Subway, Not So Fresh

UC Irvine has yet again failed to provide its students healthy food choices on campus. Just months ago, the new Subway on the UCI campus opened its doors and offered the first 50 student customers free Subway sandwiches throughout the year. Sounds like a deal of a lifetime, right? It sounds more like a deal for unhealthy food. Surprising as it sounds, Subway sandwiches are not nearly as healthy as everyone assumes them to be. In fact Subway’s “healthy” nine-grain breads are full of high-fructose corn syrup and their “fresh” meats and vegetables are genetically modified, which contribute to the unhealthy high amounts of sodium packed into a half-foot sub. What is more shocking is that Subway sandwiches can have the same, if not less nutritional value as those sandwiches found in Burger King and McDonalds. How is this true?

Through commercials, coupons and even their napkins, Subway constantly reminds consumers of the claim that their subs are at the most “6 grams of fat.” According to a team of researchers at Wansink and Chandon, people routinely underestimate the amount of calories consumed when eating at Subway. As a nation whose health-consciousness is always growing, U.S. consumers believe that Subway is the healthy alternative of “fast food.” Based on Subway’s nutrition facts, their “6 grams of fat” claim looks promising, but the majority of consumers overlook the fine print in the Subway ads that states the “recipe” of their “6 grams of fat” sub. Subway’s subs that are only 6 grams of fat strictly include the meat, wheat bread, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions, green peppers and olives, but excludes add-ons such as sauces and cheeses that the majority of consumers choose to add in their subs. Unknowingly, consumers are building sandwiches that have more than “6 grams of fat.”

According to the calorie/fat count in the ingredients listed on Subway’s brochure, the numbers don’t look too bad until they are added up according to the sandwich. Let’s use one footlong oven-roasted chicken breast on wheat bread as an example. According to Subway’s brochure, this sandwich packs 620 calories and 10 grams of fat, which is a bit greater than Subway’s heavily advertised “6 grams of fat.” Including popular add-ons such as cheese and mayo, the calorie count of the sandwich jumps to 920 calories with 41 grams of fat — about 400 calories more than a McDonald’s Big Mac! The calorie and fat count jumps even higher with Subway’s combo meal option. With the addition of a 20 ounce fountain drink and a side of chips, a single Subway meal can cover up to more than half of the consumer’s daily calorie intake. Although a Subway sandwich may look healthier to eat compared to other “fast food,” the numbers tell the truth behind the sandwich.

Another thing that is often overlooked by consumers besides the fine print defining the “6 grams of fat” sub is that Subway is part of the fast food industry. Subway in many ways fits the “fast food” category. Subway is a global franchise with restaurants operating in 97 countries, which makes it the world’s largest sandwich franchise. Large franchises like Subway seek efficient productivity to meet consumer demands, and also seek ways to make high profit. Like all fast food companies, Subway uses genetically modified (GM) foods that have been genetically altered to withstand the growing process. Although the Food and Drug Administration has claimed the health risks of GM foods to be unknown, many have argued that they do pose risks to our health. According to the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM), renowned biologists have tested adverse health effects from GM foods and claim that they are a factor to the deteriorating health of America. However, there is currently no policy to control the use of GM foods in food industries. Fast food companies such as Subway use GM foods because they are cheap to use, cheap enough to sell footlongs for only $5 and gain millions of dollars in profit.

Realistically, there is no way to avoid fast food all the time. In many ways I believe fast food is a part of the American culture. However, there are ways to make healthier choices when it comes to what we eat. Subway can be a healthier alternative to fast food, only if the consumer is conscious and aware of the sandwich’s calorie and fat count. A healthy consumer should always be aware of the content of the food they eat.

Lisa Cabias is a fourth-year public health major. She can be reached at lcabias@uci.edu.