Is Panda Express Healthy?


When you’re in the mood for some fast Chinese-inspired food, Panda Express can quickly satiate your cravings. This fast-food chain has humble beginnings dating back to 1983 when Peggy and Andrew Cherng started Panda Express in Glendale, California as a way to support their family. Fast forwarding almost four decades later, Panda Express opened its 2,000th store in 2020. The beloved restaurant says it works to continually provide innovation in the realm of Chinese American food, and its popularity certainly proves that it’s been successful so far.

Is Panda Express Healthy?

Yes, Panda Express has some pretty delicious food, so it may be surprising to know that their healthier options can be just as good as their delicious fried rice or infamous orange chicken. These healthier options at Panda Express will not only save you the extra calories and unnecessary fat, but also come with some awesome nutritional benefits in return.

Although many of Panda Express’ dishes are high in sodium and sugar, you can still find nutritious choices on their menu. If you are looking for a healthier lunch or dinner, plan ahead by researching lower-sodium, lower-sugar items—or consider the chain’s line of lower-calorie Wok Smart entrees.

For Chinese-inspired cuisine at a lower price point, Panda Express has plenty to offer for most people. If you follow a specific diet or have serious food allergies or intolerances, however, you’ll likely need to be careful about dining at this chain.

Diet-Specific Options

Panda Express is quite transparent about the fact that they don’t cater much to special diets. You won’t find a gluten-free, vegan, or vegetarian section of their menu. On the other hand, depending on your dietary needs, you may be able to craft a meal that works for you. Try the options below for special diets.


  • Super greens
  • Mushroom chicken
  • Grilled Asian chicken
  • Grilled teriyaki chicken
  • String bean chicken breast

The trick when eating low-carb is to make selections that provide some fiber while keeping total carbs and sugar low. For a lower-carb meal at Panda Express, skip the rice or chow mein as sides and opt for vegetables instead.


  • Super greens
  • Mushroom chicken
  • String bean chicken breast

For a lower-sodium, higher-protein meal, check out the black pepper Angus steak. With a side of super greens, it makes a diabetes-friendly meal that is satisfying and flavorful.


  • Super greens
  • Chicken potstickers
  • White or brown rice

It’s not too difficult to customize a low-fat meal at Panda Express. Try pairing the broccoli beef with white rice for a total of just 7g of fat.


  • Super greens
  • Chicken potstickers
  • White or brown rice
  • Cream cheese Rangoon
  • Sweet and sour chicken breast

Sodium is always a nutrient of concern when dining out—but that does not mean you cannot find a lower-salt meal at Panda Express. The sweet and sour chicken entree has a moderate 260 milligrams.

How to order your meal at Panda Express

Panda Express works a bit differently than most fast-food chains, so it may be helpful to know what you’re getting into ahead of time. When you walk into the chain (or start your online order), you’ll first be asked what type of meal you want, with the following options:

  • Bowl: 1 side and 1 entree
  • Plate: 1 side and 2 entrees
  • Bigger Plate: 1 side and 3 entrees
  • Family Meal: 2 large sides and 3 large entrees

The choices for sides, entrees, and appetizers vary depending on the location. In order to build our list of the healthiest Panda Express orders, it was best to separate your options into healthy entrees, as well as healthy sides. That way you can know the nutritional value of each item, and build your desired meal from there.

Healthiest Menu Items at Panda Express

Without further ado, here are 8 Panda Express healthy options, chosen by expert dietitian Mary Sabat MS, RDN, LD. Then, for more healthy tips for dining out:

Grilled Teriyaki Chicken

This dish, which is made with chicken breast that has been marinated in a teriyaki sauce and grilled, is high in protein and low in fat, and it’s a good option if you’re looking for a lean source of protein.

String Bean Chicken Breast

The String Bean Chicken Breast entree from Panda Express is one of the lower-calorie entrees, but it still packs in 12 grams of protein per meal.

Broccoli Beef

If you’re trying to satisfy a beef craving, this dish is a better option than something like the Beijing Beef, which comes with 480 calories, 27 grams of fat, and 5 grams of saturated fat.

Black Pepper Angus Steak

Another healthy Panda Express entree for red meat lovers is the Black Pepper Angus Steak. This meal is one of the restaurant’s “Wok Smart” dishes, which guarantees that it will have at least 8 grams of protein for under 300 calories.

Mushroom Chicken

Another chicken option with plenty of vegetables, the Mushroom Chicken provides 13 grams of protein and only 220 calories.

Grilled Teriyaki Cub Meal

While the meal is a great choice for children, it’s also a healthy choice for any age. Choose from the Chicken Teriyaki, Broccoli Beef, or Orange Chicken.

Super Greens

Panda Express offers a few sides to choose from, such as Fried Rice, White Rice, Steamed Brown Rice, Chow Mein, and Super Greens. Out of these options, we recommend opting for the Super Greens for an extra health boost.

Steamed Brown Rice

If you’re craving rice with your Panda Express meal, we suggest choosing brown over white, “because it contains more fiber and nutrients.

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