The 10 of the Worst Fast Food Sandwiches (Plus Healthy Swaps)

Bread. Meat. Cheese. How bad can that little sub be for your diet? It’s “fresh,” right? Sometimes, sandwiches are better than deep-fried fast food. But the calorie, fat and sodium counts can reach scary-high levels scary-fast, says Sara Haas, RDN, LDN, a culinary dietitian in Chicago. “The nutritional numbers can shock you!,” she says. Haas’s general rules of thumb: Skip the fancy sauces and stick with mustard or even a little drizzle of vinegar instead. Order half the sub, not the whole thing. Consider a wrap over a bun, if that’s an option. Or go green and enjoy it all on a bed of lettuce.

And don’t be fooled into thinking that seven-grain bread is any better for you than white, Haas adds. Regardless of the fillings and toppings, “make sure the bread you choose has the word ‘whole’ in front of it. If it doesn’t, it’s likely not made with whole grains,” she says.

To save you some time (and hopefully some lbs!), we’ve done the research for you. Here are 10 hoagies, subs, heroes — whatever you want to call them — with scary stats. We’ve listed the offenders from evil to downright dangerous — plus 10 skinnier choices to select instead.

RELATED: 9 Healthy Gourmet Sandwich Recipes

10 Scary Sandwiches Over 1,000 Calories (Plus Healthy Swaps)

1. Which Wich

Large Elvis Wich on White (1,860 calories)
Elvis is king, once again. The heftiest in calories of this round-up, the peanut butter, bacon, banana and honey creation also sneaks in 92 grams of sugar. That’s a staggering seven tablespoons.

What to order instead…

Small Skinny Wheat Chicken Cordon Bleu (280 calories)
Careful! The nutrition information listed online for the “wiches” only takes into account the fillings — you have to add the bread stats separately. Luckily, they offer “skinny” bread options that have 100+ fewer calories than their standard breads. For an Elvis-like hit of pork and a still-solid amount of protein, opt for the chicken-ham combo.

The 10 Worst Fast Food Restaurant Sandwiches (Plus Healthy Swaps)
Photo: Twenty20

2. Schlotsky’s

Large Angus Pastrami Reuben (1,780 calories)
Considering that pastrami is beef cured in a salt rub, it’s not surprising that this pastrami, Swiss and sauerkraut sandwich contains a lot of sodium. But 4,540 milligrams? That’s how much sodium you’d find in two and a half family-sized bags of potato chips — and in this sandwich. The Thousand Island dressing and the signature sauce make the calorie and fat count (79 grams) rise quickly, too.

What to order instead…

Small Chipotle Chicken (350 calories)
Among the most sodium-smart choices on the entire Schlotsky’s menu, the medium size of this chicken and spicy mayo sandwich has just 180 more calories than the small. You can also opt for the same fillings in a wrap, but expect slightly more fat and sodium.

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3. Planet Sub

12-inch Tempeh Parmesan (1,538 calories)
Newsflash: Not everything on a vegetarian menu is diet-friendly. This full-size sub is a twist on chicken Parmesan with marinara, Parm and provolone, featuring the meaty soy protein. It’s high in protein, but at 90 grams (about how much a sedentary woman needs in two whole days), it’s at such a level that you’re likely to store a portion of it as fat.

What to order instead…

6-inch Planet Combo (458 calories)
Fill up on this flavorful combination of olive tapenade, two types of cheese (provolone and cheddar), red peppers, artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes. With a range of vitamin-rich veggies and a fairly low-sodium level (708 milligrams), this sandwich makes for a decent lunch.

The 10 Worst Chain Restaurant Sandwiches: Firehouse Italian Sub
Photo: Twenty20

4. Firehouse Subs

Large Italian (1,390 calories)
The more toppings, the more frightening the nutrition info, most often — unless we’re talking garden-fresh veggies. With salami, pepperoni, honey ham, provolone, Italian dressing, mayo, mustard, lettuce, tomato and onion, this towering sub has 79 grams of fat, 111 grams of carbs and 3,640 milligrams of sodium. Worth noting: Current American Heart Association and the Centers for Disease Control recommendations suggest consuming no more than 2,300 milligrams per day.

What to order instead…

Hook & Ladder Light (450 calories)
Stick to the under 500-calorie “Light” menu at Firehouse to avoid triggering any alarms. All six slim sammies start with a lower-calorie wheat roll instead of a hoagie bun. Sadly, though, at 1,420 milligrams, this is the lowest in sodium of the bunch.

RELATED: 10 Quick and Healthy Lunch Ideas You’ll Want to Steal

5. Quizno’s

12-inch Chicken Carbonara (1,360 calories)
Alfredo alert! The creamy Italian sauce is what takes this chicken, Bacon, mozzarella, and mushroom sandwich into diet danger territory. With 70 grams of fat and 3,340 milligrams of sodium for the footlong, go for the four-inch portion to cure your craving for pasta-inspired decadence.

