The Healthiest and Worst Lunches at Le Pain Quotidien

The good news is that it’s easy to choose wisely at this European chain, known for its artisanal bread.

By: Jazelle Hunt

As far as European chain restaurants go, you can’t get much more wholesome than Le Pain Quotidien, which means “our daily bread” in French. The communal cafe creates many of its dishes from scratch and makes an effort to cook organically when possible.

“It’s a great restaurant—I go there sometimes,” says Ann Gerber, RD, LD. “My general impression is that you can’t go too wrong. There are great options for vegans and those watching their gluten intake, as well as plenty of fruit and vegetable options, and they do try to go as organic as possible.”

Here’s what to order—and what to avoid—to get the most bang for your buck.

SALADS

• Worst—Mozzarella di bufala and plum tomatoes: It’s exactly what it says, plus shaved Parmesan, all drizzled with organic olive oil. “It’s seasonal, so this would be the best time of year to have it, but it’s mostly cheese and oil, which makes it high in saturated fats,” Gerber says.

• Better—Shrimp: Gerber clocks this salad at 490 calories, and says its mesclun, avocado, and mango-tomato salsa makes it a decent choice. “It’s a very colorful salad, low fat, low calorie,” Gerber explains. “The avocado brings it up a bit, and the dressing makes it a nice, modestly caloric option.”

• Best—Asian organic tofu: This vegan option is simple but wholesome, with organic tofu, tri-colored slaw, and light miso-ponzu dressing. Gerber says, “It’s less than 300 calories, but it gives lots of nutrition for such a small amount.”

TARTINES

• Worst—Prosciutto and mozzarella di bufala: This open-face sandwich includes sundried tomato and pesto, making it high in saturated fat. “There are lots of added oils here, which makes it close to 700 calories,” explains our expert.

• Better—Roasted turkey and avocado: This 410-calorie tartine, which our expert enjoyed with a side of mixed berries last week, offers heart-healthy fats, lean protein, and even whole-grain mustard, a nutritious condiment.

• Best—Smoked salmon: “Salmon is a heart-healthy lean protein and a great way to get omega-3s. Plus it’s only 380 calories, and there are monounsaturated fats from the avocado,” Gerber says.

SPECIALTIES

• Worst—Mediterranean plate: Gerber says, “I was prepared to say the cheese board [was the worst option], but because the portion size is bigger, the Mediterranean plate would be worse, assuming someone’s eating alone.” This vegan spread of assorted healthy dips—baba ghanoush, hummus, and quinoa tabbouleh—are all healthy but can easily add up to about 800 calories if you clear your plate (and that’s not including the bread).

• Best—Six-vegetable quiche: With seasonal garden vegetables and artichoke piled on a gluten-free buckwheat crust, it’s easy to see why this would be our expert’s top pick.

While Le Pain Quotidien is a great place to grab lunch, it’s important to remember that its signature item is high-calorie, high-carb bread. Pay attention to the menu’s calorie counts and remember they don’t include that complimentary slice.

“Although very delicious, that slice of bread is equivalent to one of those big bagels,” our expert points out. She also recommends keeping dressings on the side, and asking the restaurant to modify the dish the way you want it.