Food on the Run: Au Bon Pain


By: , SparkPeople Blogger

In our ongoing Food on the Run series, we look at a restaurant chain that has received recognition for its health and nutrition focus. Au Bon Pain was listed as one of America's healthiest restaurants by Health Magazine as we outlined a few weeks ago when we listed the Top 10 Healthy and Unhealthy Favories in our Food on the Run blog. With only about 280 locations nationwide, we thought we would take a closer look to see what makes this small chain a nutritional leader.

Au Bon Pain not only makes it a goal to provide healthy and nutritious meals but also makes it a priority for you to know what you are eating. Here are a few ways they are reaching their goals every day.
  • All products provide zero grams of artificial trans fat.
  • Use all natural chicken that are free from preservatives in their salads, sandwiches and wraps.
  • Provide nutrition kiosks in their company-owned cafés as well as in many franchised cafés. This makes it very easy for guests to not only make informed decisions about what they select; it also outlines allergen information for those that need that information as well.
  • Provide an interactive computer program called My Plate that allows guests to build healthy meals and learn about the nutrients that are provided in café menus.
  • Has a Nutrition Advisory Board of health and nutrition experts to help guide menu decisions.
  • Focus on providing vegetarian and reduced-sodium (defined as less than 500 mg/serving) options.
  • A charter member with Healthy Dining Finder online program to help people find restaurants with healthy dining options. Also works with the Cleveland Clinic to develop meal plans that meet their healthy guidelines.

Cautions to Consider
  • While allergen information is provided, care must be taken since all key allergens are used and the risk of cross contamination is high.
  • All bagels are over 300 calories with 1-10 grams of fat. Best choices would be a plain bagel with 280 calories/1 gram fat/430 mg sodium/57 grams carbohydrates/11 grams protein or the Onion Dill Bagel with 290 calories/1 gram of fat/440 mg sodium/58 grams carbohydrate/11 grams protein.
  • Cookies, Desserts, Danish, Scones, Strudel, Croissants, and Blasts are all high in calories and/or fat and are best left on the menu. Smoothies can be a healthier choice but do tend to be higher in calories and are better choices as a healthy snack on the run instead of with a meal.
  • Most muffins are high in calories and fat and typically over 400 calories and 15 -25 grams of fat. Your best muffin selection would be the Low-Fat Triple Berry Muffin with 290 calories/2 grams fat/490 mg sodium/67 grams carbohydrates/2 grams fiber/3 grams protein.
  • Breakfast sandwiches also tend to be high in calories, fat and sodium. Your best choice would be an Egg on a Plain Bagel with 360 calories/4 grams fat/780 mg sodium/59 grams carbohydrates/21 grams protein.
  • Cafe', Hot Sandwiches, Melts, Wraps and Harvest Rice Bowls provide over 550 calories, 20 grams of fat and over a 1000 mg of sodium of nutrient rich ingredients and can be a great selection if you are sharing with someone else or willing to only eat half and save the other half for another meal.
  • The Hot & Cold Lunch Bar provides a variety of healthier options such as Roasted Apple Cranberry Orzo, Salmon Provencal, Spinach and Artichoke lasagna or White bean Cacciatore. All provide about 30-50 calories and 1-3 grams of fat per 1 oz serving. Obviously the key here is portion control because open bars can allow the calories to pile up without realizing it.
  • The Kids menu provides a smaller sandwich and pasta choice to consider such as the Kid's Buttered Penne Pasta (3.5 oz portion size) with 260 calories/12 grams fat/95 mg sodium/31 grams carbohydrates/1 gram fiber/6 grams protein or the Smoked Turkey Sandwich (7 oz portion size) with 430 calories/11 grams fat/1400 mg sodium/60 grams carbohydrates/2 grams fiber/19 grams protein. The sodium content of the sandwich is high so caution is needed if that is something you are trying to limit.

Remember that our series goals remain to select entrees that are around 250 calories and 10 grams of fat per serving or less. When selecting a complete meal, 350-500 calories with 10-15 grams of fat is a good guideline to follow.

Au Bon Pain


All the soups in a 12 oz serving provide a good option for a lower calorie, lower fat option. Many are high in sodium but they do offer several lower sodium options. Here are several specialty soups to highlight.

