Curious what is the healthiest bread at Subway? In this post, I will go into a detailed look at the nutrition of Subway breads to help you find the healthiest option to meet your sandwich needs! And of course, I’ll highlight the dental health benefits of bread too!
Subway sandwich shop, there seems to be one or a few in almost any major shopping plaza, city, or town. The shop serves up custom sandwiches, salads and wraps offering you a variety of fresh vegetables, meats, bread, condiments and dressings.
With 20,643 stores in the USA and counting, Subway can make for a quick, convenient lunch or dinner to grab a quick nutritious and tasty meal. I know I love it for an on the go workday lunch! Depending on what you get it can make for a healthier alternative to the typical fast food burger and fries places.
One hot topic of conversation when it comes to Subway is the bread choices. With all the talk about carbs, especially good verse bad carb foods along with the rise in the low-carb, keto and gluten-free food and diet trends, you may be wondering what is the healthiest bread at Subway. I get it, long before I became a nutrition expert, with all the noise out there about eat this not that bread, then seeing all the options on Subway’s menu I was just overwhelmed with what bread was a good, healthy choice.
Well, wonder no more! Julie here, I’m a registered dietitian I’ve taken the time to review the menu at Subway to provide you with the healthiest bread options. Hope you enjoy it. Feel free to jump to specific sections in the post via the table of contents links below!
As a bonus, since I specialize in dental nutrition, there’s a section on how bread can fuel dental health too.
Bread Nutrition Facts, Ingredients and Health Benefits
It seems as though sometimes bread can be villainized as a blood sugar spiking, high calorie, low nutritional value food. And well, in certain cases that it can be accurate, the reality is that not all bread is created equal when it comes to how it can positively nourish your body.
To figure out which Subway bread or just what bread, in general, is going to be a nutritious option to meet your health needs there are some nutrition factors that will help you make a decision. Having an understanding of what to look for on the nutrition label and what it means along with understanding bread ingredients and the differences can make picking the healthiest bread a breeze!
Bread Nutrition Facts – What To Look For
You may be familiar with the nutrition facts label. It looks like this:
The numbers in the image are just an example. The nutrition facts label is on most packaged foods in the United States. When looking at the nutrition label of bread here are some key things to look for.
Start by looking at the serving size. All the nutrition information on the label is based on this serving size, so it’s important to know how much you’re eating. Often negative connotations surrounding bread are due to the high intake of the bread itself.
So, pay attention to serving size. This can help you get a good understanding of just what a serving of bread looks like and may help you reduce overeating it. Like with most things moderation is key.
Next, check the calorie count. This will tell you how much energy you’re consuming from the food. Be mindful of your calorie intake and try to choose foods that fit into your daily caloric goals.
Bread tends not to be a high source of fat. Fat typically comes from animal sources, but if the bread is made with ingredients like coconut oil or palm oil it may have higher than usual fat content. So, if you see cheesy bread on the menu chances are it has more fat than white or wheat bread.
Sometimes nutrition facts labels will include total fat along with saturated fat, trans fat, monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. You can think of these fats as the least healthy to healthiest fats. When choosing healthy options try to pick a food that is low in saturated and trans fat and has a higher amount of fat from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Sodium can cause you to retain water. Additionally, a high intake of sodium can increase your risk for high blood pressure as well as other health issues. So, try choosing foods with moderate to low amounts of sodium and aim for low-sodium labelled foods whenever possible.
Over the years, carbs have been villainized. There are many reasons for this, one being that we just have an overabundance of carbs (in bread’s case overabundance of grains aka carb source) in our food supply. Another being with diabetes on the rise, people are aiming to control their carb intake. Many prepackaged, highly refined, highly palatable foods are filled with not-so-great quality carbs.
So, when it comes to the nutrition facts label here is a tip on how to figure out if the number of carbs in it is right for you. Try to view your carb intake in 15-gram serving amounts and try to keep a meal between 3-5 carb serving amounts. 2 carbs servings in 30 grams, 3-carb servings are 45 grams, 4-carb servings are 60 grams and 5-carb servings are 75 grams.
Look for foods that are high in fiber, as this can help keep you full, supports digestive health, and heart health, contributes to glycemic control and can help balance your blood sugar!
