Subway has made a name for itself as one of the healthiest fast food options you can find. Boasting the most locations of a fast food franchise worldwide, you never seem to be too far from a Subway shop – and the health-conscious brand makes you feel good about whatever you choose to order. But is Subway truly as healthy as it seems?
Like all fast food places, Subway has some healthy options and some choices where the calorie count may surprise you. Here are our tips to help you ensure that you are always eating fresh – using Subway’s nutrition data tables as a guide.
#1: Consider Footlongs, Six-Inches, and Combos
The first question that the Subway employee will ask you is if you would like a six-inch sandwich or a footlong. It’s important to remember that some Subway calorie counts only refer to the 6-inch subs, so you may need to do some extra math.
While some footlong sandwiches are low in calories and saturated fat, like the Veggie Delight (400 calories, 0g of saturated fat) and Turkey Breast (500 calories, 1g of saturated fat), others can be quite alarming.
For example, a footlong Chicken & Bacon Ranch Melt clocks in at 1,060 calories and 20 grams of saturated fat. A footlong Spicy Italian has 900 calories and 19 grams of saturated fat. And the famous Meatball Marinara is 860 calories at a footlong size, with 14 grams of saturated fat.
Opt for lower-calorie subs as often as possible. If you’re choosing a lighter sub, upgrading to a footlong probably won’t break your calorie budget. If you are choosing a more calorie-dense sub, cut your portions and make it a six-inch.
And remember to consider your combo items as well. A footlong sub can be a meal in itself, but if you’re hungry or getting a six-inch, avoid sugary beverages, chips, and their famous calorie-rich cookies when upgrading to a combo. Instead, choose apple slices and water.
#2: Pay Attention to the Bread
When looking at the Subway menu, it’s easy to be wowed by the low calorie counts – but keep in mind that the calories usually refer to sandwiches made on Italian bread and with certain vegetables. Other bread choices and heavy condiments can increase the calorie, fat, and carbohydrate content.
A six-inch portion of the Italian bread is 180 calories and 34 grams of carbs. Choosing Italian Herbs & Cheese or Jalapeño Cheddar will add 40 calories and 3g of carbs to your sub, while opting for 9-Grain Wheat will add 10 calories and 2g of carbs. And of course, footlong sizes will double these changes.
Many of Subway’s breads have very similar carb and calorie content – and Italian bread has the lowest numbers out of their traditional bread choices. However, Italian bread is white and made with refined grains, which is more likely to cause a glucose spike. Choosing breads made from whole grains, such as 9-Grain Wheat or Honey Oat, gives you complex carbohydrates that take more time to digest and break down into blood sugar.
#3: Stick to Lean Meats
Many of Subway’s heavier sandwiches are made with processed meats and pre-prepared fillings, like bacon, pepperoni, salami, meatballs, tuna, and cold cuts. Instead of choosing these meats, stick to leaner options.
A six-inch serving of roasted chicken patty is 70 calories and 0g of saturated fat, turkey breast has 60 calories and 0.5g of saturated fat, and black forest ham has 60 calories and 1.5g of saturated fat.
On the other hand, both Subway’s Spicy Italian meats and its tuna filling have 250 calories and 8g of saturated fat for a 6-inch portion. When you can choose leaner, fresher fillings, go for it – or skip the meat altogether.
#4: Load Up on Veggies
If you want a fresh and filling Subway sandwich, loading up on all of the veggies they have to offer is an excellent strategy. A footlong Veggie Delight filled to the brim is over 600 calories less than a footlong Chicken & Bacon Ranch Melt, and just as satisfying.
From onions to cucumbers to spinach, bell peppers, and olives, many of Subway’s veggie choices have negligible calories and fat content. The only exception is the avocado, which has 60 calories per six-inch portion. But we love sources of healthy fats, and if you’re looking for a splurge, a dollop of fresh avocado is it.
#5: Watch Your Condiments
You get to the end of the Subway line, you’re proud of your lean, whole-grain, veggie-rich sub, and the cashier asks you what condiments you’d like.
Your condiment choices can make or break your Subway order. A six-inch mayo portion has 100 calories, and other cream-based dressings like ranch and Caesar have similar numbers. Instead of loading up on these condiments, try yellow mustard (10 calories), Subway vinaigrette (35 calories), and fat-free sweet onion sauce (30 calories).
If you’re craving that creamy mayo, try lite mayo (50 calories) or splurge on some guacamole (70 calories) or avocado (50 calories). Adding fresh spices or vinegar can add a splash of flavor without extra calories.
With these tips, you can visit your local Subway shop and build a nutritious and filling meal to enjoy. Make sure to watch out for those sneaky calorie-rich ingredients, and keep your portion size in mind!