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Healthiest Foods At Subway And The Worst

Healthy food swaps at Subway

On today’s episode of Live Lean TV, I’m sharing the healthiest foods at Subway and the worst high calorie options.

Note: the video from this post was filmed back in 2012, however I’ve attempted to update the information based on updates Subway has made to their menu. Since 2012, Subway has improved some of the ingredients that were discussed in this post. However, many improvements are still needed to consider Subway a healthy food option.

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On last weeks Fast Food edition of Food Wars, I analyzed the healthiest vs worst foods at McDonald’s.

Based on that, readers have asked for the same analysis on the often perceived, healthy fast food alternative, Subway.

If I asked which fast food restaurant is the healthiest, I bet many of you would say Subway.

But does that mean Subway is actually healthy for you?

Well, after analyzing Subway’s nutrition and ingredient information, you may be surprised with my findings.

I know I was.

Healthiest Foods At Subway And The Worst

Later in the post, I share the healthiest foods at Subway and the worst high calorie options.

But first, we need to talk about ingredients.

Learning about Subway’s ingredients was shocking

I have to admit, I was pretty shocked when I learned about some of the ingredients Subway was using in their food.

Remember, calories and macronutrients are important, but they are just one part of the nutrition equation. You also have to look at the ingredients that go into the food.

For example, if you think you’re just eating a regular chicken breast when you order the oven roasted chicken sandwich, think again.

The same goes for the steak and the seafood.

Each of these common, one ingredient high protein foods, contain a lot of unnatural ingredients.

These unhealthy ingredients are especially surprising since Subway’s famous tagline is, “Eat Fresh”.

Well when I looked at all the ingredients Subway offers, I only found 5 fresh one ingredient foods.

To help remember these 5 fresh ingredients at Subway, think of the acronym, C-Bolt.

5 fresh ingredients at Subway:

  • C – cucumber
  • B – bell peppers
  • O – onions
  • L – lettuce
  • T – tomato

Now you may be thinking aren’t all the vegetables healthy?

Most of the times, yes, but some of these Subway vegetables contain unnatural preservatives called sulphites.

Sulphites can act as allergens, thus creating an allergic reaction for some people.

Subway vegetables containing sulphites include:

  • banana peppers
  • jalapeno peppers
  • pickles
  • olives

Based on these sulphites, you may be better off not adding these ingredients to your Subway meals.

The healthiest foods at Subway and the worst

Note: the following healthiest foods mentioned in the video were from 2012. Since then Subway has new food options. We’ll cover those below. But first, here is what was covered in 2012.

Best healthy Subway salad: Turkey Breast Salad (via 2012)

Turkey Breast Sandwich

When I went to Subway, I ordered this turkey breast salad with no dressing.

Feel free to add the oil and red wine vinegar dressing to the salad, if the oil is extra virgin olive oil.

A teaspoon serving of this oil and vinegar dressing would add an extra 45 calories and 5 grams of fat.

Worth it in my opinion.

Turkey breast salad nutrition facts (via 2019):

  • Calories: 110
  • Protein: 12g
  • Carbohydrates: 12g
  • Fat: 2g

Based on the 110 calorie turkey breast salad with no dressing, the macronutrient breakdown is as follows.

Turkey breast salad macronutrient breakdown (via 2019):

  • 43% of calories comes from protein
  • 43% of calories comes from carbohydrates
  • 16% of calories comes from fat

Now ask yourself, will 110 calories fill you up? I know it wouldn’t fill me up.

Based on this, another higher calorie, healthier alternative is a 6 inch turkey breast sandwich.

Best healthy Subway sandwich: 6 inch turkey breast sandwich (via 2012)

Turkey Breast Sandwich

The following nutrition information is based on a 6 inch sandwich, not a footlong sandwich.

If you’re ordering a footlong sandwich, you should check the nutrition facts on Subway’s website, or roughly multiply these numbers by 2.

By eating a footlong, your calorie and carbohydrate calculations start to get a little crazy.

The healthiest Subway bread is the 9-grain wheat bread.

I’ll be talking more in depth about the bread very shortly, so keep reading.

6 inch turkey breast sandwich containing:

  • 9-grain wheat bread
  • cucumber
  • bell peppers
  • onion
  • lettuce
  • tomato
  • yellow mustard

6 inch turkey breast sandwich nutrition facts (via 2019):

  • Calories: 250
  • Protein: 18g
  • Carbohydrates: 40g
  • Fat: 3g
  • Sodium: 650mg

Based on the 250 calorie turkey breast sandwich, the macronutrient breakdown is as follows.

