Subway is the world’s largest restaurant chain, even beating out McDonald’s for number of locations. So it’s quite a nod to the mainstreaming of veganism that the chain is rolling out a new line of vegan sandwiches. It will test the new sandwiches–a “sweet riblet” ssub, a “malibu greek” sub and an “Italian black bean” sub–at select locations in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia. But are the vegan subs healthy, or just hype?
Er … kind of both? Subway’s breads are already vegan, excluding the nine grain wheat bread (which contains honey) and the flatbread. The new sandwiches will feature the restaurant’s recently-created “Totally Veg” vegan veggie patty (the “Veggie Max” patty currently used at most Subway locations contains milk and eggs) finally giving vegan customers some options beyond a pile of vegetables on bread.
Here’s what’s in the new vegan patties: Carrots, red pepper, green pepper, onion, water chestnuts, mushrooms, water, soy protein, wheat gluten, canola oil, sugar, modified cellulose, oats, rice, onion powder, garlic powder, modified corn starch, hydrolyzed corn, soy and wheat gluten protein, dextrose, salt, potassium chloride, spices, jalapeño powder, dehydrated lemon peel, dehydrated cilantro, dehydrated orange peel, flavour, spinach powder, dehydrated parsley.
So make of that what you will. The sandwiches may be healthier than many fast food alternatives–and sometimes on a road trip or lunch break that’s the most you can ask for–but they’re still highly processed. And while the breads Subway uses lack dairy and eggs, they’re full of enriched white flour (even the “wheat” bread), cornmeal, caramel coloring and preservatives. [For more nutrition info, see here.]
Still, I’m glad Subway is offering more veg-friendly options. Dressing up vegan food in familiar clothing (i.e., the vegan riblet) can work to attract more meat eaters to vegetarian options. And for the vegetarians and vegans, it’s always nice to be given more choices. In terms of nutrition alone, though, your best vegetarian/vegan option is probably still the less flashy and less-processed pile of vegetables on bread.