Is Subway As Unhealthy As McDonald’s?

A new study examines whether consumers really eat better at the sandwich shop versus the fast food chain.

A new study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that adolescents consume the same amount of calories at Subway and McDonald's. Photograph courtesy of Flickr users BlueisCoool and jeff_golden.

The differences between Subway and McDonald’s are fairly obvious. Subway touts its sandwiches with fresh ingredients; McDonald’s is still best known for burgers and fries.

But a new study suggests that the two chain restaurants aren’t all that different when it comes to its meals’ caloric contents. In particular, adolescents tend to consume just as many calories at Subway as they would at McDonald’s.

Researchers followed 97 adolescents who ate at the two restaurants on different days. They noted how many calories each ordered meal contained, hoping to determine whether a restaurant marketed as “healthy” resulted in fewer calories consumed.

The results found little difference between the adolescents’ ordering habits at both restaurants. They purchased an average of 1,038 calories at McDonald’s and 955 calories at Subway; the difference of 83 calories is not statistically significant, according to researchers.

The good news is that the Subway meals tended to contain more vegetables, with adolescents getting a serving of 0.57 cups versus 0.15 at McDonald’s. At the golden arches, they consumed a large percentage of their calories from sodas and side dishes, including fries.

The researchers determined that while Subway is marketed as healthy, the results show that the meals consumed at both restaurants are likely to contribute to overeating.

The full study was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health