6 inch turkey breast sandwich macronutrient breakdown (via 2019):

  • 29% of calories comes from protein
  • 64% of calories comes from carbohydrates
  • 11% of calories comes from fat

Based on this macronutrient ratio, it’s really not that balanced of a meal.

The protein and fat is low compared to the higher ratio of carbohydrates.

Plus, who would really feel full and satisfied off of a 250 calorie meal?

2019 update: the healthiest Subway food is the Rotisserie-Style Chicken Salad

As mentioned earlier, since the video was filmed in 2012, Subway has come out with new food offerings.

The healthiest foods at subway in 2019 is the rotisserie-style chicken salad with bacon, guacamole, and oil and vinegar.

Rotisserie-style chicken salad nutrition facts (via 2019):

  • Calories: 480
  • Protein: 29g
  • Carbohydrates: 18g
  • Fat: 33g

I like this option since it’s a higher calorie salad, meaning it’s a more complete meal, higher in protein and healthy fat, when compared to the 110 calorie turkey breast salad.

Eating a higher calorie salad, comprised of healthier calories, means it will keep you full and control your hunger cravings, thus allowing you to eat less calories throughout the day.

This salad is also lower in carbohydrates when compared to the 6 inch turkey breast sandwich.

Rotisserie-style chicken salad macronutrient breakdown (via 2019):

  • 24% of calories comes from protein
  • 15% of calories comes from carbohydrates
  • 62% of calories comes from fat

Based on this macronutrient ratio, it’s higher in hunger filling fat, which is a good thing.

Bottom line on the healthiest foods at Subway:

Let me keep it real.

Most low calorie salads, like the 110 calorie turkey breast salad, will not fill you up.

Although a 110 calorie meal sounds good for weight loss, if it just makes you binge on unhealthy foods later, you put yourself at a higher risk of being over your daily calorie needs.

However, if the turkey breast salad does fill you up, and your goal is weight loss, go with it.

But if you’re like most people, and require more healthy calories to fill you up, go with the rotisserie-style chicken salad with bacon, guacamole, and oil and vinegar.

2019 update: the best healthy Subway sandwich is the 6 inch Rotisserie-Style Chicken sandwich

If you’re craving a sandwich:

  • 6 inch rotisserie-style chicken on 9-grain wheat bread, with cucumbers, bell peppers, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, and yellow mustard.

And yes, I said yellow mustard.

The yellow mustard is a healthier mustard option as the second ingredient in the honey mustard is sugar.

And it goes without saying, you do not want to touch the mayonnaise.

The added calories and unhealthy ingredients in the other condiments are just crazy.

Stick with the regular yellow mustard as your low calorie condiment of choice.

The worst foods at Subway

Now lets quickly talk about the worst foods at Subway.

The 4 worst Subway sandwiches include the footlong:

  • New southwest chicken club
  • Chicken and bacon ranch melt with cheese
  • Spicy Italian
  • Meatball marinara

The things that makes these 4 Subway sandwiches the worst are they are much higher in sodium and higher in calories.

The 2,140 calorie meal deal at Subway

Yes, you read that right.

You can order a 2,140 calorie meal deal at Subway.

To put that into context, the following meal has more calories than some people require in a whole day:

  • Footlong New Southwest Chicken Club
  • Large Coke
  • 2 white chip macadamia cookies

This meal deal contains the following:

  • Calories: 2,140
  • Protein: 74g
  • Carbohydrates: 232g
  • Fat: 103g

Macronutrient breakdown:

  • 14% of calories comes from protein
  • 43% of calories comes from carbohydrates
  • 43% of calories comes from fat


More details on the shocking ingredients at Subway

You may be wondering if the Subway chicken and meat options are healthy?

Unfortunately Subway uses soybean oil and nitrates in a lot of their meat.

This isn’t good, which is why we listed soybean oil as one of the 3 foods to avoid for a flat stomach.

In 2012, I mentioned the turkey breast was one of the healthier Subway options for meat from an ingredients point of view.

This is still true, however the macronutrients in the chicken is better.

Even though most people think the oven roasted chicken would be the healthiest option as it contains more protein, the ingredients in the chicken are sketchy.

Before I checked out the ingredients, I assumed a Subway chicken patty would simply contain chicken and a lot of salt to preserve it.


Let me quickly share what is in one of those Subway chicken patties.

Note: the following ingredients mentioned in the video were from 2012. Since then the ingredients have been slightly improved, which I’ll cover below.

