Can I Eat Panera Chicken Salad During Pregnancy Safely?

Panera Bread has an awesome menu to choose from, with one of its bestsellers being the chicken salad sandwich. It’s delicious, filling, and surprisingly nutritious, and the toppings that come bundled in – almonds, celery, and tomatoes – can only improve upon this.

That said, can you eat a Panera chicken salad while pregnant? Are there any notable risks?

Make sure your chicken salad is properly cooked before digging in. A lot of salad meats come pre-cooked, and you won’t be able to gauge their overall storage time in the fridge. Ask the staff to cook you a fresh batch – or better yet, have it replaced with grilled chicken instead.

The salad vegetables need to be washed properly beforehand, as these may carry potential infections – and these won’t get the chance to be cooked out, unlike with chicken.

Be mindful of the mayo too, as it might use unpasteurized eggs that have a chance of containing Salmonella bacteria – something pregnant women are especially vulnerable to. Thankfully, Panera Bread is a chain store, so they almost always use standard, pasteurized mayonnaise (but it never hurts to double-check first!).

Lastly, eat your chicken salad quickly! Leaving it on the countertop for even a couple of hours can taint it with dangerous bacteria. It’s safer to put them in the fridge instead, but we wouldn’t let those leftovers sit for more than a day.

You’re free to eat a Panera chicken salad while pregnant, but remember not to do so recklessly. The chicken may be underdone – or the vegetables could be unwashed. Foodborne illnesses are especially harsh on pregnant women, so even unlikely risks need to be considered.

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Panera Chicken Salads While Pregnant: What to Consider

Cook the Chicken Properly

chicken breasts and spices

If you want to safely eat a Panera chicken salad while pregnant, your first priority should be ensuring that your chicken has been thoroughly cooked.

Your two chief concerns with chicken are Salmonella and Listeria, but fortunately, both of these can be treated with high heat. Listeria has a lower temperature threshold, requiring your meat to hit an internal temperature of 145°F for a few minutes for Listeria to be cooked out. Salmonella is a little tougher and requires you to reach at least 165°F to fully eradicate the contamination.

While Panera chicken sandwiches are made to order, remember that most of their chicken is pre-cooked. You won’t be able to tell how long they’ve been placed in cold storage, so play it safe and ask them to reheat your chicken until it’s piping hot again!

You could request that they replace the pre-cooked chicken with fresh grilled chicken to ensure that you’re getting a fresh batch. Alternatively, you may also opt to replace the chicken with avocado at no additional charge. Not every chain offers these choices, but if you want to enjoy a nice Panera chicken salad while pregnant don’t be shy about asking them first!

No Unwashed Vegetables!

washing vegetables

Though most of the focus falls on the chicken being properly cooked, you also need to pay attention to the vegetables – specifically, you need to ensure that the staff has washed them properly first.   

Unwashed vegetables can transmit a lot of foodborne infections and can be trickier to deal with – as contaminants won’t be cooked off as they would be in chicken. How Panera Bread handles its salad preparation will vary between branches, so no single answer will set your mind at ease.

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Before ordering, ask the server if they’re sure the vegetables have been washed properly. It might be a good idea to tell them about your pregnancy first, so they understand why it’s so important.

If you can’t be certain, don’t order! Your baby’s health will be placed at serious risk, as unwashed vegetables are something pregnant moms need to abstain from eating, no matter what!

Mind the Mayo

Panera chicken salad sandwiches should be fine for pregnant women, but there’s a small chance that they’re using unpasteurized mayonnaise. Unpasteurized mayo uses raw egg yolks, which may give people food poisoning. It’s especially notorious for potentially harboring Salmonella bacteria, which is something pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to.

Thankfully, most store-bought mayonnaise is fully pasteurized. A restaurant chain like Panera Bread will often use store-bought mayo, but you can’t ever rule out the possibility of exceptions. Ask your server what mayo they’re using in the shop, then look the brand up just to be safe.

While pasteurized mayo would be safe to eat, it’s still going to be loaded with fat and calories – these won’t bode well for your pregnancy (or personal health) in the long run. We’d advise that you just pass on the mayo for now and save yourself the headache. 

Eat it Quickly.

While there are some risks, a pregnant woman can safely eat a Panera chicken salad. Shelf life does need to be taken into consideration as well, so make sure to finish leftovers promptly.

A sandwich left at room temperature is liable to develop some foul bacteria – most of which end up giving people food poisoning. You can safely leave a sandwich like this for two hours, max, and damp ingredients like mayonnaise will leave you with even less time here!

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You’ll have a bit more leeway if you immediately place your chicken salad in the fridge, but we wouldn’t recommend that you leave it uneaten for longer than a day. Even if it smells or even tastes alright, you can’t afford to take even tiny risks like this while pregnant!

All in all, you do have some wiggle room to work with, but we’d still strongly recommend that you finish your Panera chicken salad in one sitting – or at least within the day.

Final Thoughts

Good news – you can eat a Panera chicken salad even if you’re pregnant! You just can’t get complacent. A lot of things could go wrong, however unlikely those might seem. They only need to go wrong once to derail your pregnancy, so be extra careful with everything to consider.

Make sure that the chicken is cooked, the mayo is pasteurized, and the vegetables are washed! Try not to leave leftovers, but if it can’t be helped be sure to finish your chicken salad within the day.

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