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Fast Food Gone Healthy: Panera Ditches All Artificial Ingredients

Written by Anna Hecht, editorial intern

Dining out, while following a balanced diet, is hardly ever as simple as it seems—especially when the seemingly “healthy” restaurants have packed their meals with artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors and preservatives. So we couldn’t help but give three major cheers when Panera Bread announced that it will swear off all artificial ingredients and preservatives by 2016.

Founded on the belief that “quick food could also be quality food,” Panera plans to further its mission by retiring artificial ingredients, such as MSG and artificial trans fats. Instead, the company has built a comprehensive plan that will have all locations using clean ingredients, along with a transparent menu. Translation: customers are gaining more control over what they eat, even when they’re not cooking it themselves. Everybody now: big sigh of relief!

So what specific changes can you expect when you visit a Panera? First, all of those delish dressings and sauces can be served guilt-free, because there won’t be any artificial preservatives. And the bakery items (mmm…bear claws)—actually, everything on the menu—will no longer contain high-fructose corn syrup, and natural alternatives will replace artificial coloring in icing.  Panera is even looking into different options for traditional deli meats, since those often have nitrites and artificial preservatives hanging around.

The problem with all of these artificial ingredients lies in what Panera is calling “a broken food system.” Even though many of us are health-conscious, the status quo over the past few decades has been to include artificial additives in pretty much everything—from snacks to fast foods and pantry ingredients. While choosing foods wisely can be somewhat of a chore, efforts like this will become a restaurant trend, improving the dining-out experience for those of us who are constantly on the go. Fingers crossed!

Photo courtesy of Panera

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