According to a new research, Subway meals contain nearly as many calories and more salt than those from McDonald’s.
Subway chain may promote itself as the “healthy” fast food restaurant but the new study suggests that it is not much healthier than McDonald’s, and in terms of salt it is worse.
Researchers from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) found that teenagers who bought Subway meals in America consumed nearly as many calories as those who bought a meal from McDonald’s.
They believe that eating from both restaurants is likely to contribute towards overeating and obesity.
“Every day, millions of people eat at McDonald’s and Subway, the two largest fast food chains in the world,” said Dr. Lenard Lesser, who led the research.
“With childhood obesity at record levels, we need to know the health impact of kids’ choices at restaurants.”
The researchers asked 97 people aged between 12 and 21 to buy meals at McDonald’s and Subway restaurants in a shopping centre in 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.
The researchers used the participants’ 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.
“We found that there was no statistically significant difference between the two restaurants, and that participants ate too many calories at both,” said Dr. Lenard Lesser.
The Institute of Medicine in the U.S. recommends that school lunches do not exceed 850 calories.
The researchers also found that the sandwiches bought by the participants from Subway in America averaged 784 calories, compared to 572 calories at McDonald’s in the U.S.
Sugary drinks from Subway contained an average of 61 calories while the McDonald’s alternatives contained an average of 151 calories.
The participants consumed 102 grams of carbohydrates at Subway compared to 128 grams at McDonald’s.
The meals contained an average of 36 grams of sugar at Subway and 54 grams at McDonald’s.
Salt intake averaged 2,149 mg at Subway and 1,829 mg at McDonald’s.
“The nutrient profile at Subway was slightly healthier, but the food still contained three times the amount of salt that the Institute of Medicine recommends,” Dr. Lenard Lesser said.
The authors suggested that the higher sodium content of the Subway meals likely came from the restaurant’s processed meat.
The researchers also accepted that there were some weaknesses in the study – they did not track the subjects’ 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.
Dr. Lenard Lesser recommends that McDonald’s customers eliminate sugary drinks and French fries from their orders and suggests that at Subway people should opt for smaller subs and ask for less meat.
As part of Subway’s “Where Winners Eat” advertising campaign it worked with athletes including Olympic gymnast Louis Smith to promote its Eat Fresh range.