Things you should never order at Subway

Let's get this out of the way right out of the gate: I'm an unapologetic Subway fan. I eat their chopped salads on a weekly basis, sometimes daily. And I know Subway has a collection of haters who judge their methods. You can find stand-up routines out there about the place, and they're not wrong. But I do think Subway does a good job of making reasonably nutritious food (that tastes decent) available all over the country, especially when you consider that they strive to be sustainable.

But not all of their menu items hit the mark. And while Subway does tend to live up to its reputation as a healthier alternative to conventional fast food restaurants, it's not written into the by-laws of the chain — you can make it as bad for you as you want. Spend some time at the counter and you learn just how quickly the calories can pile up.

Bearing all this in mind, here are some things you should never order at Subway.

Chicken and bacon ranch melt

While it may sound innocent, the Subway chicken and bacon ranch melt sandwich is the biggest offender when it comes to sandwiches. For one, it's a sodium bomb that gives you more than half of your daily intake of salt. This makes the chicken bacon ranch sandwich a questionable option. Registered dietitian Elizabeth Shaw told me, "The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) recommend limiting your intake to no more than 2300 milligrams a day, and knowing you're already over half a day's limit in one meal makes it more challenging to navigate the rest of your day."

Additionally, the chicken bacon ranch sandwich clocks in at 610 calories for a six-inch sandwich, accompanied by 30 grams of fat and 95 milligrams of cholesterol. Shaw notes about the sandwich, "Now, I'm not saying there aren't great options at Subway or other fast food chains, but rather know your body, your health, and your needs before making your decision. Foods like processed meats (read bacon and precooked, processed chicken), dressings, and breads contain large amounts of sodium."

And Shaw has quick solutions. She says, "So, if you're craving, say bacon and chicken, it's not to say those foods are off limits at Subway, but rather, #simpleswap them on a salad versus a sandwich to help save a few hundred milligrams of sodium!"

Classic tuna

I will give Subway props for sustainable food practices when it comes to the tuna they source. They only use skipjack tuna, and source their fish only from safe operations that are not over-fishing.

The problem with Subway's tunafish sandwich is that it's drenched in mayonnaise. This is problematic not only because it turns the tuna into a soupy ingredient, which kills the texture, but also because it adds enough calories and fat content to render the sandwich unhealthy. The Classic tuna, when served on a six-inch roll without cheese or additional condiments, has 480 calories and 25 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of which are saturated. And it only gets worse if you add cheese.

The soup

I know fast-food restaurants can make a decent amount of money with side items. Can you imagine what would happen to the profit-margins of hamburger joints without fries? But Subway isn't a hamburger restaurant, so finding the right side item is a bit more of a challenge. They do already offer a meal combo of a sandwich, chips, and a beverage, but a bag of chips is notably not a healthy side item. So what else goes hand-in-hand with a sandwich? Why soup, of course.

But the problem with the soup comes when take a close look at the nutrition information. When it comes to calories, at best there's the chicken noodle soup, which clocks in at 110 calories per serving. And at worst, you can have a serving of beef chili for 350 calories, 200 from fat alone. Most alarming, however, is the sodium content; that serving of chicken noodle soup, while low in calories, has 720 mg of sodium, which is over a quarter of your recommended daily intake.

That's a little too much salt for such a small serving!

Double meat sandwiches

I don't think ordering double meat is always a bad thing. This is especially true if, for example, you're getting a chopped salad with rotisserie chicken. By ordering double meat, you're also doubling the amount of lean protein you're getting. And since you've already omitted the bread, your meal is still healthier all around.

But in the case of calorie-dense subs like the B.M.T or a meatball sub? Doubling the meat is going to jack up the calories, sodium, and fat on your sandwich. And while it may pack some flavor, it's not worth packing all of your food consumption into one meal. So if you're going to double the meat, skip the sandwich and stick with the salads.

Vegetarian options

Subway has been putting money into it's meatless marketing game for years. They have a variety of vegetarian options, including the staple Veggie Delight, the vegimax patty, and some more recent, regional vegetarian options like falafel. And this is in addition to their already meat-free salad and soup options.

But try as they might, Subway just can't quite get it right on the meatless front. The Veggie Delight, although one of the trademarked Fresh Fit sandwiches, is really just a meat-centered sandwich without the meat. And the cheese isn't calculated in the advertised, "fit" nutritional content — who eats one of these without cheese?

The veggie patty, though not terrible in texture and flavor, has yet to graduate to the permanent menu, likely due to the fact that it's not very popular. And the falafel has not gotten a good response from customers, or it would be on more regional menus three plus years later. Vegetarians, you're better off elsewhere.

The cold cut combo

When I hear the words "cold cut combo," I'm inclined to think of meats like turkey and roast beef. But that's more like the Subway Club sandwich, comprised of turkey, roast beef, and ham. The Cold Cut Combo is in fact comprised of ham, salami, and bologna (all turkey-based). Dietitian Elizabeth Shaw told me, "The Cold Cut Combo contains over 1,000 milligrams of sodium per 6-inch sandwich. To put this in perspective, an In-N-Out Hamburger, with the secret sauce, has only 650 milligrams of sodium!"

For Shaw, making some swaps at Subway can result in a healthier meal. She said, "Instead of a plethora of high sodium meats wrapped into one sandwich, opt for one meat and instead load with veggies and avocado for that healthy fat. It's worth the extra money for the addition and believe me, the research is out there supporting those heart healthy benefits of the beloved green goddess, avocados."

Anything with chicken

Earlier this year, Subway was the subject of some controversy. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) released results from a study that found Subway's chicken was only 50 percent actual chicken. The rest of the DNA in both oven-roasted chicken and chicken strips was found to be soy. Initially, things were looking pretty bad for the sandwich restaurant.

Subway responded quickly. They sent their chicken to two independent companies for testing, and the tests found their chicken was comprised of far less soy than the CBC claimed to have found.

But the damage may be done, even though Subway is suing over the results. How can you trust you won't be served a soy sandwich after results like this?

Steak, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich

Subway didn't serve conventional breakfast at all until 2010, when it finally found a way to break into the breakfast market. But they still have a bit of work to do to make it healthier. Registered Dietitian, Kelly Puryear told me, "While Subway's steak, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich may look like a healthy and tasty way to start your day with only 450 calories and 28 grams of protein, this (rather small) breakfast sandwich is loaded with sodium and a whopping 18 grams of fat!" So you're better off dropping the steak from the sandwich and sticking with the egg and cheese if you're going to do breakfast at Subway. That way, you'll consume less fat, calories, and sodium.

The feast

I didn't know that Subway had a secret menu until very recently. I was in line, and the person in front of me ordered something that sounded like "the beast." That got my attention! So I nosily watched as the sandwich was constructed, as the sandwich artist peeled and dealt slices of meat on top of one another.

What I was actually witnessing was someone ordering "The Feast," which is a sandwich on the secret menu that has literally all of their deli meats on it: turkey, ham, roast beef, salami, pepperoni, and whatever else they stock at your local Subway location.

That's a lot of meat — so much that I wondered how the cheese, vegetables, and condiments would fit. But they did, and the sandwich was folded over and wrapped like any other. And as fascinating as it was to discover, I don't see myself ordering it anytime soon. I can't even imagine the calorie and fat content, let alone the sodium. I'm just not sure it's worth the novelty.