Fast Food Sandwiches: Good and Bad Diet Choices

A man eating a sandwich while walking to work.

7 Sandwiches to Skip, 7 to Enjoy

At many popular sandwich chains, you can unwittingly gobble up a diet disaster -- unless you know how to order. Browse our gallery of the 7 sandwiches that are poor bets -- items that are packed with hidden calories. Then check out 7 better choices at the same restaurants. And beware the turkey sandwich, which has become a blank canvas for fattening additions of all kinds.

Photo of Schlotzky's Deluxe Original-Style Sandwich.

Schlotzsky's: Poor Bet

The medium-sized Deluxe Original-Style Sandwich has double servings of smoked ham, two kinds of salami, and three types of cheese. Layered in between, there are a few healthy things -- like black olives, red onion, lettuce, and tomato -- but that's not enough to offset the fat, calories, and sodium. All that meat and cheese equals a whopping 980 calories, 47 g fat, 19 g saturated fat, and 3,820 mg sodium.

Photo of Schlotzky's Small Chicken Breast Sandwich.

Schlotzsky's: Better Bet

The Small Chicken Breast Sandwich is a better choice at Schlotzsky's. It has only 330 calories -- fewer than half the calories of the "original-style" sandwich -- along with a slim 2 g fat and no saturated fat. Chicken, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and fat-free spicy ranch dressing on a sourdough bun keep the calories and fat in check. But watch out for the sky-high 1,150 mg of sodium.

Photo of Blimpie Meatball Parmigiana.

Blimpie: Poor Bet

Again, meatballs are bad news. The large Meatball Parmigiana has beef and pork blended meatballs covered in marinara sauce, melted provolone, and sprinkled Parmesan. All that meat and cheese equals 1,490 calories, 78 g fat, 32 g saturated fat, and 4,170 mg sodium. When ordering at a restaurant, beware of specialty breads, which often have extra calories.

Photo of Blimpie 6-inch Roast Beef and Provolone.

Blimpie: Better Bet

Order the 6-inch Roast Beef and Provolone on wheat for a healthy and satisfying sandwich. The tally is: 460 calories, 14 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 1350 mg sodium, and 6 g fiber. Keep these other Blimpie subs under 400 calories by skipping the cheese and sauce: ham, turkey, veggie, or club. Have it on wheat for a healthy dose of fiber.

Photo of Arby's Roast Turkey Ranch & Bacon Market Fresh Sandwich.

Arby's: Poor Bet

Arby's Roast Turkey Ranch & Bacon Sandwich has bacon, turkey, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and ranch sauce. It all adds up to a colossal 800 calories, 34 g fat, 10 g saturated fat, and a shocking 2,420 mg sodium.

Photo of Arby's Regular Roast Beef Sandwich.

Arby's: Better Bet

A plain, Roast Beef Classic Sandwich is a decent choice for controlling calories. But skip the melted cheese, mayo, and the "horsey" sauce (50 calories and 5 g of fat in a tiny packet.) Arby's sauce adds flavor with zero fat and only 15 calories. The nutrient tally before additions is 360 calories, 14 g fat, and 5 g saturated fat. The high sodium content may be a deal-breaker for some at 970 mg.

Photo of Burger King's TenderCrisp Chicken Sandwich.

Burger King: Poor Bet

"Crisp" is a red flag for high-fat, fried food. And the TenderCrisp Chicken Sandwich is a classic example of fried chicken on a bun slathered with creamy, high-fat dressing. It tops out at 670 calories, 41 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, and 1,080 mg sodium.

Photo of Burger King's Tender Grill Chicken Sandwich.

Burger King: Best Bet

The TenderGrill Chicken Sandwich on a Ciabatta bun is a juicy, grilled chicken filet topped with lettuce and tomato. Dressed with mayo, it has 470 calories, 19 g fat, 3.5 g saturated fat, and 850 mg of sodium. Skip the mayo for a slender 320 calorie sandwich. Pickles, onions, and mustard add kick without too many extra calories.

Photo of Boston Market's Homestyle Meatloaf Carver Sandwich.

