Subway may promote itself as the "healthy" fast food restaurant, but it might not be a much healthier alternative than McDonald's for adolescents, according to new UCLA research.
The researchers found that teenagers who purchased Subway meals consumed nearly as many calories as they did at McDonald's. Meals from both restaurants are likely to contribute toward overeating and obesity, according to the researchers.
The researchers recruited 97 adolescents, ages 12 to 21, to purchase meals at McDonald's and Subway restaurants at a shopping mall in Carson, California. The participants went to each restaurant on different weekdays between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., and paid for the meals with their own money. Researchers used the participants' cash register receipts to record what each customer ate and estimated calorie counts from information on the chains' websites.
The researchers found that the participants bought meals containing an average of 1,038 calories at McDonald's and an average of 955 calories at Subway. There was no statistically significant difference between the two restaurants, and that participants ate too many calories at both.
The Institute of Medicine recommends that school lunches not exceed 850 calories. An adolescent should consume an average of about 2,400 calories in a day.
Among the researchers' other findings:
- The sandwiches purchased by participants contained an average of 784 calories at Subway versus 572 calories at McDonald's.
- Participants purchased sugary drinks averaging 61 calories at Subway, and 151 calories at McDonald's.
- Customers in the study purchased side items such as French fries and potato chips that added an average of 35 calories at Subway compared with 201 calories at McDonald's.
- Participants consumed 102 grams of carbohydrates at Subway; 128 grams at McDonald's.
- The meals contained an average of 36 grams of sugar at Subway; 54 grams at McDonald's.
- Meals contained an average of 41 grams of protein at subway; 32 grams at McDonald's.
- Sodium intake averaged 2,149 mg at Subway; 1,829 mg at McDonald's.
While the nutrient profile at Subway was slightly healthier, the food still contained three times the recommended amount of salt, most likely from processed meats. Processed meats in general are associated with obesity, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
The researchers did not track the participants' meals for the rest of the day, so it was unclear whether participants ate less at other times of the day to compensate for the excess calories.
Source: Journal of Adolescent Health, May 6, 2013
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.