What to order instead…

8-inch Shroomalicious (670 calories)
No, you don’t have to stick to an itty-bitty sub at dinnertime. While the smallest is always going to have the most diet-friendly stats, it’s possible to find some medium-sized portions at certain chains. On a day you’ve put in a tough workout, order this cheesesteak, which comes topped with mozzarella, sautéed onions, mushrooms and mayo. At 41 grams of protein, you’ll help your muscles recover and feel sated longer.

The 10 Worst Fast Food Restaurant Sandwiches: Cheesesteak
Photo: Twenty20

6. Charley’s Grilled Subs

Large BBQ Cheddar Steak (1,180 calories)
Steak and cheddar plus sautéed onions and fried onions dress this barbecue-sauced, supersized sandwich. Steer clear of this 12-incher, and you’ll avoid 50 grams of fat, 105 grams of carbs and 2,550 milligrams of sodium.

What to order instead…

Small Chicken Philly (370 calories)
Portion size is key at all of these chains, including Charley’s. The grill guru offers all of his subs in small (6 inches), medium (9 inches) and large (12 inches) so you can choose accordingly. This sammy is lower-sodium and includes onions, peppers and mushrooms, so you’re satisfied with a reasonable size.

RELATED: 9 Salads Over 1,000 Calories (and What to Order Instead)

7. Jimmy John’s

8-inch J.J. Gargantuan (1,135 calories)
Rule of thumb: Avoid any sandwich that’s name includes a synonym for “huge.” Here, gargantuan explains the stacks of salami, ham, capicola, roast beef, turkey, provolone, mayo, Italian dressing, lettuce, tomato and onion (whew!).

What to order instead…

8-inch Big John (535 calories)
Turkey isn’t always tops! For just 30 calories more than the standard Turkey Tom, you can enjoy roast beef with all the fixings. The red meat option also checks in with two more grams of protein and 90 milligrams less sodium than its white meat counterpart.

RELATED: What Trainers Really Eat When They Dine Out

8. Blimpie Subs & Salads

Large Meatball Parmigiana (1,120 calories)

With two types of meat in the meatballs (beef and pork) and two varieties of cheese (provolone and Parmesan), the calories add up — fast. But what’s even more mind bending is the 3,640 milligrams of sodium it packs. Better refill that water glass now.

What to order instead…

Regular Chicken Teriyaki (370 calories)
Craving a toasty hoagie? Order the chicken teriyaki sans-cheese on wheat. It’s a challenge to find anything on the Blimpie menu with a triple-digit-or-less sodium count. At 1,090 milligrams, this is one of the most salt-smart choices. Other solid selections: Regular Roast Beef and Provolone on Wheat (430 calories) and the Regular Turkey and Avocado (360 calories).

The 10 Worst Fast Food Restaurant Sandwiches: Corned Beef and Pastrami Sandwich
Photo: Eater’s Collective

9. Jason’s Deli

Whole The New York Yankee (1,100 calories)

OK, you’re probably not expecting a svelte calorie count for a New York deli-inspired corned beef, pastrami and Swiss combo. But when you tack on the chips that come with the Yankee (and it’s scientifically proven that you can’t just have one), the 1,260-calorie feast gobbles a hefty portion of your daily calories.

What to order instead…

Mediterranean Wrap (340 calories)

While wraps can be a diet minefield, this particular order is safe territory for your waistline. The entire whole-wheat wrap is stuffed with turkey, hummus and veggies for a low-calorie count and respectable 23 grams of protein. This tortilla-based order is pretty close to Haas’s ideal when she swings by a sandwich restaurant. “I love whole-grain bread topped with hummus and veggies — the more the better. If I want a little more protein, add some chicken,” she says. But be cautious of the sodium content. This seemingly guilt-free wrap has 1,170 milligrams of the salty stuff. That’s 49 percent of your daily recommended consumption, so curb your sodium intake for the rest of the day.

RELATED: 15 Healthy Lettuce Wraps for Low-Carb Lunches

10. Subway

Foot Long Carved Turkey with Bacon (1,040 calories)

Think a turkey sub is diet-safe territory? Not so fast. The footlong packs thick-cut turkey (the chain’s “real meat” reaction to the artificial ingredient outcry), four slices of Applewood smoked bacon, cheese and mayo. At the end of the day, the $5 sub will cost you 52 grams of fat and 3,200 milligrams of sodium.

What to order instead…

6-inch Rotisserie-Style Chicken (350 calories)

High in protein (29 grams), this well-balanced sandwich will keep you full for hours. Load it up with veggies to add to the five grams of fiber that are already in the sub. At 660 milligrams of sodium, this is one of the healthiest options on the Subway menu — and one of the lowest sodium levels for a non-vegetarian sandwich from any restaurant. “It can be hard to stay under 800 milligrams of sodium, although that’s what I recommend, but simple tweaks might help. For example, ask for half a bun or swap in more veggies for some of the meat,” Haas suggests. She also recommends skipping the salty sauces and cheeses if you can, and opt for real chicken over deli sliced meats.

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