Pret A Manger has plenty of tasty options, but that makes it harder to choose wisely. Photograph courtesy of Flickr user Mr. T in DC.
Thanks to its socially conscious approach, there’s not much to dislike about Pret A Manger. The soup/salad/sandwich eatery came to the District in 2009 and quickly became a staple (especially for Washingtonian staff). So it was with great interest that we asked DC-based Sarah R., RD, to take a look at the menu of this reliable British import.
“They have a good amount of ‘slim’ options, so they already make it easier for customers to recognize the better choices,” she says. “But people can get confused with so many options, and there are definitely some traps they may not be aware of.”
Check out her picks for the best and worst items below.
• Blueberry muffin: Shocker—muffins are totally useless nutritionally (and bagels aren’t too far behind). “Muffins are probably the worst things you can have in the morning; they’ll sit in your stomach and make you tired,” Sarah reveals. “Out of everything, even the chocolate croissant, the blueberry muffins have the most calories, sodium, fat, and carbs, and very little fiber or protein.”
• Plain croissant: If you really want a pastry, Romotsky recommends the plain croissant for its bit of fiber. “Maybe have half with an egg for protein,” she adds.
• Oatmeal: Tried-and-true oatmeal is so healthy, you can order a large. Just be careful about sprucing it up—stick to almonds, walnuts, cinnamon, and no more than one pack of sweetener. Stay away from dried fruit.
• Egg salad, Parmesan, and spinach sandwich: “It sounds like it’s pretty healthy, but the trap is the word ‘salad,’” Sarah explains. “This salad is held together with mayonnaise, so it has half your daily sodium, 650 calories, and 25 grams of fat. You might as well have a slice of cheesecake.”
• Egg salad and arugula sandwich: If egg salad is your thing, then this is the way to do it, our expert says. “In general eggs aren’t bad, but in an egg salad the mayo is the problem. This one’s a bit lighter.”
• Spicy shrimp and cilantro wrap: “I was really excited about this one—it’s got lots of protein, little saturated fat, and it’s on a low-calorie tortilla,” Sarah says. With its snack-worthy 290 calories and hefty 22 grams of protein, you’ll get a filling meal and still have room for a treat later.
Soups and Salads
• Steak and ale soup: “This was mind-blowing to me. It’s like the equivalent of four sliders,” Sarah says. “For 35 grams of fat, 21 grams of saturated fat, and 1,125 milligrams of sodium, you could’ve eaten huge amounts of food.” If you really want a beefy soup, Pret’s beef stew is a better bet.
• Pret’s cobb and greens salad: As expected, the cobb , with its bacon and blue cheese, isn’t your friend. Though high in protein, it’s got lots of fat and sugar that render the salad unhealthy.
• Turkey chili: Sarah says, “There were a few [soups] I really liked, but if you get soup for lunch you want to feel full. [This] is high in protein and lower in sodium than most soup.” It comes with pretzel bread, which she recommends swapping for a whole-grain option if available.
• Tuna niçoise salad: Our expert explains: “The tuna has healthy fat, there’s an egg, which is a great source of vitamin D, and it’s a low-calorie option.” The high protein content is a tummy-filling bonus.
Sarah R. is a nutritional counselor at both locations of Mint Gym, and serves gym members and nonmembers. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or ask for her at 202-328-6468.