The Good Way vs. The Subway
In time I will get around to talking more about the great sandwiches around the region. And there is a lot to tell. Seriously, I could probably have a dedicated blog just to the sandwiches of the Capital District.
Despite that, the draw of Subway here is strong. Holy hell, is it strong.
It’s so strong that year after year this chain that promotes itself as a healthy alternative to fast food rises to the top of the Times Union’s Best of the Capital District reader’s choice poll. And that gets me worked up.
I’ve tried rallying support around one of the better local sandwich joints, but for some reason our local citizens are loath to stuff the ballot box even in pursuit of this greater good. Well, now it’s time for a different approach.
I’m going on the offensive.
Here’s the important part. You may nod along as I detail Subway’s crimes against food. But we all know someone who goes there all the time. We all know someone who thinks Subway is a good healthful lunch alternative. I’m going to ask you to share this information with your friends and family. Help me spread the news and unveil what they have probably suspected, but have decided to conveniently ignore.
Regardless of the nutritional claims or how austerely you build your sandwich, Subway is not in the business of making healthful food.
That 9-Grain Wheat roll you got to be extra healthy? Its third ingredient is High Fructose Corn Syrup. In fact, its got more of that than it does whole-wheat flour. If you care about HFCS the sourdough is also sweetened with it.
Oddly the less healthy refined-grain Italian (white) bread, which is the base of many of their more fanciful rolls eschews HFCS for sugar. However, considering it is something that is baked fresh it sure has an awful lot of ingredients:
Enriched wheat flour (wheat flour, niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, sugar, contains less than 2% of the following: soybean oil, yeast, wheat gluten, calcium blend (calcium carbonate, vitamin d3), salt, dough conditioners (acetylated tartaric acid esters of mono- and diglycerides, ammonium sulfate, calcium sulfate, ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide, potassium iodate, amylase [enzymes]), wheat protein isolate, sodium stearoyl lactylate, flavor (If you get yeast extract, salt, natural flavor).
If you get a more fanciful choice like the bread that adds Italian herbs and cheese, you will also be adding artificial colors, artificial flavors, and something called natamycin which is apparently a natural mold inhibitor.
Chicken breast strips may sound pretty healthy. After all, what could be wrong with boneless skinless chicken breast? Sure, there is an argument against factory farms and the unappetizing methods used to produce market weight chickens in short order. But even if Subway used the most ethically sourced meat they could find, I would still have a problem with this sandwich filling.
In my opinion, chicken breast strips should neither include soy protein concentrate nor chicken flavor. The chicken should taste like chicken on its own. The fact that it requires additional chicken flavor made from salt, autolyzed yeast extract, sugar, molasses, disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, and sodium phosphates is troubling.
It also turns out that Subway differentiates between “chicken flavor” and “chicken type flavor.” God help you if you get the chicken breast patty, because it is resigned to being treated with what sounds like the lesser of the two flavoring agents. Just in case you are curious, that would be hydrolyzed corn gluten, autolyzed yeast extract, thiamine hydrochloride, disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate.
I can’t even count all the ingredients in the steak (but it’s well north of twenty).
It probably would never occur to you that there was artificial color in the cheddar and Monterey jack cheeses. Perhaps you might have suspected FD&C yellow #5 in the pickles and banana peppers, but maybe not. You know what makes their red wine vinaigrette red? Red #40 and blue #1. The word artificial appears in one form or another thirty-six times in their ingredient document (which details seventy-one products).
Would you have guessed that the first ingredient of Subway’s fat free honey mustard is actually HFCS. I’m looking right at the ingredients list, and I still can’t believe it myself.
And this is only just the transparent information made available to the public.
I haven’t looked deeply into “mechanically separated turkey” but I suspect it would not be pretty. In fact it sounds a lot like pink slime, for which there is no reason to think that Subway’s ground beef is devoid of this widely-used ground beef product.
The bottom line is that Subway is a national chain that sells inexpensive and highly-processed foods. They may be low in fat and they may be low in calories. The food may be inexpensive and convenient. You may even enjoy how it tastes.
But none of this fits even my loosest definition of healthy.
If you live in the Capital Region you are lucky enough to be in the midst of several great places to get delicious sandwiches. You may have a good excuse to why you eat the sandwiches at Subway, but it’s going to be hard to convince me that they are good food.