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Subway Is Just as Bad For You as McDonald’s

This ad for Subway sandwiches reminds you that, unlike their fast food competitors that sell burgers and fries and shakes, Subway is healthy. That seems obvious, since they’re selling sandwiches with lettuce on them while other places sell fattening burgers. But a new study suggests that in fact eating at Subway might be less healthy [...]

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This ad for Subway sandwiches reminds you that, unlike their fast food competitors that sell burgers and fries and shakes, Subway is healthy. That seems obvious, since they’re selling sandwiches with lettuce on them while other places sell fattening burgers. But a new study suggests that in fact eating at Subway might be less healthy than eating at McDonald’s.

The study sent a bunch of kids off to the two chains. The researchers tracked what the kids ate and counted the calories. On average, whole meal at McDonald’s added up to 1,038 calories, but Subway wasn’t far behind at 955. And if you take away the extras and sides, Subway starts to lose out. The sandwich the study subjects ordered had 784 calories, while the burger only had 582. And the two meals were similar in other ways too. Here’s the NY Post:

Diners ordered 102g of carbohydrates at Subway compared to 128 at McDonald’s and 36g of sugar to McDonald’s’ 54g.

People ate even more sodium at Subway, with 2,149mg compared to 1,829mg at McDonald’s. Overconsumption of salt is a growing health crisis for Americans, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned, putting children and adults at risk for hypertension, heart disease and obesity. One CDC study found the average kid consumers 3,300mg of salt daily, far more than the recommended 2,300mg.

Now, the sides, extras and drinks do seem to differ between Subway and McDonald’s. At Subway, participants purchased 61 calories worth of sugary drinks, while at McDonald’s they bought 151 calories. Subway usually serves chips as a side, while McDonald’s offers fries. And the teens were asked to buy a “meal,” which usually means more than a sandwich or burger.

Of course, Subway wasn’t totally happy with the study. It responded to the work saying:

“ want to clarify a few things. As long time leaders in offering customers healthier options, Subway restaurants has always provided customers nutritional information on all of our menu offerings along with a wide array of great-tasting, low-fat and low-calorie subs and salads.”

And the study authors aren’t really out to get Subway in particular. They want everyone to stop eating at these restaurants in general. Their conclusions state:

We found that, despite being marketed as “healthy,” adolescents purchasing a meal at Subway order just as many calories as at McDonald’s. Although Subway meals had more vegetables, meals from both restaurants are likely to contribute to overeating.

Stay in and make your own sandwich or burger, the authors say, and you’ll be far better off.

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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