Subway Is Not Healthy

Learn how to quickly make a healthy Subway sandwich:

“Subway, eat fresh”

Most people believe that Subway is a healthy fast food chain. After all, they don’t have a fryer, two of the five bread selections are brown bread, and you can choose which fresh vegetables you want on your sandwich.

No greasy fries, tempting ice cream or fatty hamburgers in sight.

But Subway is still fast food. Subway is still unhealthy. And Jared, the man famous for losing weight by eating Subway sandwiches, is still overweight.

When thinking of healthy food, Subway shouldn’t come to mind. Subway is not healthy.

I know. I worked there.

Sure, Subway has the potential to be healthier than a typical fast food meal. But healthier isn’t the same as healthy.

The reality

Subway’s branding is misleading.

Not all of the sandwiches at Subway are healthy alternatives to the food served at McDonald’s, Burger King or Arby’s. Some are just as bad (if not worse) than the menu items at McDonald’s.

Example: a 6-inch Chicken and Bacon Ranch on Italian herbs and cheese bread with the recommended fixings. It’s ridiculously unhealthy. It has more calories, sodium, calories from fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sugar than a double cheeseburger from McDonalds’ dollar menu.

A few things the sub offers that the McDonald’s burger doesn’t:

  • Slightly less trans-fat (0.5 grams less)
  • 1 more measly gram of dietary fiber
  • The sub is slightly less calorically dense

A small amount of nutrients or calories come from the little produce that goes on the sandwich.

“Would you like to make that a meal?”

Next, consider the extras people buy at Subway.

Customers normally buy fat-ridden chips and cookies. The “healthy” option is a sugary fruit and yogurt parfait.

The drink choices are the same ones available at McDonald’s: Coca-Cola products. 99% of the drinks have added sugars. Sodas, juices, lemonade, sweetened tea and PowerAde are all readily available for purchase.

All unhealthy.

Apple slices and bottled water are available, too. But who does that?

Is Subway unhealthy like McDonald’s?

I admit that Subway offers better food to eat on the go than McDonald’s.

The reason? The options at Subway have more nutrition than the ones at McDonald’s. People tend to put more veggies in their food at Subway than at McDonald’s.

That doesn’t mean the food is good, okay or acceptable. It’s simply better. It’s like having Honey Nut Cheerios instead of a Poptart for breakfast. The Cheerios are better, but still unhealthy.

How to make the healthiest Subway sandwich

Subway is Not Healthy from Carob Cherub | What are the best choices for eating at Subway? Is Subway even healthy or nutritious to begin with?


I wouldn’t eat the majority of food served at Subway.

However, there’s a way to make a Subway meal that’s decently filling and isn’t totally unhealthy. I’ll go through it step by step.

1. The bread

First, the bread.

All white breads are junk food. So no Italian Herbs and Cheese, Italian, Garlic or flatbread. You need to choose a whole wheat bread, or as close to one as you can find.

This means you can either choose 9-Grain Wheat or 9-Grain Honey Oat.

When I worked there, I remember the bread not being vegan, but when I researched it (and as of September 2013), the bread is vegan.

There are slight differences between the honey oat and the wheat. The difference isn’t enough to cause concern. The honey oat has a few more calories, sodium and sugar.

I’d stick to just the regular wheat. I prefer the veggies on my sandwich to be the star.

2. The sub

Subway is Not Healthy from Carob Cherub | Learn the nutrition facts for Subway's food. It isn't as healthy as you think it is. Tips for making a healthy meal, the best options for eating and the best choices when traveling. @carobcherub


Next to consider is the type of sandwich.

The sandwich for me is the veggie sub. You could consider a veggie sub or a breakfast sandwich with egg whites. All of the meats at Subway are completely unacceptable.

Why no meat?

One of the reasons is the salt content. The meats are dripping with salt and other nasty preservatives.

Unknown to most, the meats smell revolting when they come out of the packaging. The worst smell at Subway is the smell of cold cut combo fresh out of the package.

The meats are also covered in a thick slime that slides off slowly while it sits in the fridge.


Egg white patties are better than whole egg patties because they don’t have as much cholesterol. I avoid the egg whites for the sodium.

The veggie patty contains milk, so that’s not an option.