Bread also tends to be a low source of sugar. Often times the sugar found in bread is a natural part of the bread making process. Some breads will have added sugar in them. When it comes to added sugar, try to reduce the amount of this as much as you can since high intakes of added sugar can contribute to weight gain and inflammation. If you’re interested in learning more about added sugar’s impact on health checkout this article from Harvard Health.
If looking at all these ingredients and counting carbs in 15-gram increments is not your thing. A super quick way to check if bread is high, medium or low in each of these nutrients is by using the 20% guideline.
On the nutrition facts label you’ll see a percentage of daily value next to each nutrient. The daily value is based on a 2,000-calorie per day diet. Everyone’s calorie needs are different, but this will give you a quick broad idea of how nutrient dense the food is.
For each nutrient on the label that has a daily value check to see if the value is below or above 20%. If it is above 20% then the food can be considered high per serving of that nutrient. If it’s significantly below 20% say 5 or 9% then it can be considered low per serving in that nutrient. If it’s between 10-20% you can consider a medium to a medium high amount of that nutrient per serving.
Bread’s Ingredient List – What Grains To Look For
Alright, so now that you know how to read the nutrition facts label and what to look for regarding bread nutrition let’s chat about the ingredient list in bread, what to look for and what to watch out for.
Try to pick bread with the shortest, fewest ingredients in it. Bread can essentially be categorized into three categories – whole grains, refined grains and enriched grains. You can tell which category a bread falls into by looking at the ingredients list.
It’s recommended that you try to make half of your daily grains whole grains. So, if you see the word WHOLE as the first word on bread’s ingredient list, then you know it’s whole grains. Oftentimes, if the bread is a whole grain you’ll see it as whole wheat or whole grain as the first ingredient.
Whole grains are grains that contain all three parts of the grain kernel: the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. Bran is the outer layer of the grain that contains fiber, b vitamins and some trace minerals. The endosperm is the middle layer of the grain that contains carbs and proteins. And the germ is the internal nutrient layer that contains antioxidants, vitamin E, B vitamins and healthy fat.
Whole grains have been associated with a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancers. The Whole Grain Council provides great resources on the benefits of whole grains!
Refined grains are grains that have had the bran and germ removed during processing, leaving only the starchy endosperm. Examples of refined grains include white flour, white rice, and many types of pasta. In terms of bread, think of bread like white bread.
Refined grains are often used to make processed foods. Because the bran and germ have been removed, a ton of nutrients have been removed as well. In addition, often added ingredients have to be used in making bread that includes refined grains to improve its taste and texture profile. This can result in bread that contains the low nutrient, potentially higher inflammatory, blood sugar spiking ingredients.
You’ll notice if bread is made with refined grains by seeing it on the ingredients list. Oftentimes, it is the first word on the list.
Enriched grains are refined grains that have had some of the nutrients lost during processing added back in. Grains that are enriched must contain added thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, and iron. Some enriched grains may also contain added fiber.
While enriched grains are still not as nutrient-dense as whole grains, they are a better choice than unenriched refined grains. You can tell if bread is made with enriched grains by seeing enriched grains on the ingredients list.
Which Grain To Choose
Overall, whole grains are the healthiest choice, as they are the least processed and contain the most fiber and nutrients. However, enriched grains can be a good choice if whole grains are not available or if you prefer the taste and texture of refined grains. Refined grains should be limited in the diet, as they are often used in processed foods that are high in added sugars and unhealthy fats.
Bread’s Health Benefits
Now that you have an understanding of what to look for on the nutrition facts label and ingredients list, let’s clear up some confusion when it comes to bread’s health benefits and drawbacks.
Like with most things, there are good-quality products and there are not so good quality products. Good quality bread is jammed packed with nutrients your body just loves to help maintain health. The bad quality bread tends to be made with refined grains along with highly inflammatory ingredients that can contribute to blood sugar spikes, overeating, obesity and just general body inflammation.
Bread can be a great source of quality carbohydrates and fiber. If you opt for whole grain bread you’ll likely be choosing a bread that is lower in added sugar, has a shorter ingredients list, is made with quality carbs and may be higher in fiber that helps promote blood sugar balance, satiety, and digestive health.
