Lesser LI, Kayekjian K, Velasquez P, Tseng CH, Brook RH, Cohen DA., J Adolescent Health 53(4):441-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2013.02.014. Epub 2013 May 6., 2013 May 06
PURPOSE: To assess whether adolescents purchasing food at a restaurant marketed as "healthy" (Subway) purchase fewer calories than at a competing chain (McDonald's).
METHODS: We studied 97 adolescents who purchased a meal at both restaurants on different days, using each participant as his or her control. We compared the difference in calories purchased by adolescents at McDonald's and Subway in a diverse area of Los Angeles, CA.
RESULTS: Adolescents purchased an average of 1,038 calories (standard error of the mean [SEM]: 41) at McDonald's and 955 calories (SEM 39) at Subway. The difference of 83 calories (95% confidence interval [CI]: -20 to 186) was not statistically significant (p = .11). At McDonald's, participants purchased significantly more calories from drinks (151 vs. 61, p < .01) and from side dishes (i.e., French fries or potato chips; 201 at McDonald's vs. 35 at Subway, p < .01). In contrast, they purchased fewer cups of vegetables at McDonald's (.15 vs. .57 cups, p < .01).
CONCLUSIONS: 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.