In a sea of greasy fast food joints with limited healthy offerings, Subway is a welcome outlier. The sandwich joint’s staple variety of fresh veggie and lean meat options make it relatively easy to throw together a balanced meal on the run.
It’s worth noting that not everything on Subway’s menu is healthy (we’re looking at you footlong Italian BMT). Depending on your goals you might also want to sub the bread for a wrap, salad, or bowl.
Here’s how to suss out what’s healthy at Subway and what’s not. Plus, six healthy Subway options, and one menu item to skip.
How to Order a Healthy Meal at Subway
Exactly what to order (and avoid) for healthier, nutritionally balanced meals at Subway.
Stick to the six-inch
Subway’s foot-long Artisan Italian bread packs a whopping 74 grams of carbohydrates—the equivalent of more than five slices of regular store-bought bread. Carbs aren’t the devil. However, they are the biggest culprit of blood sugar spikes (in general, the larger the carb load, the bigger the spike). Opt for the six-inch sub to strike a better balance of carbs, fats, and protein to flatten the curve.
Opt for whole grain
Subway’s Multigrain bread contains at least twice the amount of fiber (3 grams total) as the other bread options. Fiber helps to slow down digestion and balance blood sugar levels, keeping you energized and satisfied for hours. It also feeds the beneficial bacteria in your gut, making your gut microbiome more robust, and improving digestive, immune, and brain health in the process (1).
Choose lean protein
Swap more calorie-dense protein choices like meatballs, pastrami, salami, and pepperoni for lean proteins (which contain more protein for fewer calories) like deli turkey, ham, roast beef, and grilled chicken. Eating more protein has been shown to help increase lean muscle mass, boost metabolism, and burn fat (2, 3). To get more, Subway offers 50 percent more, and double meat options for a small charge.
Unlike most fast food joints, Subway doesn’t skimp on veggies. Load your sub, salad, or wrap with a variety of colors for a wider range of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in your meal. Pro tip: If you send out a pretty-please, most servers will add extra handfuls of your favorite veggies for no added charge.
Avoid heavy and sugary spreads
Of your sauce and spread options, mayo and aioli are the most calorie-dense, while the barbecue sauce and sweet onion teriyaki are the highest in sugar. Any of the other condiments are better options. We live and die by a splash of olive oil and vinegar, which is your lightest option that doesn’t sacrifice on flavor.
FAST & HEALTHY
The Healthiest Subway Options
Next time you hit the Subway line, resort to these tried-and-true healthy orders that pack the best macros and ingredients on Subway’s menu.
1. Grilled Chicken No Bready Bowl (with Baja Chipotle Sauce)
Per order: 270 calories, 10g carbs, 3g fiber, 5g sugar, 35g protein, 11g fat, 3g saturated fat, 605 mg sodium
No Bready Bowls are Subway’s option for turning the stuffing of any footlong sub into a high-protein, lower carb bowl. However, the Grilled Chicken No Bready Bowl is one of the few bowls Subway offers that isn’t a sodium bomb.
On its own, the meal is a bit bland, but it’s also low in calories (at 270 calories per bowl) leaving plenty of room in the calorie budget to add on a sauce. Go with the Baja Chipotle Sauce for an addictive punch of smoky heat.
2. 6-inch Roast Beef
Per order: 310 calories, 42g carbs, 5g fiber, 8g sugar, 25g protein, 5g fat, 2g saturated fat, 790 mg sodium
The Roast Beef sub has a surprisingly solid protein-to-fat ratio (5g fat), on par with the Rotisserie-Style Chicken Sandwich (6g fat), and certainly better than the Tuna Salad (25g fat) and Italian Salami (24g fat).
The sandwich also packs 25 grams of protein. Consuming at least 20 grams of protein in a meal is ideal for building lean body mass, which is important for metabolic health (4). Take a pass on mayo in favor of mustard or a touch of honey mustard.
