Are Subway Kids Meals Healthy?

Menu Designed to Meet Federal Nutritional Standards

Subway sandwich shop
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Subway, the fast-food restaurant chain founded in 1965, has long prided itself on being a healthy alternative to the likes of KFC and McDonald's. With the launch of its Fresh Fit Meals for Kids menu in 2007, the company further staked its claim as the industry leader in providing low-fat, nutrient-dense meals that meet the federal government's dietary standards.

Now, more than a decade later, does Subway still live up to that promise?

Background

Back in 2000, the Milford, Connecticut-based franchise embarked on what would become an 11-year marketing campaign centered around Jared Fogle, an Indianapolis man known as "the Subway guy" who lost over 200 pounds due in large part to a diet comprised of Subway sandwiches. It was an effort that helped triple the franchise's growth between 1998 and 2011 and propelled the concept of healthy eating in the fast-food world.

In 2014, Subway embarked on a similar effort focused on kids' eating. The campaign, created in partnership with the Partnership for a Healthier America and backed by then-First Lady Michelle Obama, aimed to encourage fruit and vegetable consumption among children and expand the company's kids' menu offerings.

The Fresh Fit Meals for Kids, a direct response to the much-maligned McDonald's Happy Meal, was founded on the promise that Subway would adhere to the national school lunch program's nutritional standards.

Subway Fresh Fit Meals for Kids contain no more than 600 calories, have zero grams (g) trans fat, less than 10% of calories from saturated fat, and contain less than 935 milligrams (mg) of sodium

Subway Kids' Meal Offerings

Subway's Fresh Fit Meals for Kids menu comprises four ready-to-go meals, which pair a 4-inch Subway sandwich with an applesauce pouch and either an organic juice box or low-fat milk box. As an added treat, each meal comes with a co-marketed toy from the likes of Disney and Sega Games. 

Nutritionally speaking, each of the four meals easily meets the standards set by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans issued every five years by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Where the company falls short, surprisingly, is in the availability of published nutritional information, both online and at their stores. This forces the parents to calculate each menu item's nutritional information—an irritating step made all the more annoying by the recent discontinuation of Subway's online Meal Builder for Kids tool.

To this end, here is how the four Subway kids' meals stack up when opting for calcium-rich milk over the juice box when you consider the following recommendations from the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans:

  • Added sugars: Less than 10% of calories per day starting at age 2. Avoid foods and beverages with added sugars for those younger than age 2.
  • Saturated fat: Less than 10% of calories per day starting at age 2.
  • Sodium: Less than 2,300 milligrams per day—and even less for children younger than age 14. 
Meal Item Calories Ttl fat Sat fat Sodium Sugar
Black Forest Ham Sandwich 200 3g 0.7g 543mg 4g
  Applesauce 60 0g 0g 0mg 8g
  Milk 160 2.5g 1.5g 130mg 14g
  Total 420 5.5g 2.2g 673mg 26g
Roast Beef Sandwich 215 3.35g 1g 448mg 4g
  Applesauce 60 0g 0g 0mg 8g
  Milk 160 2.5g 1.5g 130mg 14g
  Total 435 5.85g 2.5g 578mg 26g
Turkey Breast Sandwich 188 2.35g 0.7g 509mg 4g
  Applesauce 60 0g 0g 0mg 8g
  Milk 160 2.5g 1.5g 130mg 14g
  Total 408 4.85g 2.2g 639mg 26 g
Veggie Delite Sandwich 154 1.7g 0.3g 187mg 4g
  Applesauce 60 0g 0g 0mg 8g
  Milk 160 2.5g 1.5g 130mg 14g
  Total 374 4.2g 1.8g 317mg 26g

The Verdict

Insofar as the numbers go, Subway's Fresh Fit for Kids meals more than live up to their promise of providing kids the nutrition they need without the added fats and sodium that contribute to childhood obesity and high blood pressure later in life.

With that being said, it is questionable whether the portions are ample enough to satisfy bigger kids. The problem with this, of course, is that it can lead to an 11-year-old in need of more calories—up to 2,000 calories per day for active girls and 2,200 calories per day for active boys—to grab a bag of chips or a chocolate chip cookie, undermining many of the nutritional goals.

Even if a preteen were to order a 6-inch sub and forego all of the other extras, caution would still be needed when ordering. In the end, not all Subway sandwiches are not created equal. Some, like the Spicy Italian or the Chicken & Bacon Ranch Melt, deliver upwards of 9 grams of saturated fat and as much as 1,550 milligrams of sodium per serving.

If your child is older and needs more food, order the kids' meal and add a serving of the chicken tortilla soup (110 calories, 4.5 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, and 660 milligrams of sodium). This can make the meal more filling while staying well within the range of calories, total fat, saturated fat, and sodium recommended by the USDA.

Disclaimer

The information on this page is intended for educational purposes only and is not meant to provide nutritional recommendations. See the restaurant's menu for complete nutritional facts and learn more about making healthy choices for your child.

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  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2020 – 2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Ninth Edition. December 2020.