Healthier Food Options At Subway

Subway's primary mission has always been great-tasting food for budget prices, but it wasn't until decades after its 1965 founding that it began touting healthy nutrition (via Subway). The company's health-focused marketing started in the late 1990s with Jared, its spokesperson, insisting that he lost weight with the help of Subway sandwiches (via Insider). Since then, the menu has continued to evolve to bring in even more nutritious options and a well-rounded, tasty menu with its Eat Fresh Refresh campaign, which introduced several changes to Subway's primary items and ingredients (via QSR Magazine).

Of course, that doesn't mean that every item on the menu should be one to add to your meal plan if you're watching calories, fat, sodium, or trying to keep your weight in check. For example, a nutritionist writes in a Health article that Subway's ingredient list shows that its chicken breast isn't necessarily just chicken breast, as it also includes ingredients like modified potato starch and maltodextrin. Plus, the overall nutrition of your sandwich largely depends on what you add to it, like sauces, cheese, and extra meats (via She Finds).

To help you narrow your options to some of the best possible picks at Subway, we've put together this list of healthier choices you can make on your next trip.

Go a little smaller with your order

Subway's most common sub sizes are its six-inch and footlongs. There's also a lesser-known sandwich for kids, which one Subway worker states on Facebook is four inches long, or one-third of a footlong sub. Obviously, you can cut down on calories significantly by choosing either a kids sub or six-inch sub rather than a footlong, but it might surprise you to know just how any calories, fat, and other not-so-great stuff you can save yourself from eating by making this simple swap.

Let's look at the Black Forest Ham sandwich, for example. A footlong has 670 calories, four grams of saturated fat, and 2,610 milligrams of sodium, according to Subway's nutrition data tables. Swapping to a six-inch brings the calories down to 270, saturated fat to one gram, and sodium to 810 milligrams. A kids version has just 170 calories, one gram of saturated fat, and 460 milligrams of sodium.

Unfortunately, Subway only offers three of its sandwiches in a kid-sized sub, but most other sub options are available as six-inch or footlong subs (via Subway).

Opt for a low-sodium meal with the Veggie Delite

Sodium is an important electrolyte for the body, but getting too much sodium from food can increase blood pressure and raise the risk of cardiovascular disease (via CDC). If you want to watch sodium in your diet, deli meats from Subway likely aren't the best to eat. According to Geisinger, just two ounces of deli-sliced turkey can contain as much as 440 milligrams of sodium.

Therefore, sodium watchers might opt for Subway's Veggie Delite instead of getting a meat-packed sub. The Veggie Delite can contain any mixture of yummy, crunchy vegetables you want, like lettuce, spinach, onions, and green peppers. And you don't need to feel bad about adding extras for more flavor, like banana peppers or jalapenos, because all the veggies Subway offers are super low in calories. Even a footlong Veggie Delite on Hearty Multigrain bread is just 410 calories without sauce and cheese (via Subway). Because there aren't any sodium-filled deli meats, it's also the sandwich with the lowest amount of sodium on the menu at just 320 milligrams for a six-inch (via Subway).

Choose bread over wraps, in most cases

Tortillas are thinner than bread, so they must have fewer calories and carbs and be a better option for overall nutrition, right? Not necessarily.

Subway lets you choose wraps instead of its signature breads for most of its made-to-order subs, but that may not be the healthiest swap. According to registered dietitian Sam Presicci (via Livestrong), "The wraps seem healthy since they have names like 'tomato basil' or 'spinach,' but in reality, they only contain a little bit of vegetable powder for color."

Subway's nutrition data backs up the idea that bread might be the better option, even if you're watching calories and carbs. For example, the Meatball Marinara on six-inch bread has 410 calories and 48 carbs. Put its ingredients on a wrap instead, and you'll have slightly fewer calories — 381 — but 30 additional carbs. Of course, it's important to be mindful of the type of bread you choose for your sub if you're concerned about a balanced diet. Registered dietitian nutritionist Andrea Drew writes in an article for Culinary Dietetics that Subway's Hearty Multigrain Bread is the best choice, because it's a good source of fiber while also being low in sodium and calories.