Black Bean Soup (vegan, low fat, gluten free) – 12 oz serving
Calories – 260
Fat – 1 gram
Sodium – 1100 mg
Carbohydrates – 46 grams
Fiber – 26 grams
Protein – 15 grams

Curried Rice and Lentil Soup (vegan, low fat, gluten free) – 12 oz serving
Calories – 170
Fat – 2 grams
Sodium – 1260 mg
Carbohydrates – 30 grams
Fiber – 8 grams
Protein – 8 grams

French Moroccan Tomato Lentil Soup (vegan, low fat, gluten free) – 12 oz serving
Calories – 190
Fat – 2 grams
Sodium – 1060 mg
Carbohydrates – 32 grams
Fiber – 10 grams
Protein – 10 grams

Garden Vegetable Soup (low fat, gluten free) – 12 oz serving
Calories – 80
Fat – 2 grams
Sodium – 1070 mg
Carbohydrates – 13 grams
Fiber – 3 grams
Protein – 3 grams

Gazpacho (vegan, low fat, gluten free) – 12 oz serving
Calories – 90
Fat – 5 grams
Sodium – 1520 mg
Carbohydrates – 11 grams
Fiber – 3 grams
Protein – 2 grams

Jamaican Black Bean Soup (low fat, reduced sodium) – 12 oz serving
Calories – 250
Fat – 1 gram
Sodium – 440 mg
Carbohydrates – 43 grams
Fiber – 23 grams
Protein – 16 grams

Mediterranean Pepper Soup (low fat, reduced sodium) – 12 oz serving
Calories – 170
Fat – 5 grams
Sodium – 590 mg
Carbohydrates – 26 grams
Fiber – 8 grams
Protein – 7 gram

Southwest Vegetable Soup (low fat, reduced sodium) – 12 oz serving
Calories – 170
Fat – 1 gram
Sodium- 400 mg
Carbohydrates – 28 grams
Fiber – 6 grams
Protein – 6 grams

Tomato Basil Bisque (reduced sodium) – 12 oz serving
Calories – 210
Fat – 9 grams
Sodium – 500 mg
Carbohydrates – 27 grams
Fiber – 4 grams
Protein – 7 grams

Tomato Rice Soup (low fat, reduced sodium, gluten free) – 12 oz serving
Calories – 120
Fat – 1 gram
Sodium – 280 mg
Carbohydrates – 24 grams
Fiber – 2 grams
Protein – 4 grams

Salads and Dressings

Garden Salad
Calories – 70
Fat – 2 grams
Sodium – 85 mg
Carbohydrates – 13 grams
Fiber – 3 grams
Protein 4 grams

Thai Peanut Chicken Salad
Calories – 240
Fat – 8 grams
Sodium – 280 mg
Carbohydrates – 19 grams
Fiber – 4 grams
Protein – 22 grams

Turkey and Strawberry Salad
Calories – 110
Fat – 4 grams
Sodium – 410 mg
Carbohydrates – 11 grams
Fiber – 4 grams
Protein – 10 grams

Balsamic Vinaigrette (vegan) – 2 oz packet
Calories – 120
Fat – 9 grams
Sodium – 360 mg
Carbohydrates – 8 grams
Fiber – 0 grams
Protein – 0 grams

Fat Free Raspberry (vegan, low fat) – 2 oz packet
Calories – 50
Fat – 0 grams
Sodium – 190 mg
Carbohydrates – 12 grams
Fiber – 0 grams
Protein – 0 grams

Thai Peanut Dressing (vegan) – 2 oz packet
Calories – 160
Fat – 8 grams
Sodium – 740 mg
Carbohydrates – 20 grams
Fiber – 0 grams
Protein – 2 grams

Au Bon Portions

Apples, Blue Cheese and Cranberries – 5 oz serving
Calories – 200
Fat – 10 grams
Sodium – 270 mg
Carbohydrates – 27 grams
Fiber – 3 grams
Protein – 4 grams

Black Bean and Corn Salad – 6 oz serving
Calories – 130
Fat – 0 grams
Sodium – 310 mg
Carbohydrates – 25 grams
Fiber – 5 grams
Protein – 5 grams

Brown Rice and Hazelnut Waldorf Salad – 4.5 oz serving
Calories – 180
Fat – 10 grams
Sodium – 240 mg
Carbohydrates – 22 grams
Fiber – 2 grams
Protein – 1 gram

Chicken Pesto Salad – 4 oz serving
Calories – 160
Fat – 8 grams
Sodium – 420 mg
Carbohydrates – 1 gram
Fiber – 1 gram
Protein – 20 grams

Chickpea and Tomato Salad – 6 oz serving
Calories – 100
Fat – 1 gram
Sodium – 200 mg
Carbohydrates – 19 grams
Fiber – 6 grams
Protein – 5 grams

