By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS

0331-Feature-Panera_WP

Panera Bread on Wednesday will start labeling the amount of added sugars and calories in beverages. It is the first national restaurant chain to post nutritional information at self-serve beverage stations.

Most Americans want to cut sugar in their diet but aren’t sure how, according to a 2016 Healthline.com survey of more than 3,000 people.

To give customers more low-sugar options, Panera Bread will offer six new beverages made without artificial sweeteners, preservatives, flavors or colors from artificial sources.

Drinks with no added sugar are iced black tea, plum ginger hibiscus tea and a prickly pear hibiscus fresca. Passion papaya green tea, blood orange lemonade and agave lemonade have less than 35 grams of added sugar per 20 ounces.

By September, all of Panera Bread’s more than 2,000 locations will feature the new drinks.

“Offering more lower-sugar drinks allows patrons to select from a wider variety of healthy options, a move we can all celebrate,” said Jo Ann Carson, Ph.D., chair of the American Heart Association’s nutrition committee and professor of clinical nutrition at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

The reformulated green tea and lemonade will have 43 percent less added sugar than prior versions, and the amount of added sugar in the new drinks is half that – sometimes even lower – of a traditional full-calorie 20-ounce soda, said the company’s director of wellness Sara Burnett.

A 20-ounce original formula Coca-Cola has 65 grams of sugar, which equates to more than 16 teaspoons.

“Just one 20-ounce soft drink contains more than the recommended daily amount of added sugar,” Panera Bread CEO Ron Shaich said in a news release.

The AHA recommends consumers limit added sugar to no more than half of their daily discretionary calories. For men, that’s no more than about 150 calories a day, or 9 teaspoons. Women should eat no more than 100 calories a day, or 6 teaspoons.

Signs posted near drink stations will show total calories, total added sugar and serving size of each new drink.

“We believe that our guests should be informed at the ‘point of pour’ so they can decide on the best drink for themselves,” Burnett said.

The company has posted calorie counts on its menu boards since 2010, and in January, the company announced its U.S. food menu was free of artificial sweeteners, preservatives, flavors and colors from artificial sources. Burnett said the company has plans to provide more complete nutritional information for all its menu items.

“We’re starting with beverages, and we’ll progressively add other categories,” Burnett said.

Eating too much sugar increases the risk of obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. But it also increases the risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases, according to a 2014 study.

“When restaurants make this kind of change, it can have a real positive impact for their dedicated patrons,” Carson said. “Panera is leading what could be a new movement in consumer education on the amount of added sugar in many beverages.”