Diabetes Fast Food Guide: What to Order at Subway
Ever wondered how to survive the drive-thru with diabetes? In our ongoing series, a dietitian and diabetes educator walks through the best things to order at top fast food chains. This week we’re focusing on the menu at Subway.
Welcome to the latest installment of our fast-food restaurant menu review series, where we shift our focus to Subway, the go-to destination for customizable and freshly made sandwiches. With an array of bread choices, fillings, and toppings, Subway offers a unique opportunity to create a meal that caters to your specific tastes and dietary needs. New York-based registered dietitians Tammy Lakatos Shames and Lyssie Lakatos, also known as The Nutrition Twins, offered some suggestions for wholesome, diabetes-friendly menu options at Subway.
Diabetes-friendly ordering at Subway: What to skip
Lakatos advises you to skip breakfasts that are made on a wrap. “They contain anywhere from 1370 to 1870 mg of sodium, nearly the 1,500 mg daily maximum recommended amount that the American Heart Association suggests for those with diabetes to help keep the blood vessels in good shape,” says Lakatos. “Plus, they contain at least 55 grams of carbs and more than 10 grams of saturated fat, which is half of the maximum you should get in an entire day. This is especially important for people with diabetes who are already at an increased risk for heart disease,” Lakatos said.
Resist the temptation to go all in on a footlong deal and choose the 6-inch size instead, Shames and Lakatos suggest. Smaller portions will reduce the meal's overall carbohydrate, fat, sodium, and caloric intake.
Condiments with added sugars
Choose condiments and dressings wisely, as certain sauces can add hidden sugars and extra carbohydrates. “Sweet onion teriyaki sauce and barbecue sauce contain 7 grams of carbs and a minimum of 130 mg of sodium,” Shames said.
If you're following a low-carbohydrate diet, Shames recommends skipping dessert, as it can contain a high amount of carbs, fat, saturated fat, calories, and sodium. All of Subway’s cookies, for instance – whether it’s the Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal Raisin, Raspberry Cheesecake, or White Chip Macadamia Nut – are upwards of 28 grams of carbs per serving. “That doesn’t even include the carbs in your meal,” Shames said.
While fountain drinks such as diet soda may sound like a wise choice, to avoid adding to the killer amounts of sodium in Subway’s meals, Shames actually suggests ordering the one option that’s not listed on the menu: water. “Even if you added a calorie and carb-free diet soda, it would add more sodium to your meal,” she said.
Safe bets on the Subway menu
Take advantage of Subway's wide selection of vegetables and pile them onto your sandwich or salad. Lakatos suggests piling on veggies such as spinach, sweet peppers, onions, and lettuce on your sandwich, as they add extra fiber and micronutrients.
Spices, herbs, and certain condiments
Instead of high-sugar sauces or creamy dressings, Shames recommends opting for healthier toppings like mustard or vinegar that don’t have added sugar or a large quantity of saturated fat. And if you simply can’t do without the likes of mayonnaise or ketchup, she suggests using these condiments sparingly or ask for them on the side to control your carbohydrate intake. She adds that sodium is another thing to bear in mind when deciding how generous to be with specific toppings: “Although Hot Pepper Relish adds flavor without adding calories and has just one gram of carbohydrate, it's worth noting that it contains 170 mg of sodium.”
For added punch, she suggests piling on the herbs and spices. “Add zesty oregano and black pepper to jazz it up,” she said. “This simple addition not only adds taste but also helps reduce sodium and carb intake.”
Customized orders featuring lean proteins and more vegetables
Leverage Subway's customization options to create a meal that suits your dietary requirements. Customizing your order allows you to manage your protein, fat, and carbohydrate intake: Watch your carbohydrate intake by skipping high-carb ingredients like croutons and opting for lower-carb bread options or a lettuce wrap. To cut down on fat intake without losing protein, choose lean protein options like grilled chicken or turkey breast instead of cheesesteak or meatballs. Request extra vegetables for a meal that’s rich in fiber.
The Nutrition Twins’ favorite diabetes-friendly Subway menu items
6” Egg & Cheese Multigrain Flatbread with Egg Whites
Shames suggests Subway’s 6" Egg and Cheese Sandwich on multigrain flatbread over a wrap for breakfast, with egg whites in lieu of regular egg. “You may assume the egg and cheese sandwich would be a better choice on a wrap, but going with the flatbread option saves you over 12g carb, 250 calories, and 520 mg of sodium,” she said.
6” Egg White & Cheese Multigrain Flatbread: 350 calories, 11g fat, 44g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 3g sugars, 18g protein, 870 mg sodium
Grilled Chicken on Mini Multigrain Whole Wheat
Subway’s Grilled Chicken on Mini Multigrain Whole Wheat bread is a sensible-sized sandwich option for lunch or dinner.
“The Mini Multigrain bread option is brilliant for those with diabetes as it provides the fiber-rich whole grain to help stabilize blood sugar and just 24 grams of carbs,” Lakatos said, adding, “The grilled chicken provides a nice portion of lower-calorie protein which also helps to keep your blood sugar on an even keel.”
Grilled chicken on Mini Multigrain Whole Wheat: 180 calories, 4.5g fat, 25 g carbohydrates, 3.5g fiber, 1g sugars, 13g protein, 340 mg sodium
Grilled Chicken Salad
If you're not feeling overly hungry, Lakatos suggests a Grilled Chicken Salad (above right) with red wine vinegar or vinegar and oil – a nice option that will help keep you feeling light and satisfied.
Grilled Chicken Salad (without dressing): 130 calories, 3 g fat, 10g carbohydrates, 4g fiber,5g sugar, 19g protein, 280 mg sodium
Vinegar and oil topping
"Red wine vinegar makes a fantastic sandwich sauce without calories, sodium, or carbs," says Shames.
Vinegar and oil topping: Vinegar and oil topping: 45 calories, 0g carbohydrate, 0g fiber, 5g fat, 0g protein, 0g carbohydrate, 0mg sodium
If coffee shops are your go-to for mornings or otherwise, tune in for the next edition of our diabetes fast food guide, which will highlight healthful options at Starbucks.
Also in this series:
- Diabetes Fast Food Guide: What to Order at McDonald’s
- Diabetes Fast Food Guide: What to Order at Chipotle