3. The cheese

Subway is Not Healthy from Carob Cherub | The processed cheese is disgusting at Subway. @carobcherub

After choosing your sandwich you may think it’s time to choose the cheese.


Like meat, the cheese provides too much sodium, cholesterol and fat.

Dairy is one of the worst foods that you can possibly eat (read Is dairy milk bad for human health?). In fact, cheese is worse than meat. Even the meat served at Subway.

The cheese at Subway isn’t the way cheese is supposed to look or feel. It’s filled with artificial ingredients and preservatives that I can’t even begin to imagine.

So no cheese, please!

Your sandwich artist is supposed to ask you if you’d like to add any extras to your sandwich. The extras you shouldn’t consider: bacon, cheese and meat.

Depending on the season, they may offer one that’s healthy: avocado. It’ll make your sandwich more satisfying. The avocado spread is one of the most wholesome options at Subway. No additives, fillers or preservatives.

  1. The works

Next comes my favorite part: the veggies.

Ask the sandwich artist to add as much produce as you want. Remember, you can ask for more.

Iceberg lettuce can have a bad reputation in the health community. Compared to other leafy greens, it’s wimpy. But if you’d like iceberg lettuce on your sub, add it. Even better is a combination of lettuce and spinach for more volume and variety.

This is what I’d put on my sandwich:

  • lettuce
  • lots of spinach
  • lots of tomatoes
  • cucumbers
  • green peppers
  • onions

I’d ask for at least double of what they are supposed to give. Ensure that they load it up.

The bread already has too much sodium, so avoid putting cured items such as pickles, black olives, jalapeños and banana peppers on your sandwich. A few are okay, but don’t go overboard.

Some stores offer carrots and sweet peppers. If they’re available, I’d add them on my sandwich, too.

5. The final touches

Subway is Not Healthy from Carob Cherub | Use vinegar for dressings on your Subway sandwiches and Salads. @carobcherub

Last is sauce and seasonings.

They don’t have a wide selection of healthy sauces. The best options are the red wine vinegar and the mustard.  I’d choose a combination of both.

If you prefer sweet sauces, the Sweet Onion is the best option. Some stores carry pepper and oregano. Add those if they’re available

Avoid the Parmesan and salt.

Don’t ruin your healthy sub with your meal options. Grab a bag of apple slices and a bottle of water.

Nutrition information

One last thing that you should know about Subway is the nutritional info.

The nutrition information doesn’t match up with the way most people make their sandwiches.

Their “healthy” 6-inch sandwiches are made on whole wheat bread with no cheese and no sauce. The toppings include lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers and onions.

The two major differences between “healthy” Subway and reality Subway? The cheese and the sauce.

Everybody loves cheese and fatty sauces. People don’t understand that unhealthy extras on their “healthy” sandwich transform a healthier option into one that’s no better than other menu items.

Subway Alternatives

Subway is Not Healthy from Carob Cherub | Filled sourdough rolls are a healthy meal on the go. Much better than Subway @carobcherub

We’ve explored the problems with Subway and how to make the healthiest sandwich. If you need to eat something on the road, there are still better options than Subway.

A healthy and cheap alternative to popping into Subway is visiting a local grocery store.

One option is bananas. Bananas are ubiquitous, cheap and mess free. Most gas stations and convenience stores stock apples, oranges and bananas.

Another option is whole grain bread and hummus.

But there’s an even better choice.

There’s a simple characteristic that sets truly healthy people apart. It’s called planning ahead.

If you’re going on a road trip, you need to prepare. Buy a box of bananas so you have fresh, ripe fruit. Prepare wraps or sandwiches. Or something. The possibilities are endless.

But these possibilities require preparation and planning. What causes people to fail is lack of planning.

It’s difficult to patiently search for healthy food when you’re starving.

Set yourself up for success. Don’t set yourself up to fail.

Subway is Not Healthy from Carob Cherub | Learn the nutrition facts for Subway's food. It isn't as healthy as you think it is. Tips for making a healthy meal, the best options for eating and the best choices when traveling. @carobcherub
  • Updated a couple of years ago
Sara Binde

Sara is a health and nutrition coach. She advocates for a whole foods plant-based lifestyle and teaches the world how to achieve weight loss.