The truth is, that if anyone looked at the nutritional information that Subway has available on their website, they would see that the commercials aren't everything they're cracked up to be. Okay, my reaction to their menu and semi-false advertising aside, it's up to you to order something that's healthier and better for you. Thankfully, while Subway might not be the fresh and healthy choice that TV makes them out to be, they definitely land on the healthier side of your dining out options (when you make the right choices), especially when compared to McDonalds or something.
My suggestions are based solely on getting a sub, not about breakfast or soups or salad. I know that they offer all those things, but I've never tried them and don't feel right giving suggestions. On the other hand, I can say this much: If the soup is creamy looking, just say no because cream = not so healthy. Also, I can say that add your toppings/fillings to a bed of salad is going to definitely be healthier than putting them on bread. If you're getting a salad though, ask them to use spinach instead of the normal iceberg lettuce for a more nutritious salad. Anywho, on to sandwiches!!
1) 6 INCHES ONLY!! Getting the foot long seems like a deal, but unless you're planning to share or save the other half for a different mealtime, you're really better off only getting a 6" sub (=1 serving).
2) DO NOT MAKE IT A MEAL!! Trust me when I say the amount of calories, fat, carbs, etc. in the sandwich alone is plenty enough without the added amounts of sugar and fat from sodas and chips, which are the normal choices of most Americans. If you're dead set on getting something to go with it, ask for apple slices and a complimentary cup for water. And for heaven's sake DO NOT buy a cookie!! Worst idea in Subway...those little suckers range from 200-220 calories and 26g-32g carbs (14g-20g sugar) EACH. When one cookie is almost equivalent to your sandwich in calories and carbs and surpass it in sugar, that's never a good thing.
3) BUILD IT YOURSELF!! Don't bother ordering off their signature sandwich list because the combinations of meats or things like their Italian BMT or Meatball sandwich will just lead you down the wrong road. Ask for what you want and put together only the things you see fit to ingest! You get to have exactly what you want with a hopefully smaller effect on your waistline.
SOOO, there are a bunch of components when you really break down the oh-so-famous sandwiches. Each bunch of components deserve their own discussion, minus the veggies because no one got fat from overloading on veggies (at least, not that I know of). That being said, categories to takle here are:
The following nutritional information I use is all taken from the Subway website found here, and is based on a 6" sandwich. But please note that they have a tiny print disclaimer at the bottom of their page that makes me think that even their listed nutritional values are misleading to the average consumer. Not everyone would scroll down that far, just saying, so boo on you Subway (AGAIN!!). It states the following:
Sandwich nutrition values include 9-Grain Wheat bread, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, green peppers and cucumbers. Values do not include cheese unless noted.
Salads contain meat/poultry, standard vegetables and do not include salad-dressing or croutons.
Addition of other condiments and fixings will alter nutrition values.
Of the whole basket of bread choices, the two best choices are actually the simplest ones: Italian (White) bread or 9-Grain Wheat. They're relatively close in all aspects:
Italian (White) Bread (6" sub): 200 calories, 20 calories from fat, 2g total fat (0.5g saturated fat & 0g trans fat), 0g cholesterol, 290mg sodium, 38g carbs (1g fiber & 5g sugar), and 7g protein
9-Grain Wheat Bread (6" sub): 210 calories, 20 calories from fat, 2g total fat (0.5g saturated fat & 0g trans fat), 0g cholesterol, 310mg sodium, 40g carbs (4g fiber & 5g sugar), and 8g protein
With a difference of only 10 calories, 20mg sodium, 2g carbs (3g fiber), and 1g protein, there really isn't much to go on. The biggest difference for me is the fiber content, where the 9-Grain has more than the Italian. Why does that matter? Because fiber helps to keep you feeling fuller longer and helps with digestion. While the 9-Grain is the one that is higher in all the mentioned small differences, the added calories, sodium, and carbs seem to be worth it for the added increase in fiber and protein (for me at least). If your Subway offers Omega-3 Wheat Bread, that might also be a worthwhile choice, but I haven't found a Subway near me that has it (sad face).
Also, neat trick I learned from watching The Biggest Loser: Ask them to carve out your bread (from both the top and bottom half). It will remove unnecessary amounts of bread meaning that you're ingesting less calories and carbs while simultaneously making room for extra veggies!!
You could opt for no meat and get a Veggie Delite (i.e. healthiest option), but as a carnivore, I really enjoy having meat in my sandwiches. That being said, it can sometimes be hard to make the right choice when you're standing there in line and being asked what you want. I went through a lot of trouble (contacted Subway through their website) to figure out how to find the nutritional information for the meats alone without the added values for the bread and vegetables that are displayed on their website. The answer is here in a separate PDF that you can download but is sort of off on the side and not included in the information they easily provide on their website.
