It's the latest in a string of chain restaurants to kick artificial ingredients to the curb.
Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images

If you're one of those people tired of unhealthy ingredients like trans fats and MSG thrown into your food, you'll rejoice in this news: Panera Bread is the latest in a string of chain restaurants to kick artificial ingredients to the curb, joining Chipotle and Starbucks.

You heard that right. The popular cafe-bakery is set to implement a new food policy that will remove artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives from its menu by the end of 2016. A few changes have already been made while others are in the works.

Starting in July, Panera's Summer Corn Chowder will be sold without ingredients like maltodextrin and corn starch and, earlier this year, they rolled out horseradish sauce sans calcium disodium EDTA, and cilantro hummus minus the potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate. Just last year, the chain introduced a new grass-fed sirloin steak to replace its roast beef, which contained caramel color. The chain is also working to remove high-frutose corn syrup from its beverages, including sodas.

Panera's annoucement is a big step for the clean eating movement: it allows health-minded people the chance to fuel up with real, natural food when ordering out. And for that, Health's contributing nutrition editor Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, applauds the chain.

"Everything we consume should serve a natural purpose–either to fuel our activity or help our cells perform vital functions," Sass says. "Artificial additives don't do any of this."

But don't get too excited just yet. Even though the artificial stuff may be left in the dust, that doesn't give you a free pass to eat everything in sight. You still need think about the other unhealthy ingredients lurking in those tempting breads and desserts, too.

"It's important to keep in mind that natural foods can be high in sugar, refined starch, sodium, unhealthy fat, and calories–especially baked goods!" Sass says. "After reading the ingredient list, take a look at the Nutrition Facts so you'll have a complete picture of how a meal or treat would impact your healthy eating plan."

Though Panera still has a ways to go to get rid of artificial ingredients, the changes afoot are still a win for clean eaters everywhere.