If you’re looking for a grab-and-go meal at either Subway or Taco Bell, then it’s important to know which one is healthier so that you can make the best choice for your nutrition goals.
So, is Subway or Taco Bell Healthier? Subway is the healthier option compared with Taco Bell because its menu items have fewer calories and carbs, and more protein. As well, Subway offers greater customization for different dietary needs, and has meals with greater nutritional values (vitamins and minerals).
With that said, I did find some meals at Taco Bell that are lower in sodium and saturated fat compared with Subway (which I’ll discuss later).
To decide which restaurant is healthier I compared both Subway’s and Taco Bell’s most popular menu items to see how they compared across 7 different nutritional components.
After reading this article you’ll learn:
- The pros and cons of Subway and Taco Bell
- If Subway or Taco Bell is a healthier choice
- How do their top menu items compare to one another
- How to order a healthy meal option at Subway & Taco Bell
Subway vs Taco Bell: Overview
Subway specializes in sub sandwiches that you can customize as much as you like with an array of protein, veggie, and condiment options. They also offer various breakfast items and salads.
Subway is a healthier take on fast food because of the number of vegetables available and the lack of deep-fried items, which tend to overwhelm other popular fast-food restaurants.
The most popular menu items at Subway are their 6-inch subs, 12-inch subs, and salads so it’s important to compare these menu items to see how they compare to Taco Bell’s most popular items (which we’ll do later).
The nutrition for the average 6-inch sub at Subway is 370 calories, 43g of carbs, 15g of fat, 20g of protein, and 976 mg of sodium.
The average salad from Subway has 225 calories, 16g of carbs, 12g of fat, 15g of protein, and 663 mg of sodium.
- More Nutrient-Dense Options
- More Low-Calorie Options
- Higher In Protein
- Lower In Carbs
- Lower In Saturated Fat
- Higher in Sodium
Taco Bell specializes in all the best Mexican dishes like tacos, burritos, nachos, quesadillas, and chalupas. They don’t have a breakfast menu or salads but they do offer a variety of side options like loaded or unloaded fries, and chips & dips.
The most popular menu items at Taco Bell are tacos and burritos so I’ll be comparing those menu items to the most popular menu items at Subway later in the article.
The average nutrition for Taco Bell tacos is 187 calories, 15g of carbs, 9g of fat, 10g of protein, and 436 mg of sodium.
The average nutrition for Taco Bell burritos is 424 calories, 52g of carbs, 17g of fat, 17g of protein, and 1060 mg of sodium.
- Lower In Sodium
- Fewer Low-Calorie Options
- Fewer Nutrient-Dense Options
- Lower In Protein
- Higher In Carbs
- Higher In Saturated Fat
Subway Vs Taco Bell: Which Is Healthier?
To determine whether Subway or Taco Bell is healthier I’ve compared them across the following categories:
- Low-Calorie Options
- Carb Content
- Fat Content
- Protein Content
- Sodium Content
- Ability To Customize
- Variety Of Nutrients
Taco Bell has the lowest calorie options with their tacos which have an average of 187 calories per serving, which is even lower than Subways’s salads which have an average of 225 calories per serving.
However, Taco Bell burritos are the highest calorie option with an average of 424 calories per serving, which is higher than the 6-inch subs at Subway that have an average of 370 calories per serving.
If we consider the total average of Taco Bell’s menu items as 306 calories across 17 menu items compared to Subway’s menu items which have an average of 298 calories across 33 menu items, then Subway actually has more low-calorie options than Taco Bell does.
The Winner: Subway
- Subway is the winner for the most low-calorie options because they have more options that are lower in calories than Taco Bell, even though Taco Bell tacos are the lowest-calorie menu item.
The lowest carb menu item at Taco Bell and Subway is the tacos from Taco Bell, which have an average of 15g of carbs. However, the salads at Subway are nearly the same with 16g of carbs per serving (+1g)
When you consider the type of carb, the Salads at Subway are healthier than the carbs in the Tacos at Taco Bell because the carbs from taco bell are lower in fiber, vitamins, and minerals compared with the carbs from vegetables in a salad that are plentiful in various nutrients.
The highest carb menu item at these two locations is the burritos from Taco Bell which have an average of 52g of carbs. The most comparable menu item from Subway is their 6-inch subs which have 43g of carbs (-9g).
The total average carb content of Taco Bell’s main menu items is 34g of carbs, which is higher than the average of Subway’s main menu items which have an average of 30g of carbs (-4g).
