healthy soup choice for most people. Homemade versions or other lower-sodium soups are usually healthier alternatives.