Anywho, according to the information given in this PDF, the best meat option would be Chicken Strips. While it's sort of average as far as cholesterol goes (50g), it has one of the highest amounts of protein (16g), no carbs (i.e. no sugar either), is lowest in sodium content (210mg), the second lowest for total fat (1.5g; 0.5g saturated fat), and is on the lower end of number of calories (80 calories).
Runner up for the meats would surprisingly be Roast Beef. Like the Chicken Strips, it also has 16g protein, but it also is a tiny bit higher in everything else (90 calories, 2.5g total fat (1g saturated), 390mg sodium, and 1g carb (=1g sugar, in this case). If you're questioning the validity of this being a second choice, just look at the rest of the options which are overly high in sodium (meatballs=640mg; Italian B.M.T. meats=990mg), high in fat (tuna=24g; meatballs=16g), high in carbs (meatballs=16g (6g sugar); veggie patty=12g (2g sugar)), but meanwhile is lower in protein (turkey breast or ham=9g each).
Normally, the sandwich maker adds two triangles of your cheese of choice (minus the shredded blend which is a small handful) and that is their serving size! You can ask for only one slice or to leave off the cheese all together, but you should definitely not be asking for more. Subway offers five different cheeses: Cheddar, Pepperjack, Processed American, Swiss, and some have a Shredded Monterey Blend. Honestly, I've got to say that based on their given nutritional values, they're all pretty similar. How do I finally pick something out?
My brain automatically removed "Processed American" from the line-up because anything that is called "Processed" even by the company can't really be that good for you. Less processed = better for you (normally). Pepperjack and American also both have the least amount of protein (2g), and I normally try to get as much protein out of cheese as I can [to make the intake of the fat a bit more worthwhile]. If you're watching your sodium intake, go for the Swiss (only 30mg compared to the 90mg+ in the others). I have a personal taste preference for Provolone, though, and it has a tiny bit less fat and cholesterol than the swiss. In the end, I normally end up with Provolone, but like I said, they're all really similar nutritional values-wise, so it's really up to you.
Vinegar or Yellow/Deli Brown Mustard. Period. Okay, you can add herbs and spices like oregano if you want, but of the actual liquidy condiments that everyone always thinks of, you should limit it to vinegar or mustard. Vinegar is a bunch of zeroes across the board; no calories, no fat, no carbs, no sodium, zero, zero, zero, zero. Mustard is the runner up with the low, low calorie content of 5 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, it does have 115mg sodium and 1g carbs, but other than that it beats out all the other condiments available.
If you're starting to think about the advertised fat-free options (i.e. Fat Free Honey Mustard and Fat Free Sweet Onion sauce), then I hope you realize you're being fooled by more misleading commercials. Just because it's fat-free does NOT mean that it isn't full of other things that aren't good for you. The sugar content of both of their fat-free condiments are also the two with the highest carb (and sugar) content, beating out other sauces that only have 1g or no carbs (or sugar) at all. Just remember, vinegar and yellow/deli brown mustard are both fat-free as well, so go with that.
For you mayo lovers out there, let me just say that I used to add mayo onto all my sandwiches whether I made it at home or bought it from somewhere. I used to say that sandwiches didn't taste the same without it...but the truth is that your mouth just wants some sort of extra flavor added to your sandwich. Make the healthier choice! Both the Mayonnaise and Light Mayonnaise that Subway offers both have a high fat content, and not the good kind of fats that you might find in something like avocado. These fats are the kinds that clog arteries and cause health problems. Trust me, my sandwiches taste fine without them once I found a different healthier condiment to replace it with.
Lesson to be learned here is be careful what you have them slather on your sandwich because you could be adding hundreds of extra calories without even realizing it!
Okay, I apparently lied because I just realized there are a few things you should keep in mind when getting your veggies. First, Subway normally uses iceberg lettuce, but that type of lettuce, while low in calories, lacks the minerals and vitamins that other greener greens offer----ask for spinach instead (see my previous post for benefits of spinach)! From experience, they tend to skimp on the spinach when you ask for it...make it CLEAR that you aren't getting lettuce so you want lots of spinach.
Second, avocado is tasty and full of wonderful healthy fats (see another of my previous posts for more on that), but you don't want to overdo it! The one scoop they give use and spread out is enough, no need to ask for more.
In the end...Enjoy!