Is Subway Healthy?: The ‘Health Food Alternative’ That Isn’t
Is Subway healthy? Can you have healthly fast foods? Great questions but after a review of multiple studies by a team at John Hopkins University, the conclusion was that by 2015 a full 75% of the American population will be overweight. This at a time when we are spending more money on so called ‘health foods’, than ever before in history. If so why is it that diet related deaths are higher than any other causative factor? With so much invested in ‘health food’ today’ how come the obesity epidemic keeps rolling on? One of the reasons is the advertising spin so common in our media, spin that continues to promote alarmingly unhealthy foods as being wholesome, thus making very difficult for the average American sincerely trying to improve their eating habits. The Subway restaurant chain is a classic example of just influential marketing campaigns can be, since they were able to make what is essentially junk food appealing to the health conscious. Quite an accomplishment! Today with a total of over 32,300 outlets, Subway has overtaken McDonalds’ by riding on the crest of a marketing strategy to promote themselves as a healthier food alternative to established fast food chains. Thanks to ploys like the innovative use of the weight loss angle with Jared Fogle, who reportedly lost 245 pounds by exercising and eating only Subway sandwiches, the company now has a lucrative hold on the minds of those eyeing their midsection. Given the low cost of their products in this time of economic recession food, they have been able to create the illusion of being affordable and good for your waistline at the same time.
Subway- Is It Really Eating Fresh?
‘Subway- Eat fresh!’ is their slogan and one that even my kids know by heart, (and I don’t think any of them ever had a Subway sandwich), but the term ‘fresh’ is a bit of a misnomer. I remember the excitement in Trinidad, where I grew up, when the first Subway franchise opened. Sure enough it seemed like a great idea at the time- ‘fresh sandwiches ‘ made with only natural and wholesome ingredients – or so they said. On opening day the lines were around the block as many lined up for their first taste of American health food. I was in line as well and remember well, how novel it was to have a sandwich custom made in front of your eyes. Back home we had never seen sandwiches that big- even the six inch ones were huge by our standards!. The novelty wore off when I sat down to eat my prized Subway sandwich, (I had a chicken sandwich with lettuce and tomatoes); it was terrible! Perhaps not to someone used to eating fast food on a regular basis, but to my virgin taste buds, raised on home-cooked meals, this stuff was awful. My fellow countrymen seemed to have felt the same, as several months later, the restaurant was empty, and that branch went out of business soon afterwards. It took the advent of American television and the flood of advertisements that it brought to make such chains successful in Trinidad. Without intense brainwashing there was no way refined flour bread and processed meats could be sold over there as health food. Today thanks to the wonders of satellite television Subway chains are firmly entrenched in most of the West Indies along with McDonalds and other junk food restaurants. All thanks to the power of advertising. It should come as no surprise thus, the growing number of people in the islands finding themselves overweight and with diet related health issues as well.
The Theory Of Healthy Relativity- Why We Want To Believe Subway Is Healthy.
The road to perdition is often a gentle one and there is a major flaw in our collective thinking process that leads many of us to stumble down the road to obesity without realizing it. The problem is what I call the theory of Healthy Relativity. It happens when we measure a one food product that is inherently bad for you against another that we perceive as being worse, and choose the former with a certain self assurance that we have made a healthy choice. Sounds familiar? A classic health relativity slip is in choosing a subway sandwich over a Big Mac, since (as they keep on saying), their food is fresh and low fat. However, just because a food is lower in fat, doesn’t make it good for you. (In fact the contrary is usually the case).
Think about the refined white flour in the bread and the alarmingly high sodium content of the processed meats, which, if you stop to think for a second really can’t be fresh at all? When last was meat from an animal killed five or six months ago, then pumped with preservatives considered fresh? Or healthy for that matter? Take a look at the Subway ingredient list and the notion of ‘fresh’ starts getting even more cloudy. ‘Fresh’ cold cuts? ‘Fresh’ chicken patties? ‘Fresh’ egg patties? And my personal favorite, ‘fresh’ canned tuna! Is it just me or did someone over at Subway not take the time to look up the word ‘fresh’ in the dictionary?
Is Subway Healthier Than McDonalds?
In keeping with the theory of Healthy Relativity choosing a subway sandwich over a Big Mac is kind of like jumping out of the window on the 30th floor instead of the 40th. The end result is the pretty much the same as the state of our nation’s health glaringly reflects. It might come as a shock to learn that the many common Subway sandwiches are actually higher in calories than some standard orders from McDonalds. A Big Mac clocks in at 540 calories, with 29 grams of fat and a double quarter pounder with cheese comes in at 740 calories with 42 grams of fat. Pretty bad numbers by any measure, but Subway’s fare is even worse. A foot long Low Fat Chicken Sandwich has 640 calories and 9 grams of fat, while a Low Fat sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki Sandwich has a whooping 760 calories with 9 grams of fat. If you really want to push it, have a foot long Big Philly Cheese steak, Chicken and Bacon Ranch, Meatball Marinara or Tuna Sandwich. All will add almost 1000 calories or more to your diet, and while they may be lower in fat than most of what they pass as food at McDonalds, a calorie is a calorie no matter where it comes from, and if you take in more than you should, you will get fat. Considering that the average caloric intake for an adult male or female to stay in good shape is anywhere from 1200 calories to 2000 calories, the damage done by a thousand calorie sandwich is considerable. (The American Cancer Society, found the average American intake to be 2618 calories for men and 1877 calories for women, with other studies reporting averages over 3000, see the problem?)
So How Did Jared Fogle Lose Weight Eating Subway Sandwiches?
Helping people lose weight is what I do for a living as a personal trainer, and with almost two decades of working with hundreds of people, I can say with authority that if you exercised (as Jared did) and chose items on the menu from McDonalds, you could lose weight if your caloric intake and energy expenditure was properly monitored. You wouldn’t have much to eat, since those foods are so calorically dense, and so the practice really couldn’t be considered healthily or sustainable by any stretch of the imagination. Just because someone uses a particular method to lose weight doesn’t make it healthy, anyone remember a certain doctor named Atkins? Sure, you can lose weight drinking only protein shakes or Slim Fast, but it doesn’t make it healthy. You can lose weight popping fat burners and appetite suppressants, but it doesn’t make it healthy- or sustainable for that matter. Jared’s weight loss may be jaw dropping, but I really can’t see him as the model for perfect health and neither should you.
Kevin Richardson is an award winning health and fitness writer, natural bodybuilding champion, creator of Naturally Intense High Intensity Training and one of the most sought after NYC personal trainers. Learn more about the science behind high intensity training here and if you live in the New York metropolitan area and need help losing weight or taking your body to the next level contact Kevin and his team at 1-800-798-8420 or click here to get started with 50% off your trial personal training session.