The Winner: Subway
- Subway is the winner for carb content because it has more low-carb menu items and the quality of the carbs is better because they contain higher amounts of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
The lowest fat menu item at both locations is the Taco Bell Tacos which only have 9g of fat. The lowest fat menu item from Subway is their salads which have an average of 12g of fat (+3g).
The highest fat menu item from these locations also comes from Taco Bell because their burritos have an average of 17g of fat, whereas Subway’s 6-inch subs have an average of 15g of fat (-2g).
The average fat content of Taco Bell’s main menu items combined is 13g of fat, whereas Subway’s main menu items have an average of 13.5g of fat (+0.5g). The difference overall between the fat content of these two restaurants is insignificant.
However, Subway has an average of 4.1g of saturated fat, whereas Taco Bell has an average of 5.5g of saturated fat.
According to the American Heart Association, the average person should have no more than 13 grams of saturated fat per day to reduce their risk of heart disease. One menu item from Subway can give you around 32% of this upper limit, and one menu item from Taco Bell could give you 42% of this upper limit.
The Winner: Subway
- Although technically, Taco Bell has 0.5g less fat than Subway, it’s so close that the difference isn’t significant enough to matter. However, what does matter is the fact that Taco Bell has 1.4g more saturated fat than Subway, which is why I’m declaring Subway the healthier fat option.
The highest protein menu item from Taco Bell and Subway are the 6-inch subs from Subway which have an average of 20g of protein, compared to the burritos from Taco Bell which have an average of 17g of protein (-3g).
The lowest protein menu item from these locations is the tacos from Taco Bell which only have an average of 10g of protein, compared to Subway salads which have 15g of protein (+5g).
Ultimately the main menu items from Subway have the highest protein content with an average of 17.5g of protein compared to Taco Bell’s main menu items which have an average of 13.5g of protein (-4g).
The Winner: Subway
- Subway’s main menu items have more protein than Taco Bell’s main menu items so when it comes to protein content, Subway is the better option.
The highest sodium menu item from Subway and Taco Bell are the burritos from Taco Bell which have an average of 1060mg of sodium; however, Taco Bell also has the lowest sodium main menu item with its tacos which have an average of 436mg of sodium.
At Subway the 6-inch subs have an average of 976mg of sodium and the salads have an average of 663mg of sodium.
This means that ultimately, Taco Bell’s main menu items have an average of 748mg of sodium whereas Subway’s main menu items have an average of 819.5mg of sodium (+71.5mg).
The Winner: Taco Bell
- Taco Bell’s main menu items are lower in sodium than Subway’s main menu items, so if you’re looking for a lower sodium option then Taco Bell is your best bet.
Ability To Customize
Subway is the most customizable because there is no limit to how much you can customize your order, whereas at Taco Bell there are some basic customizations (changing sauces or omitting ingredients) but you’re ordering a menu item more than designing it yourself.
Ultimately, there is no competition between Subway and Taco Bell when it comes to customization because Subway allows you to build a meal yourself whereas Taco Bell has set menu items.
The Winner: Subway
- Subway allows for far more customizations than Taco Bell so it is the winner.
Variety Of Nutrients
Subway and Taco Bell both have a variety of protein, carb, and fat options but Subway has a much larger selection of vegetables than Taco Bell has to offer.
The main vegetables available at Subway are:
- Green pepper
The main vegetables available at Taco Bell are:
The Winner: Subway
- The variety of nutrients available at Subway is much higher than the variety of nutrients available at Taco Bell.
- 8 Best Low Sodium Subway Meals
- 13 Best Low Sodium Taco Bell Meals
Most Popular Meals: Head-To-Head Comparison
Although Subway and Taco have very different menu items, I’ve found the most comparable items and put them head-to-head to see which menu item is healthier.
6-Inch Steak & Cheese Sub VS Steak Burrito
steak & cheese
The 6-inch sub from subway is lower in calories, carbs, and fat but higher in protein than the burrito from Taco Bell. However, the burrito from Taco Bell is lower in sodium than the 6-inch sub from Subway.
6-inch Green Goddess Sub VS Bean Burrito
Both the green goddess sub and the bean burrito are great vegetarian options but one is slightly better than the other. The green goddess sub from Subway is lower in carbs and sodium than Taco Bell’s bean burrito, but the burrito is higher in protein and lower in fat.
The Winner: Taco Bell
- I’m choosing Taco Bell’s Bean Burrito as the better vegetarian option because it has more protein, which is a priority for those who are vegetarian. After all, it’s difficult for them to get enough protein.
6-inch Grilled Chicken Sub VS Chicken Burrito
grilled chicken sub
The Subway grilled chicken sub is lower in calories, carbs, fats, and sodium than the Taco Bell chicken burrito. When it comes to protein though, these two options are equal with 19g per serving.