On top of that, carbs are needed to support healthy functioning of your brain, nervous system, heart and other body systems too. A good, quality carb surely gives your body healthy energy it craves. Who wouldn’t want those benefits?
Nutrition Facts and Value of Each Subway Bread and Wrap
Woohoo, with all that background information we can finally get to check out the nutrition and ingredients info for Subway bread and uncover what Subway bread is the healthiest option.
You have a few options when it comes to sandwich bread choice. I break down Subway bread into three categories – sandwich bread and wraps and will go over which one is the healthiest choice for each section.
You’ll see the nutrition facts for each bread along with the first three ingredients each is made of. This will help guide you to understand what sets healthier options apart from less healthy ones.
6-Inch Subway Bread Options
For this category, I am going to give you nutrition information for the 6-inch Subway bread. If you enjoy the foot-long subs, no problem just double the nutrition facts.
Artisan Flatbread contains 220 calories, 4 grams of total fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 360 milligrams of sodium, 40 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, 2 grams of added sugar, 7 grams of protein and 15% daily value of iron.
For ingredients, the first three ingredients are enriched wheat flour. The enriched wheat flour is enriched with wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin and folic acid. The second ingredient is water and the third is soybean oil.
So, all in all, the bread is enriched aka nutrients are added back into the bread. The nutrients added back into this flatbread include an array of b-vitamins. This bread has some protein and a moderate amount of the daily value of iron. Lastly, it’s a good carb source with just 2.6 carbohydrate servings. Leaving you with 2.5 carb servings that you can choose from with yummy sandwich meats, veggies and condiments.
Artisan Italian Bread
Artisan Italian contains 160 calories, 2 grams of total fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 350 milligrams of sodium, 34 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, 2 grams of added sugar, 7 grams of fiber, 8% daily value vitamin C and 10% daily value of iron.
For ingredients, the first three are enriched flour. This bread is enriched with wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin and folic acid. The second and third ingredients are water and yeast.
Italian bread is lower in calories, sodium, total fat, and carbs than flatbread. Plus, you’ll get some vitamin C with that choice. Although what nutrients this bread is enriched with are a bit different than the flatbread, they both contain some amounts of b-vitamins that are added to the bread.
Hearty Multigrain Bread
The Hearty Multigrain bread contains 190 calories, 2 grams of total fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 310 milligrams of sodium, 36 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar with 2 grams of added sugar, 7 grams of protein and 8% daily value of iron
For ingredients, the first three are enriched flour which is enriched with wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin and folic acid. The second and third ingredients are water and whole wheat flour.
This one has more calories than Italian bread, yet less than flatbread. When it comes to fiber, so far it has the most and when it comes to saturated fat it has the least.
As far as ingredients go, this one is enriched with b-vitamins too. As mentioned in the whole grains section, you want to try to make 50% of your grains whole grains and can tell if it’s whole grain by having whole as the first word part of the first ingredient.
We haven’t seen that yet, but the third ingredient is whole wheat flour, meaning it is not a true whole grain, but at least is made with a bit of whole wheat. This is why it has more fiber than the other options since whole wheat or grain bread contains part of the grain that houses fiber!
Italian Herbs and Cheese Bread
The Italian Herbs and Cheese bread has 200 calories, 4 grams total fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 10 milligrams cholesterol, 550 milligrams sodium, 36 grams carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 2 grams sugar with 2 additional grams of added sugar, 9 grams of protein, 4% daily value vitamin A, 8% daily value vitamin C, 2% daily value calcium and 10% daily value iron.
For ingredients, the first three are enriched flour (enriched with wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, and folic acid) water and yeast.
This bread has the most sodium out of the reviewed bread, yet also has the most vitamin A and protein. You’ll find some cholesterol with this one as that is because cheese is an animal product and cholesterol mainly comes from animal products. As far as ingredients stand, this one is pretty standard compared to the others with no whole grains or wheat and added b-vitamins.
Jalapeño Cheddar Bread
The Jalapeno Cheddar bread contains 190 calories, 4 grams of total fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 470 milligrams of sodium, 34 grams of carbohydrates, less than one gram of fiber, 2 grams sugar with 2 grams added sugar, 9 grams protein, 4% daily value vitamin A, 10% daily value vitamin C, 6% daily value calcium and 10% daily value iron.
