I was reading a NY Times article that discussed whether the mandate that caloric information be posted on fast food menus in that city was having any effect. Proponents of the law say that providing diners with this data will help them make better choices and help fight obesity. So far the findings seem to be mixed. But what really caught my attention were a couple of lines at the very end of the article about the Subway restaurant chain.
For some time now Subway has heralded its menu as a safe bastion for those people on- the-go that were looking for nutritional responsibility. Their “Jared” campaign promoted the idea that you could enjoy fast food and still lose weight too. They were providing nutritional information on some of their products even before it became a requirement in New York. So what happened when Subway started listing the calorie content on all of their offerings?
You might think that when given an informed choice, at least a few more people would opt for the healthier selections. Why pick a 700 calorie sandwich when you can probably find a 400 calorie option that you’d enjoy just as much? In theory, that’s the effect that posting calorie content is supposed to have. So why did the number of calories purchased at Subway stores more than double during the study period?
Never underestimate the power of advertising! The study just happened to coincide with Subway’s current “$5 Foot-Long” campaign, which promotes buying a sandwich twice the size of the standard 6 inch offering. Big and cheap, we can’t resist. Why plunk down four bucks for a regular sandwich when you can get twice as much for just a dollar more?
Something tells me these $5 specials aren’t part of Jared’s weight control plan. Even the “low-fat foot-longs” check-in at around 650 calories, about the same as a double-cheeseburger and small fries at McDonald’s. And other than the “veggie delight”, they also pack 60-100% of your RDA of salt as well. And then there’s the nitrites….well you get the idea.
Good nutrition takes education, committment, and vigilance. Good luck if you trust that to anyone other than yourself.