Or, cut the bread altogether with a protein bowl

If you're cutting carbs, you may need to avoid Subway's bread and wraps altogether. Fortunately, Subway has options for people just like you who want to reduce their carb intake without sacrificing the flavor and protein a hearty Subway sub gives you. The answer is a Subway No Bready Bowl, which basically has the ingredients you'd get on a sub layered into a bowl instead (via Subway). According to Redditors who are well-versed in Subway's menu items, the No Bready Bowls contain the same amount of meat you'd get on a footlong sub.

To illustrate how many carbs and calories you can save, let's look at the nutrition information for a Chicken Bacon Ranch sub compared to the same ingredients in a No Bready Bowl. The footlong sub version has 1410 calories, 3,540 milligrams of sodium, and 80 grams of carbohydrates. Compare that to the No Bready Bowl version containing 760 calories, 1,750 milligrams of sodium, and just 13 grams of carbohydrates (via Subway).

An Oven-Roasted Turkey sub is impressively low in calories

There are quite a few Subway options — especially in the six-inch sub range — that are impressively low in calories, which may help you stick to a calorie limit you've set for yourself. However, the Oven-Roasted Turkey sub takes the cake as the lowest in calories next to the Veggie Delite, with just 260 calories in a six-inch. You might even feel like you can splurge once in a while on a footlong, which is still relatively low in calories at 640, making it a good option for a satisfying lunch or dinner (via Subway).

Keeping the sub low-calorie depends on how many and what kind of toppings you add to it. For instance, adding cheese boosts the calorie count by about 100, while adding sauce can increase the calories by another 50 to 200 calories on a footlong. Instead, stick with flavorful toppings, like banana peppers, black olives, or tomatoes, which barely move the calorie count but still add lots of texture and taste. If you really need some kind of sauce to make the Oven-Roasted Turkey sub more palatable, ask for a drizzle of zero-calorie red wine vinegar (via Subway).

Stick with a veggie-packed salad

Ask a dietitian what menu item they'd choose for lunch at Subway, and they might tell you that a salad is the best choice. In fact, dietitian Alix Turoff told Insider that their pick would definitely be either a six-inch grilled chicken sub or its salad version, made just like the standard menu suggests. According to Subway's nutrition data, the default version of the salad contains 130 calories, one gram of saturated fat, 370 milligrams of sodium, and 11 grams of carbs. This version doesn't include cheese or dressing, so be careful when loading your options to avoid adding extra calories, sodium, fat, and sugars (via Subway).

Subway's salads might look similar to its protein bowls. However, No Bready Bowls have the same amount of protein as a footlong sub, while the salads have half the protein, making their protein amount the same as a six-inch sub (via Business Insider). The perk of having a salad is that you'll have more room in the bowl to pack in your veggies. Most adults need two or three cups of vegetables every day as part of a healthy diet (via the CDC), and a Subway salad could help you reach that goal.

A Steak & Cheese sub is rich in protein

Protein is a necessary part of a healthy diet. According to Healthline, protein aids multiple processes in the body, including digestion, muscle contractions and building, insulin regulation, and fluid balance. The amount of protein you need depends on your body composition and how active you are, but people who follow a 2,000-calorie diet may need anywhere from 50 to 175 grams of protein a day (via Mayo Clinic). That could mean as many as 58 calories from protein per meal.

Subway's Steak & Cheese sub packs in a whopping 25 grams of protein in its six-inch size alone. Upgrade to a footlong, and you'll get 84 grams of protein instead (via Subway), which might be all you need for the day. If you want the Steak & Cheese's high protein without as many calories and carbohydrates, turn the sub into a protein bowl instead.

Just be careful about how much protein you're consuming in addition to your Steak & Cheese sub. Mayo Clinic warns that the protein your body doesn't need gets stored as fat instead.

Cut calories and fat by asking for less dressing

When looking at the nutrition information of Subway's menu items to compare things like sodium, protein, carbohydrates, and calories, it's important to remember that many of those items don't include sauce as-is. For example, the Oven Roasted Turkey sub includes a few vegetables by default, but it doesn't include cheese and sauce, like mayo, in its 260 calories for a six-inch sub (via Subway).

