Posted by: nickgerlich | September 23, 2007

More Or Less

We believe what we want to believe. We take the facts we like, and discard the rest. And if it makes us fat in the progress, so what? A person’s gotta eat, right?

Except that what we choose to believe can cause us to make some horrible decisions, informed or otherwise.

McDonald's and SubwayAbout a year ago, I read Brian Wansink’s book, Mindless Eating, which outlines in gutbusting detail exactly how and why Americans eat far more than they think they are eating. One of the reasons, according to Wansink, is that consumers have well-formed impressions of restaurants and the food they sell. The result is people often seriously underestimate the calorie content of foods in general, and specifically, seriously miss the mark when it comes to certain establishments.

There’s probably no better comparison (or contrast) than that of McDonald’s and Subway. While there is a general inability of people to guess the calorie content of foods at both restaurants, Subway’s offerings are dramatically underestimated.

And we all know where that little problem heads. Straight to our waist.

Head-to-head, people are very likely to assume that Subway’s sandwiches all have fewer calories than food purchased at McDonald’s. Subway has done such a superb job of advertising their select low-fat sandwiches (there are 7 six-inch sandwiches with fewer than 6 grams of fat) that we automatically think that everything must be that healthy. The fact is, you can eat just as poorly at Subway as you can at McD’s.

Jared, you have been very effective. Those extra-large pants from your past have us all thinking that Subway is the dieter’s choice, and that someday soon we’ll all be skinny like you.

Wrong again, Mayonnaise breath!

Compare the following:

  • At Subway, a 6″ Chicken and Bacon Ranch toasted sandwich has 580 calories, with 30 grams of fat. A Big Mac has 540 calories with 29 grams of fat.
  • A Double Cheeseburger at McD’s has 440 calories and 23 grams of fat, while the 6″ Metaball Marinara at Subway has 560 calories and 24 grams of fat.

Of course, it is hard to compare sandwiches face-to-face between these two restaurants, simply because they are so different. But the point is that, just because you pull in at Subway for lunch instead of at the Golden Arches, it does not mean you are doing yourself any favors.Yes, there are indeed some selections at Subway that are very low in calories (370 calories or less) and fat (6 grams or less). But they are all only in the 6″ variety. And you may very well wind up chasing them down with cookies or just leaving hungry.

I am also a little suspicious about why Subway has changed its menu board to reflect all 6″ sandwiches. If you read the small print, you can “supersize” anything to a footlong for a little over $2 upcharge. So, as far as the menu goes, Subway is doing its best to minimize the caloric impact by listing only the smaller sandwiches. But who can resist a footlong when you’re hungry?

Another irony is that McDonald’s has become a darling of Wall Street lately, and things are smelling like a fresh batch of french fries. And who gets the credit? The Marketing Department, that’s who. Whether anyone orders them or not, the new so-called healthy items on their menu are resonating with customers and investors.

Face it. Jared did not lose weight eating those Chicken & Bacon or Meatball Marinara sandwiches. He more than likely ate the Veggie Delite (230 calories and 3 grams of fat). But unless you have the drive of an obese person high on caloric deprivation, you’re going to order something more substantial.

Because most of us just don’t want to think about it.

Dr “Hold The Mayo” Gerlich


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