When it comes to ingredients the first three are enriched flour (enriched with wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, and folic acid) water and yeast.
So, this bread is just about on par nutrition and ingredients wise as the Italian Herbs and Cheese bread.
6-inch Subway Bread Health Recap
To put it all together, here is a graph showing you the nutrition facts and ingredients for each bread. Keep in mind when looking at this try to aim for bread that is higher in fiber, lower in saturated fat, added sugar and sodium and has 2-3 servings of carbohydrates.
As you can see from the image above, all the breads are made with enriched wheat flour (none are considered a whole grains or whole wheat bread as whole wheat flour or whole grain flour are not the first words on the ingredients list), but the only bread that has some whole wheat flour in it is the multigrain.
On top of that, multigrain bread has the lowest amount of saturated fat and sodium and the highest amount of fiber. Due to these specific factors, multigrain is the healthiest bread option at Subway!
Subway Wrap Options
Wraps can be a nice bread alternative if you’re looking to taste more of the fillings and less of the bread-like texture. Provided below is the nutrition and ingredients information for each of Subway’s wrap options.
The Spinach Wrap contains 290 calories, 8 grams of total fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 780 milligrams of sodium, 48 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, 8 grams of protein, 10% daily value of calcium and 15% daily value of iron.
Ingredients wise, the first three ingredients are unbleached wheat flour (which includes wheat flour, niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, and folic acid), water and malted wheat flour.
Now, upon first looking over this information, you may think wow, why would I ever choose a spinach wrap over a 6-inch sub since there are more calories, fat, saturated fat, sodium and carbohydrates? Off initial look, I can completely understand.
However, it can be tough to compare a wrap to a 6-inch sub since the wrap is a bit bigger gram-wise than the subs, but smaller than the 12-inch subs. Either way, the wrap has more of the nutrients you should try to reduce consumption and doesn’t offer any differentiation when it comes to getting more of the nutrients you want to eat for health.
Tomato Basil Wrap
The Tomato Basil Wrap also contains 290 calories, 8 grams of total fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, plus 730 milligrams of sodium, 49 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, 1 gram of added sugar, 8 grams of protein, 10% daily value vitamin C, 8% daily value calcium and 15% daily value iron.
For ingredients, the first three are unbleached wheat flour (including wheat flour, niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, and folic acid), water and malted wheat flour.
The Tomato Basil Wrap has the exact same first ingredients as the spinach wrap. And, as far as nutrition is concerned there isn’t much difference between the two.
The Regular Wrap has 300 calories, 8 grams of total fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 580 milligrams of sodium, 50 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar with 1 gram of added sugar, 8 grams of protein, 6% daily value of calcium and 15% daily value of iron.
For ingredients, the wrap’s first three are unbleached wheat flour (containing wheat flour, niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, and folic acid), water and non-GMO Canola oil.
Now, this wrap has less sodium, less saturated fat and more fiber and carbohydrates than the other two options. Additionally, instead of the third ingredient being malted wheat flour it’s Canola oil. It barely has more carbs than the other two options and picking foods with lower sodium and saturated fat is surely beneficial for cardiovascular health.
That’s A Wrap: Health Recap
To put it all together, here is a graph showing you the nutrition facts and ingredients for each wrap. Keep in mind when looking at this try to aim for wraps that are higher in fiber, lower in saturated fat, added sugar and sodium and have the lowest carbohydrate serving options.
When you look at the three wrap options, all the wraps are made primarily with water and unbleached wheat flour. The only bread that has a different ingredient is the regular wrap with non-GMO canola oil as the third ingredient.
Additionally, the regular wrap has the least amount of saturated fat and sodium. The calories, carbs, and protein are all about the same for each wrap. So, factoring in all these, the regular wrap is the healthiest option!
Ranking: Healthiest to Least Healthy Subway Breads
Now that you know Hearty Multigrain and the Regular Wrap are the healthiest options for each category, here’s the complete ranking of Subway’s healthiest to least healthy bread. Divided into two categories – Subway sandwich bread and Subway wraps.
The bread and wraps all had similar protein and carbohydrate amounts. So, they were ranked based on the lowest saturated fat and sodium content, highest fiber content, and most nutrient-dense ingredients.