Fruit Romanoff with Almonds – 5.3 oz serving
Calories – 200
Fat – 7 grams
Sodium – 15 mg
Carbohydrates – 34 grams
Fiber – 3 grams
Protein – 3 grams

Green Bean and Almond Salad – 4 oz serving
Calories – 100
Fat – 6 grams
Sodium – 85 mg
Carbohydrates – 7 grams
Fiber – 3 grams
Protein – 3 grams

Hummus and Cucumber – 4 oz serving
Calories – 130
Fat – 8 grams
Sodium – 460 mg
Carbohydrates – 10 grams
Fiber – 3 grams
Protein – 3 grams

Mediterranean Tuna Salad – 4.4 oz serving
Calories – 120
Fat – 8 grams
Sodium – 290 mg
Carbohydrates – 4 grams
Fiber – 1 gram
Protein – 9 grams

Smoked Turkey, Asparagus, Cranberry Chutney and Gorgonzola – 4.8 oz serving
Calories – 140
Fat – 5 grams
Sodium – 730 mg
Carbohydrates – 10 grams
Fiber – 1 gram
Protein – 13 grams

Thai Beef and Peanut – 3.7 oz serving
Calories – 120
Fat – 5 grams
Sodium – 290 mg
Carbohydrates – 5 grams
Fiber – 1 gram
Protein – 12 grams

Thai Peanut Chicken and Snow Peas – 4.5 oz serving
Calories – 140
Fat – 4 grams
Sodium – 480 mg
Carbohydrates – 9 grams
Fiber – 1 gram
Protein – 17 grams

Although Au Bon Pain is a small fast food chain that does not have many restaurants; they seem to take nutrition seriously. Do you think nutrient rich entrée options and wholesome ingredients is becoming the new focus in fast food?

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  • 47
    Thanks - 12/19/2017   8:37:38 AM
    Thanks for sharing - 7/13/2017   5:48:26 AM
  • 45
    thanks - 4/10/2017   6:18:16 PM
    Thank you for including the sodium. You have no idea how many members need this information, Thank you - 2/26/2016   11:17:39 AM
  • 43
    This was one of my favorite places when I worked in NY. I knew of three locations, Penn Station, Port Authority and Broadway near the WTC. Along with the excellent menu this was one of the few places where I would buy coffee instead of tea. - 6/2/2010   12:54:43 AM
    would sure love to have one near me! - 7/27/2009   9:07:05 PM
  • 41
    It is nice to know there is a healthier fast food place. I wish one was near me. - 6/9/2009   8:50:07 AM
  • 40
    So good to see information about sodium content, a problem that is so rarely addressed. It's good to see that they're taking a lead role in promoting better nutrition. Let's hope it's setting a trend!
    - 5/26/2009   10:58:22 AM
    I didn't know that Au Bon Pain offers so much. Good to know. - 5/6/2009   2:01:54 PM
  • 38
    Awsome!!! I'll be looking for an Au Bon Pain close by me. - 5/5/2009   4:28:56 PM
  • 37
    I love Au Bon Pain. They have one at my airport. - 5/5/2009   2:21:56 PM
    Always liked Au Bon Pain but the only ones I've ever seen were at airports.

    I'd love if if they opened up in a few of the malls I frequent; that way it would be easier to find a reasonably healthy vegan meal there. - 5/5/2009   1:30:57 PM
  • 35
    There is one at the hospital where I work. Since I don't go into the office often, I treat myself to one of their peach smoothies when I do go in. Yes they are pricey, but it is worth it! The food is a good quality. The soups are amazing! I like that they have containers of fruit at the register when you are paying (and cookies), but I tend to be prompted to buy the fruit... Love it! Thanks for a great article! - 5/5/2009   1:15:28 PM
    *All bagels are over 300 calories* with 1-10 grams of fat. Best choices would be *a plain bagel with 280 calories*/1 gram fat/430 mg sodium/57 grams carbohydrates/11 grams protein or the *Onion Dill Bagel with 290 calories*/1 gram of fat/440 mg sodium/58 grams carbohydrate/11 grams protein.

    Is someone's math a bit off?

