Healthy Chain Reaction: Panera Bread’s Strawberry Poppyseed & Chicken Salad

All of the colors!

My Mom and I were shopping the day of my sister’s wedding and needed to grab a quick lunch in the mall food court. Since both of us prefer more nutritious eats, we skipped the greasy Chinese and fried fast food joints and placed our orders at one of my favorites, Panera Bread, instead. The cafe scored bonus points for allowing us to escape the food court for a comfy booth in a less hectic atmosphere!

Having heard great things about the Strawberry Poppyseed & Chicken Salad, but rarely at the restaurant when it was on the menu (I think it’s seasonal), I knew that was the way to go!

Since I’m not a huge fan of nuts, I skipped those for a salad that came in at a super-satisfying 240 calories and 28 grams of protein. The poppyseed dressing balanced the sweet (fruit) and savory (chicken) perfectly and the fruit was actually fresh, unlike the wilted and/or canned varieties found at some quick-serve restaurants. And the marinade on the chicken added the perfect amount of spice! In lieu of the regular potato chips as a side, you can opt for a piece of whole-wheat baguette, an apple or baked chips. So nice to have more nutritious options!

When this salad isn’t on the menu, I’ll return to my go-to You Pick Two: half turkey sandwich with chicken noodle soup. Yum! If you haven’t tried Panera’s chicken soup, please do. It’s one of the best around!

At the risk of sounding cheesy, I feel good when I’m walking out the door at this restaurant for more reasons than a satisfied appetite. The company has some neat initiatives to help the communities they serve, including donating unsold bread at closing time and a few neat pay-what-you-want outposts that serve and support local individuals in need.

To check out the first Healthy Chain Reaction, click here.

What is your preferred food court restaurant and order?

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