Contest: Panera Bread First National Restaurant to Offer Clean Menu
posted by: Melissa H.
Do you love eating out as much as I do? If I have the opportunity to bypass cooking and cleaning for a night, I am all over it!
But I do still try to be health-conscious, and this is where eating out is a problem. Most of the time, I have no idea what is in the food I am eating at a restaurant. However, some restaurants have made en effort to at least let you know the calories and amount of fat and sugar in their menu items.
But one restaurant has taken things to an entirely new level. This restaurant has re-vamped their entire menu so that it is CLEAN. That means no artificial flavors, preservatives, sweeteners and colors from artificial sources. They are also completely transparent about all the ingredients in everything you eat. When you go to their website, you can click on any menu item and read the entire list of ingredients–just as if you were reading a cereal box at the store.
Which restaurant is this? It’s Panera Bread, the first national restaurant company to offer a completely clean menu. To effect this change, they reviewed more than 450 ingredients, going up the supply chain to make sure all artificial components were removed. They reformulated 122 ingredients, and partnered with more than 300 vendors to replace ingredients and change how foods were prepared. That’s a HUGE undertaking. But the results are nothing less than stellar.
My family and I recently ate at Panera Bread and were able to experience first-hand their freshly prepared and delicious offerings.
Here are my observations:
1. The soups were not overly salty, like many restaurant soups. The Broccoli Cheddar Soup actually tasted like it had real cheese in it rather than the processed cheese used in most Broccoli Cheddar soups.
2. The smoothies were perfectly sweetened with only the fruit in them. There was no added sugar. (My kids thought the Frozen Agave Lemonade was fantastic!)
3. The salads were fresh and delicious (especially the Spicy Thai Salad with Chicken! I could not get enough of that amazing peanut sauce!)
4. The meat on the sandwiches was REAL meat–not deli meat.
5. The Kitchen Sink Cookie is quite possibly the best cookie I have ever had. It was HUGE (as big as my whole hand with my fingers stretched out!), full of chocolate and caramel, and sprinkled with sea salt. I had to hold it in both hands to eat it. I guess I could have shared, but….
My husband and I both got a combo meal with half portions of a sandwich and salad. I could not believe the salad size we got was a half portion. It was EXTREMELY generous.
I will tell you that if your kids are used to eating orange macaroni and cheese, they will be disappointed here. The sauce is white (sans the artificial orange color). But the macaronis are HUGE! (My daughter called them “mega macaronis.”) It’s true. They are the largest macaroni noodles I have ever seen! But if your kids balk at unusual macaroni and cheese, Panera Bread also does offer the classic grilled cheese sandwich and peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Another thing we loved about Panera Bread was the ease of ordering. If the line is too long, no worries! Just go to a kiosk, punch in your order, and pick it up at the counter!
The last thing that impressed us was the price. When I heard that they had created a completely clean menu, my first thought was, “That means they will have to triple the price of everything.” Not so! The prices are VERY reasonable! We were surprised they could offer such high quality food at such a low price.
When we were leaving, our kids asked when we were coming back again. That’s really something when you consider there were no French fries. Just fresh, natural food that you can feel good about eating.
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