Are the Panera charged lemonade drinks a healthy alternative to coffee and espresso drinks?

No, the new Panera charged lemonades are not healthier alternatives to coffee or espresso.

The main reasons, in my professional opinion, are ingredients needing more research on healthfulness and total sugar content contributing to “empty calories.”

Two ingredients jump out while looking at the drink ingredients: guarana extract and green tea extract. According to studies, guarana extract is often used for its caffeine, which makes sense for this Panera drink, and is marketed for weight loss. Green tea extract is also used for caffeine and speculated to have benefits for reducing weight and inhibiting fat accumulation. Yet, more quality studies are needed to confirm or deny these speculated health benefits for both supplements.

As for sugar, the Panera website does not have added sugars listed on the nutrition label for each drink, just total grams of sugar. So, consumers are not informed of natural occuring sugar versus sugar added during manufacturing. What the website does state is, in a regular size (20oz) drink, there are 65 grams of total sugar in strawberry lemon mint, 82 grams in mango yuzu citrus, and 65 grams in Fuji apple cranberry. Clearly, more sugar would be in the large size (30oz) drink. To put this in perspective, one teaspoon equals 4 grams, so the mango drink contains 20.5 teaspoons of sugar, which is also equal to 20.5 sugar packets.

Plus, having a drink like this is what Dietitian’s call “empty calories.” These calories have no nutritional value because they lack fiber, protein, vitamins, etc. and can easily contribute to weight gain due to one having too much energy in the day than is needed.

The vast majority of people are not putting 20 packets of sugar in their coffee and they won’t lose weight with the unique ingredients. People can lose weight through reduced energy intake, increased physical activity, and behavior modification.

Therefore, customers would be much better off health-wise to stick to a plain, black coffee or one dressed up by themselves to their liking instead of drinking any of the charged lemonades.

A few other things to think about…

The caffeine amount in the Panera charged lemonades is touted to be the same as Panera’s dark roast coffee, so you’re not missing out there! The words “plant-based” and “clean” are catchy labels used by marketing; there is no certification on the Panera website for “plant-based” nor is there one for “clean.” Lastly, energy drinks are popular, so Panera might be trying to appeal to a demographic with this beverage through good marketing.

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