What you put in or on your burrito, sub, smoothie, latte, pizza, bagel, or plate of fast-Chinese food matters. Here’s how to slash the calories and boost the nutrients. Talk about a win-win.

The information for this article was compiled by Jennifer Urban.


panera food

At Panera, a (partly) Whole Grain Bagel and cream cheese (520 calories) plus a 16 oz. Caramel Latte with no whip or caramel drizzle (320) means 840 calories for breakfast.

Instead, order an Avocado, Egg White & Spinach Breakfast Sandwich on a (partly whole grain) Sprouted Grain Bagel Flat (320 calories without cheese) plus a Latte with skim milk (100).

Voilà! You jettison half the calories, three-quarters of a day’s saturated fat, an estimated 6½ teaspoons of added sugar, and 340 milligrams of sodium. And you gain a few leafy greens and some healthy (unsaturated) fat in the avocado.


Get the app. Panera lets you customize your order—and see how that changes calories, etc.—on your smartphone or at kiosks in most stores.

Salad up. Salads beat sandwiches because you trade bread for veggies. You’ll cut the amount of dressing in half if you order it “light.” Or try the reduced-fat balsamic vinaigrette or another lower-calorie dressing.

Stick to the right side. The apple (80 calories) easily beats the chips (150) or baguette or roll (170 to 190).

Jamba Juice

jamba juice

Think smoothies are healthy? At Jamba Juice, a medium (22 oz.) Amazing Greens Smoothie packs 500 calories, thanks, in part, to the sugary liquids—lemonade and peach juice—that Jamba adds to the greens, peaches, bananas, and pumpkin seeds.

A few of Jamba’s smoothies skip those liquids. That lets you halve the calories with, say, a small (16 oz.) Green Up ‘N Go Smoothie (apple, nonfat greek yogurt, cucumber, baby spinach, grapes, pumpkin seeds, and lemon juice).


Downsize. A small is around 200 to 400 calories. A medium typically is 300 to 500. Most larges run 400 to 600.

Skip the juice & sugar. Jamba lets you replace the fruit juice with 2% milk and the frozen yogurt or sherbet with nonfat greek yogurt (to bump up the protein). Smoothie King and Tropical Smoothie Cafe add turbinado sugar to many of their smoothies. It’s no better than any other sugar.

Panda Express

Panda Express food

At fast-casual Chinese places like Panda Express, you can fill a bowl with one entrée (like chicken or beef) and one side (like rice, veggies, or chow mein). If you make it Orange Chicken over Fried Rice at Panda, you’re talking 900 calories.

Instead, switch to String Bean Chicken Breast and replace the fried rice with half Steamed Brown Rice, half Mixed Vegetables. Now you’re down to 440 calories.

Or replace all the rice or noodles (400 to 500 calories) with veggies (80 calories), and your bowl has just 270 calories.


Get just one entrée. At Panda Express, a “plate” has two—and a “bigger plate” has three—entrées and one side. You’ve got your best chance of staying under 1,000 calories if you stick to a single entrée.

Don’t get fried. Skip chicken, beef or shrimp entrées—like General Tso’s chicken or crispy beef—that are deep-fried and (often) battered or tossed in a sugary sauce. An unbattered stir-fried entrée—like beef & broccoli, mushroom chicken, or sautéed tofu—can save 100, 200, or even 300 calories.


pieology food

Pieology, MOD Pizza, Blaze Pizza, and other assembly-line places let you pick one of the restaurant’s combos or choose your own crust, sauce, and as many toppings as you like (typically all for one price).

At Pieology, a Mad to Meat You pizza (pepperoni, sausage, meatballs, mozzarella, red sauce) will set you back 1,050 calories.

But you can get down below 500 by eating half of the right Custom pie. Ours had red sauce, mozzarella, mushrooms, green bell peppers, red onions, and fresh basil on a whole wheat crust (Pieology won’t say what percentage is whole).


Eat just half (or go mini). At Pieology, the (11.5”) crust alone—whole wheat or white flour—delivers 460 calories, much like Blaze’s (400) and MOD’s (490). But MOD’s mini (6”) crust has just 210 calories. For a gluten-free crust, add roughly 50 to 150 calories to your full-size pie.

Pile on the veggies. Raw veggies are freebies. (Skip the salty olives and pickled jalapeños.) Add a roasted veggie or two (if you find any), plus a handful of fresh basil after baking.

One cheese, please. It takes about 300 calories’ worth of mozzarella to cover a full-size crust. That’s plenty.

Think red. Tomato sauce has fewer calories than pesto or (artery-clogging) alfredo sauce.

Try a side salad. Skip the salad’s cheese. (There’s cheese on your pizza.) Or split a pizza and a larger salad with a friend.


subway food

If you take Subway’s advice to “Make it a Meal” with a 6” Chicken & Bacon Ranch Melt sub on an Italian roll (590 calories) plus a bag of SunChips (210) and a 21 oz. fountain Fuze iced (sweetened) green tea (140), you’re up to 940 calories.

Instead, try a 6” Rotisserie-Style Chicken on a Multigrain Flatbread with provolone and mustard (410 calories) with a bag of apple slices (40) and a 21 oz. fountain Fuze unsweetened iced tea (0).


Get better breads. The Multigrain Flatbread has no fewer calories, but it’s all whole grain. The 9-Grain Wheat and 9-Grain Honey Oat are only part whole.

Make the cheese optional. Cut it to save about 50 calories. Or, for an extra 75¢, switch to a healthier fat (avocado, 60 calories).

Make it a salad. For around $2 extra, you can swap the bread for salad. save about 170 calories and get some potassium from the veggies to help counter the high-salt meats. Ask for just a light drizzle of Subway Vinaigrette or oil & vinegar.


chipotle food

Whether you’re at Chipotle, Qdoba, Moe’s, or another fast-casual Mexican chain, “the usual” piles some 1,000 calories on your plate.

Exhibit A: a 1,140- calorie Chipotle Chicken Burrito (flour tortilla, chicken, white rice, black beans, roasted chili-corn salsa, sour cream, cheese).

You can get down to 570 by switching to a Chicken Burrito Bowl (half brown rice, half romaine topped with chicken, black beans, fajita veggies, tomatillo green-chili salsa, and cheese).


Skip the burrito tortilla. Who needs 300 calories of white flour, when you can have a bowl or salad?

Get cheese OR sour cream (or neither). Every quarter cup of cheese or sour cream adds about 100 calories and a quarter of a day’s saturated fat.

Lose the rice. Swapping all the rice for romaine saves 200 calories.

Dress wisely. A four-tablespoon serving of Chipotle-Honey Vinaigrette packs 220 calories. Use half or simply dress your salad with salsa.

Watch the guac. If you don’t want the 230 calories in a half-cup serving, get it on the side and use half. Or, if you don’t mind losing some protein, get it instead of chicken or sofritas (tofu).

Speak up. Some servers have a heavy hand with the cheese, rice, etc. Ask for a half-scoop instead of a heaping one.

Skip the chips. They’re 540 calories sans salsa (20 to 80) or guac (230).

Photos: Jennifer Urban/CSPI.