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Panera Bread's Healthy Hidden Menu: Why So Secretive?

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Secret menus at some of our favorite fast food, quick-service restaurants like Burger King, Sonic, Chipotle and McDonald's are not so secret anymore, and now you can add Panera Bread to that list. Like most secret menus go, the items off the menu are usually unhealthy, loaded with calories/carbs/fat and are deemed too good to be on the menu. However, Panera Bread's "hidden menu" isn't filled with giant sandwiches loaded with calorie- and carb-heavy ingredients, or an overly cheesy pasta dish; the Panera Bread secret menu is filled with power-food items with fewer calories than most items on the main menu.

Rather than indulging in a carb-heavy bagel with cream cheese for breakfast, customers can order a power-breakfast egg white bowl with roasted turkey, spinach, roasted peppers and basil pesto, all for just 190 calories; a blueberry bagel racks in at 340 calories. The other hidden breakfast menu item is another power-breakfast bowl with two eggs, top sirloin, avocado and tomatoes for 270 calories.

As opposed to the ordinary secret menu items like McDonald's Mc10:35 burger -- a McDouble patty with the egg, cheese, Canadian bacon and English muffin from the Egg McMuffin -- only offered when employees make the shift change between breakfast and lunch, Panera Bread's items are intriguingly healthier than normal offerings.

While Panera Bread does offer light options from the soups, salads and smoothies, it is surprising that the healthiest items are on a hidden menu. Why not just add these items to the main menu? Unless you follow Panera Bread on social media or are so in the loop with the happenings at Panera Bread, then you will know about its hidden menu. Otherwise, your choices are limited to the normal items.

The lunch and dinner items on the hidden menu appear to have more flavor and intriguing ingredients than the actual everyday menu. The power chicken hummus bowl comes with chicken, cilantro jalapeño hummus, spinach, cucumbers, tomatoes and red onions, and it is only 330 calories for the whole thing. For just 280 calories, you can also enjoy sirloin steak inside Panera's power steak lettuce wrap with basil pesto, tomatoes, cucumbers and red onions.

I'm sure these items would sell more on the main menu than on the hidden menu. It's hard enough having to wait for seasonal salads like the strawberry poppyseed and chicken salad.

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