Update 2018

Since I wrote this article in 2016, things went downhill for Subways. A part of the people longs for "real" fast food, the other wants healthier and also fresher food. Subways is facing hard times, at least in the US. This year, locations will shut down (regarding to the Business Insider.)

In 2017, 909 stores closed in the US. That's three times as much as one year before that. We expect this tendency to get even worse over the years.

While Subways still position themselves as "healthy alternative" to Burger King & Co, this is even further from reality than in 2016 when I wrote this article. A franchisee told reporters that shops meanwhile receive food deliveries once a week, the busier ones twice.

That doesn't make the people Subways is targeting happy. They want healthy food and they want fresh food.

Back to the original article and why I won't cry a tear for Subways:

Is Subway Food Healthy?

6 facts about Subway that suggest otherwise

alarming facts about subway food

Yesterday I had 20 minutes until an appointment, an empty stomach and there was nothing around besides a Subway.   Obviously, I have a learning resistance. After my first visit to Subway, I did not go there again for 4 years.   I still lived in Germany 4 years ago and I thought by myself ... well, in all honesty, I wanted to think "maybe it's better in the US" just to have an excuse. Ethics is a matter of the circumstances, they say, and when I am hungry ....   I ordered a vegetarian sub (the 6 dollar menu with drink and chips). I could only take two bites from the sub. But, hey, a bad sandwich is a (hopefully) interesting blog post. The overly sweet sauce, the mushy bread, and the veggies that tasted far from fresh made me think about how Subway markets their products as "healthy" and even "weight loss" appropriate. I became curious and thought I would look into what Subway really is.

1. Subway food contains GMO

  If you follow the link below you find that EVERY Subway Sandwich contains GMO soybeans. Many of the vegetables contain genetically modified components too. So do the condiments.  

The few salads that do not contain soy come with MSG´s. Spices and dressing still contain GMO´s, though.

Update: The Subway allergen chart is now only available for download (clicking on the link will download a pdf) https://www.subway.com/~/media/usa/documents/nutrition/us_allergen_chart.pdf      

What is the problem with GMOs?

A detailed article will follow soon. A quick example: One application is that a gene that acts like a pesticide is implanted into a plant to fight off a bug that might or might not have "attacked" the plant. The altered seeds get sent to different countries - including countries where that bug does not even exist. The plant's genes change. The genes of the animal that eats the plants change. Finally, our genes change.   Mankind has altered plants since ancient times by crossing different plants. And we adapt. So what is the problem with genetical modifications? Well, one problem is that we eat pesticides. The kind you cannot wash off. In the past, alterations have been natural and limited by nature. Not artificial.   Long-term effects of GMO´s are unknown (well, bees and superbugs can already tell a tale). Do you remember the drug contergan? The terrible side effects only showed with the next generation. Many kids of mothers who took the sleeping pill were born without arms or legs. Or both.   I would not want to add pictures of the victims. If you feel like it just google "contergan" and click on "pictures".   They took the drug from the market.   The process of modifying genes is not reversible. There is not recall button for GMO crops.

2. Azodicarbonamide

A chemical used in products like yoga mats. In Europe, strictly forbidden for human consumption, Subway used azodicarbonamide in their bread until last year. Their argument was that the FDA approved it. The FDA? Isn't that who allows aspartame, MSG´s, artificial coloring and flavor, unlabelled GMO and much more fun stuff? Well, I better stop being sarcastic right now, as I do never want to be on their bad side (like it happened to organic farmers and raw milk sellers: https://aurorasa-coaching.hubpages.com/hub/Raw-Milk-Still-A-Healthy-Choice)

After a lot of negative press, Subway made a change. They only make changes when faced with negative press and a potential decrease in turnover.   I have clipped this screenshot from an official Subway pdf on "improvements" they made on their bread.  

subway statement on improving bread

 I am not sure if that sounds like a baker tuning his recipes or like a laboratory experimenting.   If you have strong nerves have a look at the current list of ingredients of the Subway bread:
Subway ingredients You might have to look up one or the other ingredient. My article about grains and wheat contains information on pros and cons of wheat:

2. High in Calories

On the cup was a comparison of "McDonald's" and "Burger King" vs Subway. The Chicken Teriyaki (small size) was listed with 370 calories vs Burger King's Whopper with 650. Subway is not a low-calorie food. You can read HERE why I am not a fan of calorie counting, in general, but you should be aware that Subway is in no way a low-calorie product.

subway food high in calories

  So ... the official site of Subways states a small "Chicken Teriyaki" Sandwich contains 370 calories.  

In the fine print, it said that the calorie number does not include sauce, cheese or any additions to the "basic" version. A slice of cheese accounts to additional 40 calories. I had 3 on my sandwich.In the case on the "teriyaki" sandwich that would be 490 calories. Without condiments or extras.   And who eats their sub without condiment or extras?  