Boston Market: Poor Bet

The Homestyle Meatloaf Carver Sandwich sounds wholesome, but "hearty" or just plain "fattening" might be better descriptions. It has 960 calories, 49 g fat, and 23 g of saturated fat -- the daily limit of this unhealthy fat for most people. With 1,990 mg of sodium, it nearly tops the daily limit for healthy adults (2,300 mg).

Photo of Boston Market's Pulled BBQ Rotisserie Chicken Sandwich.

Boston Market: Better Bet

The Pulled BBQ Rotisserie Chicken Sandwich is a tasty choice at Boston Market. Roasting the chicken makes it moist and tender. It's relatively healthy compared to some of the other choices. It has 730 calories, 28 g fat, and 13 g saturated fat. But it has a whopping 1,990 mg of sodium. Take off the top layer of bread to cut calories or eat half and save half for another meal.

Photo of Subway's 6-inch Chicken and Bacon Ranch Melt.

Subway: Poor Bet

The 6-inch Chicken and Bacon Ranch Melt iis a fatty choice at a restaurant better known for its healthy options. This 6-inch sub weighs in at 590 calories, 30 g fat, 10 g saturated fat, and 1,360 mg sodium.

Photo of Subway's 6-inch Black Forest Ham Sandwich.

Subway: Better Bet

Keep your personal calorie count low with the 6-inch Black Forest Ham Sandwich. This 6-inch sub has 290 calories, 4.5 g fat, 1g saturated fat, and 800 mg sodium. The restaurant has other low-calorie choices: roast chicken, roast beef, club, turkey breast, turkey breast and ham, veggie delight, or sweet onion chicken teriyaki. Top them with lots of veggies to keep them in the range of 230-380 calories.

Photo of Wendy's Asiago Ranch Club With Homestyle Chicken.

Wendy's: Poor Bet

The Asiago Ranch Club With Homestyle Chicken can turn a quick lunch into a fatty affair that lingers on your hips. Wendy’s tops their breaded, fried filet with 3 strips of bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and mayo for 690 calories, 36 g fat, 12 g saturated fat, and 1,630 mg of sodium.

Photo of Wendy's Ultimate Chicken Grill Sandwich.

Wendy's: Better Bet

Wendy's Ultimate Chicken Grill Sandwich boasts only 390 calories, 10 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, and 1,080 mg of sodium. This simple yet satisfying sandwich of grilled chicken, lettuce, and tomato is topped off with tangy honey mustard instead of slathered with high-fat mayo -- for a dietitian's delight.

Photo of soda and fries.

Side Dishes and Drinks Count, Too

Before you order, glance at the calorie listing to be sure your choice is a "best bet." And watch menu items that come with a side dish. Sidekicks that send the calories soaring include giant drinks, fries, chips, and salads loaded with dressing. Better bets are non-calorie drinks, fat-free milk, water, and sides with fruits and veggies.

Sources:

IMAGES PROVIDED BY:

  1. Photoalto
  2. Photograph Courtesy of Schlotzsky's
  3. Photograph Courtesy of Schlotzsky's
  4. Anna Webb / WebMD
  5. Photograph Courtesy of Blimpie
  6. Photo Courtesy of Arby's
  7. Photograph Courtesy of Arby's
  8. Photograph Courtesy of Burger King
  9. Photograph Courtesy of Burger King
  10. Steve Pomberg / WebMD
  11. Anna Webb / WebMD
  12. Photo courtesy of Subway
  13. Steve Pomberg / WebMD
  14. Photograph Courtesy of Wendy's
  15. Photograph Courtesy of Wendy's
  16. Tetra Images

REFERENCES:

  • American Cancer Society.
  • Arby's.
  • Blimpie.
  • Boston Market.
  • Burger King.
  • Caloriecount.com.
  • FDA: "Lowering Salt in Your Diet."
  • Institute of Medicine: "Dietary Reference Intakes: Macronutrients."
  • McDonald's.
  • Quiznos.
  • Schlotzsky's.
  • Subway Restaurants.
  • Wendy's.
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