Takeaway Food Week: Subway

Ordering a sub from Subway can be one of the healthiest choices you can make for takeout, and that’s worth celebrating as Takeaway Food Week rolls on. Just don’t make the mistake of adding the risky extras or picking the wrong sub.

Picture by Like The Grand Canyon

Obviously, there are lots of choices that involve assembling your own meal which combines salad, bread and other ingredients, from rival sub chains to the old-fashioned corner store making sandwiches to order. I’m focusing on Subway here for a couple of reasons. Firstly, with 1250-plus outlets in Australia, it can lay fair claim to being the biggest takeaway provider in the land. Secondly, Subway aggressively markets itself as a healthy choice, sponsoring The Biggest Loser, using spokespeople like Jared Fogle (the dude who lost weight on a largely Subway diet), and highlighting its subs that offer less than six grams of fat and which sauces have lower kilojoule counts.

The emphasis on vegetables and the ability to customise your choices means that it’s much easier to come up with a healthy meal in Subway than it is in other chains. There’s no fries on offer for starters (obviously you should still dodge full-strength soft drinks). Beyond that, how do the meals measure up? Here’s the kilojoule, fat and sodium figures for the main subs on offer from Subway (drawn from its own nutritional information). The sub-6-grams options are listed in italics.

My favourite Subway sub is the meatball, so it’s disappointing to learn that it’s the most kilojoule-laden choice on the regular menu. That said, at just under 2000Kj, it isn’t totally ridiculous in six-inch format as a meal. A footlong, on the other hand, is rather more indulgent than it needs to be for anyone who isn’t seven feet tall. There’s a major difference between the kilojoule totals for the sub-six-grams category and the other options (notice that the Veggie Pattie is the second highest Kj count, proving that vegetarian food isn’t always healthier).

The other risk factor is the sodium. Ideally, you don’t want more than 1500mg of sodium in a day, and several of these subs approach that total on their own. Add cheese and a salty sauce and you’d definitely go over.

How can I make this healthier? Beyond dodging the fat-laden meals and keeping an eye on the salt, here’s a few sensible rules to follow to make sure your Subway choice doesn’t balloon unexpectedly:

  • Resist the footlong. It might seem better value, but doubling the size takes most of these subs into overindulgent territory.
  • Don’t buy the cookies. With an average of around 900Kj in one cookie, that could be more kilojoules than your actual six-inch sub.
  • Be wary of the breakfast subs. The least calorific of these still packs 1500Kj.
  • Go easy on the cheese and sauces. Adding cheese puts about 200Kj on the total; the chipotle southwest or thousand island dressings each add 400Kj.
  • Stick with the less fancy breads. Choosing honey oat or italian herbs & cheese will add another 100Kj or so to the total.

How can I save money? The obvious choice here are the range of subs (meatball, seafood sensation, ham, tuna, pizza and Veggie Delite) which cost $5 for a six-inch, or $7 for a footlong. If you split the latter between two people, you’ve got a fair whack of food for $3.50. Of those, the ham and Veggie Delite are the “low fat” options. (Note that these deals often don’t apply in super-high-rent locations such as airports.)

What’s your favourite Subway combo? Wrap up your thoughts in the comments.

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