According to Subway's nutrition data, adding mayo to a six-inch sub adds 100 calories. You can choose lite mayo to cut the calories in half, but using lite mayo on a footlong will boost you back up to an extra 100 calories. Other sauces you can choose to add are lower in calories than regular mayo, but many still fall around 50-80 calories on a six-inch. Some, like Peppercorn Ranch Sauce and Roasted Garlic Aioli, also include two grams of saturated fat in the small amount you get on a six-inch sub.

If you must add sauce or dressing but don't want your calories and fat to shoot up, stick to Hot Pepper Relish or Red Wine Vinegar, both of which contain no calories or fat. Sweet Onion Teriyaki Sauce is also a good option at just 30 calories and no fat, and Franks® Red Hot Buffalo Sauce adds just five calories and no fat (via Subway's nutrition data).

Watch fat and calories with Chicken Noodle Soup

If you're lucky enough to have soup at your local Subway, try a bowl of Chicken Noodle. Subway announced in September 2022 that its soup season was right around the corner, bringing customers three revamped soup flavors. Its Chicken Noodle Soup is supposed to taste even more flavorful than before and have lots of satisfying texture with large chunks of chicken and diced veggies (via PR Newswire).

An 8-ounce bowl of Chicken Noodle Soup from Subway offers pretty impressive nutritional value, too. Subway's nutrition data notes just 70 calories, one gram of saturated fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, and six grams of carbohydrates. However, if sodium is your primary concern, you might want to skip the soup. One bowl has 1,160 milligrams of sodium, and the other soup options are not far behind, with more than 900 milligrams each. Considering that the suggestion for most Americans is less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium daily (via the FDA), you might want to watch your sodium intake the rest of the day if you do enjoy a bowl.

Black Forest Ham is a healthy option with lots of flavor

If you're looking for a Subway sandwich that's a bit different from the usual turkey or chicken yet still leans on the healthier side, try the Black Forest Ham. Some Redditors who work at Subway say that it's one of their top-selling menu items. And Redditors on another thread comment that it's usually also one of the cheapest options. So, you might be able to save some money while enjoying a flavor-packed sub you don't need to feel guilty about.

A six-inch Black Forest Ham comes in at 270 calories, one gram of saturated fat, and 18 grams of protein. It also has four grams of fiber and is lower in sodium than other options, with 810 milligrams compared to 1,360 milligrams with a Buffalo Chicken sub and 1,280 milligrams from a Spicy Italian sub. Oh, and the Black Forest Ham is just 70 calories more than a Veggie Delite, which is good news for those looking for some meatier flavor (via Subway).

Rotisserie-Style Chicken subs offer well-rounded nutrition

Rotisserie chicken is typically a healthier option than other meats, including fried chicken or steak, if you're watching things like fat and cholesterol. According to Healthline, calories, fat, and protein can all vary based on whether you eat white or dark-meat rotisserie chicken, with white skinless chicken being the lowest in calories and fat and the highest in protein. According to Subway (via Prepared Foods), its Rotisserie-Style Chicken is made with all-white, antibiotic-free meat.

It's not surprising, then, that a six-inch Rotisserie-Style Chicken is low in fat, with just two grams of saturated fat, zero grams of trans fat, and 710 milligrams of sodium. It also has an average carb count for Subway subs at 39 grams and offers 23 grams of protein and four grams of dietary fiber (via Subway). One Redditor explains why this sub is their go-to choice at Subway: "I eat it but mostly because it is protein-heavy, and I eat a lot for weightlifting. Also, it's one of the subs with lesser salt."

Load up with these nutritious toppings

One of the best things about Subway is that it's designed to let you build a sub to your exact specifications. Whether you order on the app or visit a store to share your request, you get to choose what goes on your sub and what gets left behind. Therefore, you can also have control over the nutritional value of your sub, whether your target is increasing protein, lowering fat, or avoiding as many calories as possible.

You absolutely don't have to sacrifice flavor to get a healthy sub, either. Subway has several no-calorie toppings to add to your sandwich, like jalapenos, banana peppers, cucumbers, spinach, and red wine vinegar. There are also plenty of low-calorie additions, like sweet peppers, tomatoes, and yellow mustard (via Subway). Registered dietitian Cynthia Sass (via Health) also recommends adding avocado for a nutrition boost with extra vitamins, minerals, fiber, and anti-inflammatory properties. Plus, sliced avocado adds just 45 calories to a six-inch sub (via Subway).