All menu item photos property of Panda Express
When it comes to eating healthy, we don’t often think of fast food.
But if you know what to order, fast food can be surprisingly healthy! Today we’re going to break down the Panda Express menu to help you find the healthiest menu items to order.
I’d like to remind everyone that “healthy” is completely subjective, and what one person deems healthy another person might not. For example, a high-protein option might be the healthiest option for you, but somebody with a history of heart disease might look at how much sodium that item contains and decide it is unhealthy.
I’m going to break down the entire Panda Express menu here so you can find the healthiest options for you.
- How Ordering at Panda Express Works
- The Healthiest Menu Items at Panda Express
- Lowest Calorie Panda Express Menu Items
- Highest Protein Panda Express Menu Items
- Low-Carb & Keto-Friendly Panda Express Meals
- Healthiest Meals at Panda Express
- Is Panda Express Healthy?
- How Does Panda Express Compare to Other Fast Food?
How Ordering at Panda Express Works
If you’ve never eaten at Panda Express, you may not be familiar with the unique ordering methods.
At most fast food restaurants (aside from places like Subway or Chipotle) you order items directly off the menu. Sure, you can ask for substitutions and order tweaks, but you more or less assemble a meal based on the menu items you want.
At Panda Express, you have 4 main ordering options:
- Order A La Carte (individual entrees and sides)
- Order a Bowl (1 entree and 1 side)
- Order a Plate (2 entrees and 1 side)
- Order a Bigger Plate (3 entrees and 1 side)
You’re essentially ordering one base, which they call side dishes, and then choosing your protein to pair with that side.
At Panda Express you’re not choosing a protein and various veggies, but rather just single items to top your chow mein, steamed rice, or fried rice.
The Healthiest Menu Items at Panda Express
I’ll provide the nutrition facts for the entire Panda Express menu in this handy infographic, but I also want to point you in the direction of some of the healthiest options you can order.
Since we all define “healthy” differently, I’ll give you some options based on your possible dietary goals.
Note: I will not be touching on grams of fiber, mg of sodium, or grams of sugar. I am strictly looking at calories and macros (fat content, total carbs, and protein). If you need more specific nutritional information, check out the Panda Express website.
Lowest Calorie Panda Express Menu Items
If weight loss is your goal, then a healthy diet is going to consist of lower-calorie, higher-volume options.
Luckily for you, Panda Express is a fast-food restaurant with lots of great options.
Lowest Calorie Side
90 Calories, 3g Fat, 10g Carbs, 6g Protein
The Super Greens at Panda Express is a medley of fresh broccoli, kale, and cabbage. With under 100 calories for the entire thing, it’s a great way to assemble a bowl or plate with fewer calories.
Lowest Calorie Seafood Entree
130 Calories, 4g Fat, 11g Carbs, 12g Protein
With just over 100 calories, the Sizzling Shrimp (shrimp mixed with baby broccoli in a sweet & sour sauce) is one of the healthier options at Panda Express.
Lowest Calorie Beef Entree
150 Calories, 7g Fat, 13g Carbs, 9g Protein
The Broccoli Beef is a really good choice for someone looking for a low-calorie option. If you assemble a plate with the broccoli beef (which is two servings) you’ll only have 300 total calories and 18g of protein!
Lowest Calorie Chicken Entree
String Bean Chicken
210 Calories, 12g Fat, 13g Carbs, 12g Protein
There are a lot of similar options, but the lowest-calorie chicken entree is the string bean chicken breast with just 210 calories. With 12 grams of protein, it’s not the highest-protein option, but it’s still a great low calorie option thanks to the combination of lean chicken breast and string beans.
Highest Protein Panda Express Menu Items
If you’re like me, then your goal is to eat a high-protein diet. If you want to maximize your protein intake, here are some of the best choices.
Highest Protein Side
510 Calories, 20g Fat, 80g Carbs, 13g Protein
With around 500 calories, the Chow Mein may not be the healthiest choice nor the most “macro friendly,” but it has the most protein! If you want a slightly more balanced option, steamed white rice or a side of brown rice will contain fewer calories (around 380) and still 7 grams of protein, which is solid.