Comparing a small Subway sandwich to the full-size burger of the competition seems a bit wrong. It seems to me comparing it to a Whopper Junior would have been fair. But I get why Subway would not do that. A Whopper Junior has only 300 calories (without cheese).In a more realistic configuration, a sandwich contains towards 550 or more calories. As a burger contains the double amount of protein (that keeps you feeling full longer) it is safe to say that there is no difference if you are worried about losing weight.   The other statement on the cup was that Subway only contains so much fat. There was no mentioning of GMO´s, artificial sweeteners or MSG´s. But that is what I am worried about and not fat.  

3. High in Sodium

A small Subway Chicken Teriyaki contains 770 mg of Sodium. Versions like the "Italian" contain even more.   This is without cheese, condiments or extra sodium from any additions (i.e. pickles, olives, etc) that do not come in the "basic sandwich". In a realistic configuration, the sandwich will have more like 1000 mg.   Most people order a menu that comes with chips - and even more sodium. While the recommended maximum amount of daily sodium intake varies it is pretty obvious that half or more than half of the daily max in a single sandwich is not ideal.  

subway food high in socium
Subway Food contains GMO

A Whopper Junior contains 460 mg of sodium (also without cheese).   Do not get me wrong. I am not recommending any junk food - I am just following up on Subways aggressive comparison that is currently printed on their cups.   The nutrition info for the "spicy Italian" (which btw accounts for 480 calories without cheese and in the "basic" form) has 1490 mg of sodium.   Add the bag of chips and you are already in the unhealthy zone with only one meal.   Read some common questions and Subways official statements on the official site: https://www.subway.com/subwayroot/Menu_And_Nutrition/MenuFAQs.aspx   If it wasn´t so sad that we eat that stuff thinking we do something good for our health it would actually be comical.   "The rennin in our cheese is not derived from a pig".   Well...good to know that their cheese does not contain pig, isn´t it? Vegetarians like me love the sound of "no pig enzymes in our cheese".Or: "Is MSG used as a flavor enhancer in any foods?"
Answer: "The SUBWAY® brand does not add MSG to any of the standard menu items. However, other ingredients such as hydrolyzed or textured vegetable proteins and/or autolyzed yeast are used in our products. These ingredients contain glutamates that may cause similar sensitivities that MSG causes. To find out which foods at SUBWAY® contain autolyzed yeast and hydrolyzed protein, visit the nutrition section of the website to view ingredient listings. There is also a document in the nutrition section, called “Ingredient Information for People with Food Allergies” which identifies menu items that contain these two ingredients. Snack chips and pre-packaged salad dressings sold in our restaurants may contain MSG, so make sure to read the ingredient list on the package."You could have just said: "yes", Subway.Last time I checked autolyzed yeast & co do count as:

4. MSG´s

  Subway food contains MSG. You can read it on their official homepage.   Read this article to learn about the negative side effects of MSG and how you will gain weight by eating it. MSG´s have also been related to ADHS, allergies and other health problems.   https://blog.aurorasa-coaching.com/2015/05/the-dangers-of-msg.html

5. Quality of Veggies

  That might be a local issue - I would not know about that. The veggies on my sandwich were not fresh. The tomatoes were of a very low quality and practically tasteless. The salad had a few brown spots. The cucumber slices were already a bit dried out.   The Jalapenos were good.

6. High in Sugar

Subway contains MSG

And not just "sugar" but the really bad stuff. On their nutrition info they call it "sugars". It was impossible to get concrete information on all ingredients.  

Their bread (link above) contains up to 4 different forms of sugar - and we can be sure that the condiments do too. In the basic version without condiments or extras a sandwich! contains more than 1/4 of the recommended amount of sugar for a woman. Now add condiments and extras.   Just from the 2 bites I took from my sandwich I had an unpleasant taste of artificial sugar in my mouth from the overly sweet sauce.   In this article you will find a few tips on how to detox from sugar. The article also contains a list of different names for sugar together with some info on why especially artifical sugar might be something you want to eliminate from your diet.   https://blog.aurorasa-coaching.com/2015/07/5-tips-to-detox-from-sugar.html    


  As a Holistic Nutrition Consultant, certified in two countries, I do not consider Subway healthy. I do not even consider it the "best junk food". And junk food it is. Not fast food.   If you have to eat junk food you might as well eat the type that makes you really happy. Just try to do it in moderation.   An alternative to junk food might be fast food. Panera Bread i.e. is GMO free and has fewer problems than Subway. Another glorious example is Chipotle.  

Independent of the calorie amount (that is very high with Subway food anyway), Subway food is terrible for any diet. The amount of artificial ingredients, the exorbitant sodium amount and the low protein content make sure of that. That Subway is perceived as healthy food is a compliment to their marketing department. Chapeau!   For options in your area have a look HERE nongmoorganicrestaurants.com lists alternatives.