    I like ABP -- in fact, it is one of the places I will eat at. But previous posters are right -- way too much sodium, and it is expensive. I do appreciate how much nutritional information they share, though. It makes it easy to make a good decision (or not, if I so choose). - 5/5/2009   10:34:29 AM
  • 33
    While they seem to encourage healthy eating, I don't really think it's reflected in the food they serve. Their nutrition content isn't much better than places that put less effort into making sure you have total nutrition information. - 5/5/2009   9:46:33 AM
  • 32
    Wow, lots of selection here! I don't know where the local ABP is, but you can bet I'll keep my eye open from now on. I believe they are mostly in the malls, at the airport, and at the highway rest stops. Great review! Thanks! - 5/5/2009   9:18:25 AM
  • 31
    Looks like they have a lot of good options. Thanks! :) - 5/5/2009   8:41:18 AM
  • 30
    Hurray for ABP making the effort! I don't live near one now, but used to love the ones in Chicago. I don't eat out much now, so not likely to visit one, but I'm glad to see they're out there trying to do the right thing. And yes, those cautions apply just about everywhere.... - 5/5/2009   7:49:54 AM
  • 29
    Wish we had one here! - 5/5/2009   6:16:32 AM
  • 28
    great stuff!! - 5/4/2009   11:28:54 PM
  • 27
    It would be nice to have one of those here. Maybe one day - 5/4/2009   10:56:29 PM
  • 26
    I wish there was one of those restaurants in my state... - 5/4/2009   5:17:35 PM
  • 25
    I LOVE their soups! So yummy and filling! - 5/4/2009   4:14:29 PM
  • 24
    Never tried one before. - 5/4/2009   2:56:34 PM
    My DH and I don't eat out very often because of the sodium content and cost. I've learned to ask before I order. Sometimes I find a substitution. If I can't, I make sure to drink more water to help flush the salt out or I'll spend the next few days swollen up like a balloon. I'm going to check out the location of their restaurant in Northern California. Thanks for the information. - 5/4/2009   2:31:34 PM
    Th Menu sounds wonderful with so many choices. I wish there were more cafes like especially in California. - 5/4/2009   1:37:16 PM
  • 21
    You may be pleasantly surprised to find that you DO have an Au Bon Pain near you. I've never seen one unless it was in another public building, such as an airport, Amtrak train station, or museum. If you have any places like that near you they may have an Au Bon Pain! - 5/4/2009   1:35:14 PM
    A restaurant that recognizes dietary budgeting - gives you a print out to take with you of the caloric and nutritional spending - WHY oh WHY can't we have this magical place somewhere in Canada! I'm impressed! - 5/4/2009   12:45:27 PM
    don't have that restaurant around here myself, but it does sound pretty neat. i love the idea that they have a heckuva soup selection (beats places i know with no soups or only one kind--probably why i liked getting chinese food so much, three different soups most of the time and a whole lot of ways to get veggies)

    i am a soups girl, and if i had money, i'd probably visit this place, if it was around. neato. i hope the healthier concept catches on much quicker (and i'm so glad that near my rec center, and two doors down from the "curves" place, they're putting a subway in--my cravings will love me!) - 5/4/2009   12:34:21 PM
  • 18
    Au Bon Pain is my favorite airport food - I've started getting their chicken sandwich and asking for no cheese, and I take off one side of the bread to keep cals down. Not the best nutrition wise, but hey, it's better than many options. - 5/4/2009   12:31:54 PM
    Wish there was one located around my neck of the woods! - 5/4/2009   12:31:29 PM
  • 16
    the black bean soups sound great, but a day's worth of fiber all at once. I don't think my bowels would like me! lol - 5/4/2009   12:31:27 PM
  • 15
    To me it is just what you choose to eat on the run. - 5/4/2009   12:01:28 PM
  • 14
    I have to agree with one of the previous posters...what is up with the sodium. I am so sensitive to sodium and find eating out to be very difficult! - 5/4/2009   11:42:08 AM
  • 13
    I'm surprised to see a health focused restaurant like this not getting out to the appearance-obsessed southwest. Come visit us in Arizona, California and Nevada! We love these types of places! - 5/4/2009   11:30:02 AM
  • 12
    If there anything like panara there is no way that i would eat there cost way to much and the food is not that good sorry..!!! - 5/4/2009   11:21:41 AM
  • 11
    We don't have Au Bon Pain but we do have Panera Bread. I was really disappointed to find out that my favorite salad contained so many calories! Beware: As far as calories are concerned, salads are not always the best choice. - 5/4/2009   11:03:24 AM
  • WRITER28
    I think Au Bon Pain is Panera Bread in the midwest, though the menu isn't the same as Panera Bread.

    My DH and I ate at Panera Bread a few weeks ago. He saw the menu board, where it says 'natural chicken' and laughed. As a man who was around chickens as a youngster, he said there's nothing 'natural' about chickens, unless they're isolated from other chickens, kept in totally clean pens and not allowed to eat the stuff they usually eat (unmentionables) and are fed totally clean feed. They are just nasty. We don't eat much chicken because of it.

    No flaming, please! Just my observation. - 5/4/2009   10:37:07 AM
  • 9
    First I've heard of Au Bon Pain but the menu sounds great. I've discovered Baja Fresh and love their fish tacos, which I never thought I'd try. Their fresh salsa is low calorie and very tasty. Try it today on Cinco de Mayo if you have one in your town. - 5/4/2009   10:34:21 AM
    I really miss Au Bon Pain!! - 5/4/2009   10:28:07 AM
  • 7
    I MISS my Au Bon Pain!!! They make the BEST Asiago Cheese bagels! Not good for me, but great for a once in a while treat!!! At only 340 it's not awful...not like my second choice.....salt bagels!!! - 5/4/2009   10:21:07 AM
  • 6
    I sound like a broken record, I know: what is with the sodium? Reading the nutrition for these choices totally puts me off from even trying one. Why does one serving of soup contain 1100 mg of sodium? That's ridiculous and not necessary. - 5/4/2009   9:54:27 AM
  • IGIRL66
    I LOVE Au Bon Pain. And their website rocks.

    I pack my lunch almost every day, but, if I do decide to go out for lunch Au Bon Pain is pretty much the only restaurant I'll consider. When I travel for work I always check their website to see if there's an Au Bon Pain close to my hotel. Why? The meat-free and healthier options in a quick lunch environment.

    BUT, I will only consider it on days my health and diet reserves are STRONG. It should be noted that Au Bon Pain can be the ruin of many diets and health conscious determination. Along with the healthy and diet friendly options are incredible pastries positioned between the healthy salads and soup. The "deli" counter can be a health/diet sabotaging minefield, too.

    However, even with all the potential dangers lurking in Au Bon Pain it's still a far better option than "traditional" fast food restaurants. At least they make a sincere effort to offer healthy, nutritional options. And us vegetarians truly appreciate any restaurant that bothers to offer animal-free options.

    I wish other fast/quick food restaurants would get on board with healthier options, but sadly, as the other commenters noted, "traditional" (unhealthy) food choices are what sells.

    And important factor not noted on the blog is that Au Bon Pain is not cheap - soup and a salad runs about $9 - $12. I don't know what a meal combo at a "typical" fast food restaurant costs but I'm guessing it's less than $9 and probably seems like a lot more food. Americans (especially right now) are value conscious before they're health conscious. More bang for the buck, no matter how unhealthy, is always going to be more popular.

    Sadly, this is especially true when people are trying to feed a family with children away from home. It's cheaper to fill up the kids with a Happy Meal than to take them to Au Bon Pain where they can learn about healthier dining out options. In all the years I've been going to Au Bon Pain I can think of only three or four times I've seen kids under the age of 12 in there - and once it was because I dragged my young nieces in there. Maybe if Au Bon Pain started offering SpongeBob Soup or Dora Explores Vegetables at a greatly reduced price people might be more inclined to try it for their kids. - 5/4/2009   9:42:38 AM
  • 4
    No, I think people LOVE eating junk food and places will continue to sell it. It is SPARKERS like us to really care about our health, but we are in the minority. - 5/4/2009   9:08:10 AM
  • 3
    the cautions are good to keep in mind..

    becuase I've seen it far to often, that a restaurant gets labeled "healthy" and the lemmings make the assumption that everything on the menu is healthy - they have a brie cheese and ham on a croissant sandwich that I'm sure quite sure is healthy :D - its' good - but a person still has to pay attention to what they are ordering...

    The sodium content of the majority of their offerings, especially the soups, is unnecessarily high - a few simple tweaks (like not using canned black beans or canned stock in the black bean soup) would lower the sodium...

    - 5/4/2009   8:38:51 AM
  • 2
    They closed the ones around here, a few years back, and I STILL miss them. Not only was the food tasty and fresh, but relatively healthy, if you chose well.
    Sadly, the greasy spoons won out.
    But yes, I think health is becoming more and more an issue when dining out, and I sincerely hope this chain wins out in the end. - 5/4/2009   8:00:36 AM
  • 1
    That Restaurant is not around here but glad to see they are getting healthy foods in fast food restaurants. Then I can go with my family and friends to eat out when they want to go to those places. - 5/4/2009   7:50:10 AM

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