Highest Protein Entree
Grilled Teriyaki Chicken
275 Calories, 10g Fat, 14g Carbs, 33g Protein
The teriyaki chicken at Panda Express is arguably the most popular main dish they offer, and with 33 g protein, it’s easy to see why. When you combine juicy, lean chicken breast with delicious teriyaki sauce, what’s not to love? If you combine two of these entrees, you’ll have 66 grams of protein, which is unheard of for fast-food joints.
Low-Carb & Keto-Friendly Panda Express Meals
If you’re watching your total carbs, you’ll likely want to stick with ordering A La Carte items at Panda Express.
While you can order a dish with a side of Super Greens for only 10 grams of carbs, let’s assume you want to keep the carbs as low as possible and stick with just entrees. Here are some of the best low-carb options for your keto diet (items with under 15 g carbs)
- Super Greens: 45 Calories & 5g Carbs (2g Net Carbs)
- Sizzling Shrimp: 130 Calories & 8g Carbs (7g Net Carbs)
- String Bean Chicken: 210 Calories & 13g Carbs (8g Net Carbs)
- Mushroom Chicken: 220 Calories & 10g Carbs (9g Net Carbs)
- Broccoli Beef: 150 Calories & 13g Carbs (11g Net Carbs)
- Black Pepper Angus Steak: 210 Calories & 13g Carbs (12g Net Carbs)
- Kung Pao Chicken: 290 Calories & 14g Carbs (12g Net Carbs)
- Grilled Teriyaki Chicken: 275 Calories & 14g Carbs
- Black Pepper Chicken: 280 Calories & 15g Carbs (14g Net Carbs)
Healthiest Meals at Panda Express
We’ve broken down some specific options, but now it’s time to compile our ideal meal. Rather than looking at individual items, let’s look at different bowl, plate, and bigger plate options.
We’re not going to exclusively look at low-calorie options, but rather build a quality, well-balanced meal.
These are certainly not the only options, but here are a few ideas for the next time you’re looking to eat healthy at Panda Express.
Healthy Bowl Idea
Steamed White Rice with Teriyaki Chicken
655 Calories, 10g Fat, 101g Carbs, 40g Protein
If you want a macro-balanced meal and don’t mind some carbs, this is a great combination to get you a good amount of protein without going overboard on calories.
If you prefer whole grains, you can also order steamed brown rice depending on your Panda Express location. While it will come with some extra calories (about 30) it’s also a great option.
Healthy Plate Idea
Half Chow Mein & Half Super Greens with Black Pepper Angus Steak and Broccoli Beef
660 Calories, 27g Fat, 72g Carbs, 38g Protein
Did you know that you could order half sides at Panda Express? Whether you want to go with a half order of chow mein or a half order of brown rice, you can pair that with a half order of super greens to add some extra volume to any dish!
Healthy Bigger Plate Idea
Super Greens with 3 Sizzling Shrimp Entrees
480 Calories, 15g Fat, 43g Carbs, 42g Protein
If you want a low-calorie, high-protein option at Panda Express, pair the Super Greens with 3 orders of the Sizzling Shrimp for an impressive 42 grams of protein and under 500 calories!
Is Panda Express Healthy?
While some options are better than others, it’s clear that Panda Express can be a very healthy fast food option! Given the fact that you can easily customize your meal to fit your specific dietary preferences, it makes it one of the best healthy options as far as fast food is concerned.
Sure, not every single item is going to be traditionally “healthy.” Items like Orange Chicken, which is fried chicken in a thick sauce, or honey walnut shrimp, which is tempura-battered crispy shrimp, may not be the best bet for overall nutritional value.
But if you choose wisely, you can assemble an amazing (and healthy) meal at Panda Express.
How Does Panda Express Compare to Other Fast Food?
I love putting these fast-food menu guides together, and I find it really interesting to see how each menu stacks up.
I have a ton of menu breakdowns on my blog, but here are some to get you started: