Saturday, May 15, 2010

Does Subway really deserve all the healthy hype?

I am a long-time follower of the television show, Biggest Loser. I religiously watch my recorded DVR's every week. I find the stories of the people on the show to be very inspiring. Biggest Loser is motivating to be, especially on days when I may not feel like heading to the gym to get my daily workout in. One look at the contestants' struggles and how they are overcoming them pound by pound is enough to get me off of my butt and on the treadmill.

While I find the show to be a positive move towards reducing obesity in the US, I have to say that I am consistently annoyed every week with the explicit marketing plugs that Bob and Jillian shove in the viewer's faces. At least one brand every week gets it's time in the sun, be it Extra chewing gum, Yoplait yogurt or Jenni-O brand turkey. But, the one brand that the contestants are shown eating together almost every week is Subway. Subway has spent some serious marketing dollars to be a HUGE part of the Biggest Loser show every week. Bob and Jillian swear Subway is the perfect choice for a healthy meal. I, however, do not think that is true.

In my opinion, while I think it's good that there is at least one lesser of the evils "fast food" option for people in the market, I don't really think Subway should described and advertised as healthy. I'm sorry, I don't think that a place that claims to be healthy should be allowed to advertise themselves as such, yet still offer soft drinks, potato chips, cookies, meatball subs and Philly cheese steaks to their customers.

Another factor that weighs into the Subway equation is the "health halo" effect. The positive effect of healthy labeling or claims on a product that decreases calories and adds a healthy perception to the product, thus in turn causing the consumer to overeat. This study highlighted here in the New York Times showed that the people in the study who went to Subway actually consumed more calories than those who went to McDonald's, due to the perception that everything at Subway was a healthy option because Subway advertises it's name as such. In fact many of the people added full calorie sodas and cookies onto their purchases at Subway. Another interesting note from Dr. Chandon, who conducted the study, who happens to be French, was that America in general needs to quit obsessing about good foods versus bad foods and focus more on the amount of food that they are eating and practice portion control. I think that is so true. Most people think that a good meal constitutes being stuffed upon completion instead of just feeling satisfied. Maybe if Americans just stopped automatically listening to whatever marketing slogan is thrown their way and actually thought about their food choices more thoroughly, the "health halo" would not be as much of an issue. Better yet, there should be more focus on educating the public about the benefits of forgoing processed foods in favor of those which don't require a nutrition label, such as fruits and vegetables.


  1. I had a first hand Subway experience this week. I was at work adn left in a hurry so I didn't bring any food. So I decided to go to subway, and asked for a vegan sandwich. I ended up choosing a whole wheat bread stuffed w/ lettuce and tomatoes, which I found pretty boring to eat.

    The interesting thing is that the woman who was preparing sandwiches was adding salt w/ out asking. Everyone in front of me got that extra salt, I had to interfere and stop her from adding the extra to my food. When I taste it I saw that it was already very salty! :(

    I cannot believe how much salt people eat!

  2. Great argument. And lunch meat is one of the 7 worst foods on Fuhrman's list. Here's a recent study that points out how dangerous processed meats are

    Professor Faulkner