- Hearty Multigrain Bread
- Artisan Italian Bread
- Artisan Flatbread
- Jalapeno Cheddar Bread
- Italian Herbs and Cheese Bread
And for the wraps:
- Regular Wrap
- Spinach Wrap
- Tomato Basil Wrap
Tips On How To Build A Healthy Sub
Choosing healthy bread is just one aspect of making a healthy sub, what you put in between the bread slices is just as important. So, when you’re walking down the order line at Subway try the following tips to add more nutritious components and less saturated fat and inflammatory ingredients to your next meal.
- Choose liquid dressings like oil or red wine vinegar instead of regular mayonnaise, ranch, or garlic aioli as this will reduce calories and saturated fat.
- Fill up your sandwich with a variety of vegetables. This will add all sorts of nutrients, plus fiber while keeping the calories low.
- Pick sandwiches with leaner cuts of meats such as turkey, veggie pattie, club meats, or roast beef over spicy Italian or Italian BMT meats. This will reduce the amount of total fat, saturated fat and sodium.
- If you are looking to pick the healthiest cheese go for grated parmesan or fresh mozzarella as they are the lowest in calories, sodium, total fat and saturated fat.
Bread’s Dental Health Benefits
As stated earlier, bread unfairly gets a bad reputation when it comes to foods that truly do nourish your health, they especially get a bad rep when it comes to your dental health. Yes, bread contains gluten and yes, bread can be high in refined, low-value carbs. For that, bread has been associated with contributing to cavities, oral inflammation and creating an imbalanced oral microbiome.
And yep, there is bread out there that doesn’t offer much benefit to our oral health. That’s likely not because they are made with gluten, it’s likely because they are made with ingredients that are highly inflammatory and highly satisfying causing you to prefer to choose that kind of bread over a healthier alternative.
However, if you choose bread that is whole grain and made with good, quality ingredients, you can rest assured you’re chomping down on goodness that your mouth will thank you for.
Quality, whole-grain bread is a good source of fiber. Fiber helps you make more saliva. This helps to reduce dry mouth as well as helps to clean your mouth of food debris, acid and bacteria. Food debris, acid and bacteria can adhere to your enamel and cause cavities, so fiber helps to fight those off! If you want to know more about how can cause cavities, check out my other blog post here and scroll down to the “how coffee contributes to cavities” section.
Whole-grain bread contributes to helping your body manage blood sugar levels. Consistently unbalanced blood sugars can lead to inflamed gums and periodontal disease. So, whole grains may indirectly contribute to healthy gums.
Furthermore, whole grain bread is filled with b-vitamins, magnesium, iron, and antioxidants. Which are all micronutrients and free radical scavenging components your teeth need to be strong and dense, your oral microbiome needs to maintain balance and your gums need to be tensile and healthy to help keep your teeth in place. For more info on vitamins for gum health, refer to Dental Meal Plan’s blog post “6 Vitamins for Healthy Teeth and Gums“.
Now, Subway doesn’t offer bread with whole grain or whole wheat as the first ingredient, so sometimes when choosing bread with your dental health in mind if you don’t find those ingredients first on the list, go for enriched and dig a few ingredients down to see if the bread is at least somewhat made with whole grains or whole wheat.
So, yeah contrary to common belief whole grain or whole wheat bread can be part of a healthy dental diet.
Fast, convenient, quick food doesn’t have to equal junk food. Subway offers fresh ingredients and a nice, on-the-go way to eat a nourishing sandwich. With all the Subway bread options, sifting through and trying to figure out the healthiest one can be tough. Hopefully, with this in-depth analysis, you can feel good about choosing not just bread at Subway, but bread at the grocery store too! And as a reminder, the healthiest Subway bread is hearty multigrain and the healthiest wrap is the regular wrap!
And if dental health is on your mind, I hope this post cleared up any confusion about bread’s impact on your mouth’s well-being. Quality ingredients can truly have a positive impact on your oral health.
As always, as a registered dietitian who specializes in dental health, I am here to support your dental nutrition needs. Oral health and overall health are linked so when you eat to nourish one aspect you’re nourishing your whole self. Any questions, or for more information please feel free to reach out via my contact page. To stay in the know about all things dental nutrition, subscribe to the emails.
Cheers to the Healthiest Bread At Subway