3. Veggie Patty Salad (with Creamy Sriracha)
Per order: 260 calories, 28g carbs, 12g fiber, 8g sugar, 9g protein, 14g fat, 2g saturated fat, 610 mg sodium
You can turn any classic Subway sandwich into a salad, including the newest plant-based item: the veggie patty. Made with ingredients like soybeans, oat bran, mushrooms, and peas, the veggie patty is your best option for fiber (12g fiber) on the Subway menu.
That said, we’d recommend at least 20 to 30 grams of protein for a meal, and the veggie patty only brings 9 grams of protein to the mix. To upgrade the protein, consider ordering an extra veggie patty, and adding a sprinkle of mozzarella. Top it all off with the Creamy Sriracha sauce which adds a layer of fiery flavor and only one gram of sugar.
4. 6-inch Rotisserie-Style Chicken (with Smashed Avocado)
Per order: 380 calories, 43g carbs, 7g fiber, 6g sugar, 26g protein, 13g fat, 3g saturated fat, 890 mg sodium
Let’s be honest, we love cold cuts, but juicy Rotisserie-Style Chicken is even better. This sub has half the amount of fat and calories as the Buffalo Chicken. In fact, it runs lighter on calories and saturated fat than most fast food options. Since it’s particularly light on fat as it comes, request smashed avocado to load up on healthy fats and flavor.
5. Oven Roasted Turkey Wrap
Per order: 430 calories, 54g carbs, 3g fiber, 4g sugar, 32g protein, 10g fat, 2g saturated fat, 1540 mg sodium
The overall macro balance (carbs, fats, and protein) of this wrap makes it a good option for recovering after a hard workout. The high protein content (32 grams) will help build muscle, while the carbs and fats will help replenish energy stores and reduce inflammation. Load it up with bright veggies like spinach, tomato, and crunchy bell peppers for a boost of micronutrients.
Just watch the sodium. The wrap itself is significantly higher in sodium than any of the other Subway breads. High levels of salt consumption have been associated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis, even for people who do not have hypertension (5). So, if you do have this wrap, go easy on sodium elsewhere in your diet.
6. Black Forest Ham, Egg White & Cheese Flatbread
Per order: 390 calories, 45g carbs, 2g fiber, 4g sugar, 23g protein, 12g fat, 4g saturated fat, 1110 mg sodium
For an easy breakfast in a pinch, let us recommend starting your day with this protein-packed sandwich. The nutrition stats are better than the majority of fast food breakfast meals which are typically higher in calories, saturated fat, and sugar and lower in protein.
One study found that consuming sufficient amounts of protein at breakfast might be more important for increasing muscle size and function than at other times of the day (6). Don’t forget to add on veggies like you would with any other Subway sub.
7. 6-inch Titan Turkey
Per order: 490 calories, 40g carbs, 2g fiber, 5g sugar, 30g protein, 23g fat, 7g saturated fat, 1310 mg sodium
As delicious as they are, the Subway Series sandwiches are best approached with caution. A foot-long sandwich can easily shoot past the 1000 calorie mark. The Titan Turkey is the exception.
The sandwich is stacked high with lean turkey, and thus, quality protein. You also get double the provolone cheese, along with lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, and mayonnaise served on their Artisan Italian bread. To make it healthier, sub in the multigrain bread, and swap the mayo for mustard.
The Unhealthiest Subway Option
While Subway is healthier than most fast food joints, there are a few menu items you’ll want to avoid. This is the worst of the bunch.
Italianos The Boss Footlong
Per order: 1300 calories, 108 g carbs, 8g fiber, 16g sugar, 64g protein, 68 g fat, 32g saturated fat, 3380 mg sodium
The Subway Series sub made with a combo of cheese-draped meatballs and pepperoni provides a heart-stopping amount of calories, refined carbs, fat, and sodium. The lofty amount of protein might be this sub’s only redeeming quality; however, it doesn’t even come close to canceling out the other nutritional pitfalls. Do your health a favor and order one of the options above instead. Or at the very least, half this bad boy.