Secret to Subway diet is loading up vegetables, cutting cheese, mayo

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - While Taco Bell isn't the only fast food franchise to have jumped on the reduced-calorie bandwagon, it is one of the few to promote their low fat offerings so widely. However, the distinction for being the first chain to have a fast food weight loss spokesperson goes to Subway.

In 2000, Subway became nearly-synonymous with healthy fast food when the sub sandwich giant introduced the world to Jared Fogle, the man that claimed to have lost 245 pounds by eating at Subway for lunch and dinner. Better known as "The Subway Guy," Fogle became the focus of the company's ad spots and the driving force behind for many people looking to lose weight, but not lose the fast food.

According to Subway's website, Fogle's story started when he was 425-pound, 20-year-old student at Indiana University. He was diagnosed with several health-related diseases and told to lose weight or die. Fogle decided to try eating healthier and, spotting the promotional material that stated Subway had seven sandwiched with six grams of fat, the sandwich shop seemed to be the easiest route. Where he had been consuming upwards of 10,000 calories a day, Fogle started inserting sandwiched from Subway.

That was 1998.

[See Fogle's story on Subway's website.]

A year later, Fogle was a comparatively svelte 235 pounds lighter and profiled by his college newspaper and Men's Health magazine, which led to Subway's corporate offices recruiting the collegiate pound-dropper as a new spokesperson for the franchise.

Fogle admits the diet was one of convenience. The Subway was below his then-apartment and signage within the shop made it possible for him to know how many calories and grams of fat he was eating at any given sitting.

Much like the Taco Bell Drive-Thru Diet that has turned Christine Dougherty into a fast food diet success story, Fogle's triumph over his weight problems had less to do with what he was eating than how he was eating. Where he had been consuming in a day -- two breakfast sandwiches, a large pizza, a couple bean burritos, several trips through the Chinese buffet line and a burger and fries -- what most people would eat in a week, Fogle cut calories and saw remarkable improvements.

The logic is fairly straightforward: there are significant health benefits to eating a pair of six-inch subs in a day instead of anything that comprises a fat-laden 10,000 calorie diet.

Much like Taco Bell, Subway boasts a menu of lighter fare, seven subs that have six grams of fat or fewer, but the sandwich makers have a leg up over most traditional fast food. Nothing on the menu is fried and most of the calories and fat grams can be left off as the sandwich is made.

[Subway's nutritional information.]

Much like any other fast food fare, leaving off cheese, mayonnaise and bacon is the key to making fast food healthier.

Tonya Turner, a registered dietician at the Weight Management Center at the Medical University of South Carolina, said a Subway sandwich can be a healthier lunch or dinner option, but there are ways to get the most out of each order.

"The way you could make [their sandwiches] even better would be to bulk up on even more vegetables, the green peppers, onions, tomatoes, that type of thing," she said.

Adding a cup of vegetables to a six-inch sub would only add 25 calories, said Turner, but the fiber content of the vegetables would leave the person eating the sandwich feeling full longer.

Turner also said replacing mayonnaise with mustard is an easy way to cut calories and fat without ditching a sauce altogether. Customers can also request that any sauce added to their sandwich be done so sparingly. Often employees will coat a sandwich with dressings, mayonnaise or oil.

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