Subway chicken patty ingredients (in 2012):

  1. chicken breast with rib meat
  2. water
  3. seasoning including:
  4. corn syrups solids
  5. brown sugar
  6. modified tapioca starch
  7. salt
  8. dextrose
  9. maltodextrin
  10. modified corn starch
  11. garlic powder
  12. hydrolyzed corn protein
  13. onion powder
  14. tetrasodium pyrophosphate
  15. vinegar
  16. solid yeast extract
  17. vegetable oil shortening (i.e. refined soybean oil)
  18. thiamine hydrochloride
  19. lactic acid
  20. disodium inosinate
  21. disodium guanylate
  22. soy protein
  23. sodium phosphate

All of these ingredients are in one little chicken breast.

Does that sound very natural to you?

I don’t think so.

Based on Subway’s ingredient list in 2019, it looks like the ingredients in the chicken patty have changed and improved.

Subway chicken patty ingredients (in 2019):

  1. chicken breast with rib meat
  2. water
  3. chicken flavor (sea salt, sugar, chicken stock, salt, flavors, canola oil, onion powder, garlic powder, spice, chicken fat, honey)
  4. potato starch
  5. sodium phosphate
  6. dextrose
  7. carrageenan

As mentioned above, Subway now offers a rotisserie-style chicken, which from a macronutrient standpoint, contains more protein than the turkey breast.

However, this rotisserie-style chicken is not like a plain chicken breast that you would make at home, as it contains soybean oil.

You just can’t win.

What is in the Subway bread?

I mentioned I would tell you about the ingredients in the Subway bread.

Most of the bread made at Subway contains refined soybean oil.

As a Live Leaner, we limit refined oils and focus on consuming healthy oils.

Based on the soybean oil, this is just another reason to go for the salad, and stay away from the Subway bread.

Once again, if you only look at the calories, these 6 inch Subway sandwiches may be lower calorie when compared to other fast food restaurants.

However, when it comes to being healthy, it’s not just about calories.

Don’t forget to look at the ingredients that are added to these foods.

Here are some other things to keep in mind

Does Subway food contain MSG?

It’s important to limit foods in your diet that contain the additive MSG.

In the video from 2012, I mentioned a few of the Subway items contain MSG, such as the:

  • chicken
  • roast beef
  • seafood
  • steak

However, in 2019, according to the FAQs on Subway’s website, they do not add MSG to any standard items.

Does Subway food contain nitrates?

Another ingredient to limit in your diet is foods containing nitrates.

Subway foods containing nitrates include:

  • bacon strips
  • cold cut combo meats
  • ham
  • Italian BMT meats
  • Spicy Italian meats (pepperoni and salami)
  • corned beef
  • pastrami

Although I wouldn’t eat foods containing nitrates everyday, adding bacon to your salad, is not the worst thing in the world.

Subway Eat Fresh?

That’s kind of iffy to me.

Unfortunately Subway is not the healthy alternative that most people think it is.

Just be careful.

Always try to eat real food, that you can make at home, and then bring on the go.

I understand that that is not always an option, so try to go with the healthiest Subway options that I mentioned earlier.

One last thing

I still don’t understand how the salad costs more than the sandwich.

As mentioned, I ordered a 6 inch turkey breast sandwich, that included vegetables, turkey breast, and the bread.

That 6 inch turkey breast sandwich cost $4.75.

Then I ordered a turkey breast salad, which included the turkey breast and all the same vegetables that came on the sandwich, minus the bread.

This turkey breast salad cost $6.25.

That means I paid an extra $1.50, even though I’m getting less food.

Once again, this is another example of how we’re paying more money for healthy food, even when we get less, when compared to unhealthy food.

It doesn’t make any sense.

Bottom line

This Fast Food edition of Food Wars was an eye-opener.

If I want you to take one thing away, it is this.

Don’t fall for the Subway, or any other company’s marketing hype.

Always do your research and dig a little bit deeper into what you’re putting into your body.

Subway nutrition information via:

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Leave a comment below with other restaurants that you would like me to analyze.

Once I get feedback, I’ll do my best to share the healthiest foods to eat and which foods to stay away from.

I’ll be back again tomorrow with a Q&A show, where I’m answering your specific questions on camera.

To date, I’ve received a lot of questions, so thanks for sending those in.

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If that is your YouTube username, leave a comment on the YouTube video so I can confirm that you saw it.

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That’s it for me, I’ll see you tomorrow.

Questions For You:

  • What are your go-to fast food restaurants when traveling?
  • Do you have a favorite healthier fast food option?

Be sure to share your answers in the comment section below.

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9 responses to “Healthiest Foods At Subway And The Worst

  1. Thanks so much for this video! This summer I was interning 30 minutes away from home so I was eating Subway every day for lunch. I’m a vegetarian so I always got a 6 inch 9 grain sub with provolone cheese, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, green peppers, sweet peppers, banana peppers and a little red wine vinegar. From what you researched was that an okay option?

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