The Winner: Subway
- The Grilled Chicken sub from Subway has better nutritional value than Taco Bell’s Chicken Burrito.
Healthy Meal Options At Subway & Taco Bell
Regardless of which restaurant you choose, there are healthy options available to order as long as you know what to look for and how to customize your order.
Healthy Meal Options At Subway
1. Green Goddess Rotisserie-Style Chicken (with Smashed Avocado)
The 6-inch Green Goddess Sandwich with Chicken and avocado is a great option because it has enough protein, carbs, fats, and micronutrients to be considered a balanced meal.
This sub is loaded with veggies that provide fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It also has chicken that provides enough protein to keep you full for longer.
I recommend ordering it on either Multigrain (3g of fiber) or Harvest Grain Bread (4g of fiber) for an added boost in fiber to help slow digestion and keep you satisfied longer. I also suggest adding the smashed avocado for a healthier fat that has anti-inflammatory properties.
The total nutrition for this meal is 500 calories, 43g of carbs, 27g of fat, 28g of protein, and 1230mg of sodium. If you did want to make this a lower-calorie option then you could skip the avocado and save 100 calories (and 11g of fat).
2. Crispy Chicken Salad With Smoky Honey Mustard
Another healthy option at Subway is the Crispy Chicken Salad with Smoky Honey Mustard because it’s loaded with vegetables, and protein, and it’s not too high in carbs or fat.
The crispy chicken in this salad will provide a mixture of protein, carbs, and fat to this salad which is balanced out perfectly with heaps of vegetables for some fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
The smoky honey mustard is an excellent addition because honey mustard and crispy chicken is a classic combination and you’re saving on fat with this sauce over a dressing considering you’re already getting fat from the chicken.
The total nutrition for this meal is 400 calories, 35g of carbs, 18g of fat, 25g of protein, and 980mg of sodium.
3. Steak & Cheese Salad (with Double Meat)
The third healthy meal option that I would recommend is the Steak & Cheese Salad ordered with double meat because the salad provides protein, veggies, and fat but it’s low in carbs so I would compensate for this by bumping up the protein content.
Protein is the nutrient that keeps you full the longest, so when a meal is slightly unbalanced because it lacks one nutrient, then you can either add more of the missing nutrient or add more protein.
In this situation, I would add more steak rather than trying to add a carb to the salad because there aren’t great options for carb additions to the salad at Subway, and I prefer to have a meal with at least 20g of protein and this one is just short (19g) if you don’t order double meat.
The total nutrition for this meal is 310 calories, 16g of carbs, 14g of fat, 33g of protein, and 1010mg of sodium.
Healthy Meal Options At Taco Bell
1. Double Meat Grilled Chicken Burrito (No Cheese or Rice, Add Lettuce and Tomato)
One healthy meal option at Taco Bell is a Double Meat Grilled Chicken Burrito that is ordered without cheese or rice and instead has lettuce and tomato because this will decrease the carbs and fats in this meal while increasing the nutrients.
There is already 10.5g of fat and 38g of carbs without the rice or cheese in this burrito so it’s best not to add to this by including the rice and cheese. Instead, I recommend adding veggies in the form of lettuce and tomato which are the only options available.
Additionally, the double meat version of this burrito is recommended because without it, it only has 14g of protein which is too low to keep you full until your next meal.
The total nutrition for this burrito is 330 calories, 38g of carbs, 10.5g of fat, 22g of protein, and 900mg of sodium.
2. Steak & Bean Soft Taco With Reduced Fat Sour Cream
Another healthy option from Taco Bell is to order a taco and combine protein sources, like steak and beans, to increase the protein content.
If you were to only have one protein source then it wouldn’t be enough protein to keep you full for very long, so combining two protein sources is the way to go. I also recommend adding lettuce and tomatoes for a nutrient boost.
I also suggest choosing a reduced-fat sour cream since you’re already getting fat from the steak.
The total nutrition for this meal is 340 calories, 37g of carbs, 12g of fat, 20g of protein, and 720mg of sodium.
3. Bean Burrito (Vegetarian Option)
The third healthy meal option at Taco Bell is a Bean Burrito which is the best vegetarian option because it has the most protein at 15g per serving.
The bean burrito has an excellent amount of fiber 9g from the beans, lettuce, and tomato which in combination with the protein from the beans will keep you full for longer.
This burrito can easily be made vegan by omitting the cheese which would also save you 30 calories.
The total nutrition for this meal (including cheese) is 390 calories, 56g of carbs, 11g of fat, 15g of protein, and 1090mg of sodium.
Other Fast-Food Comparisons
- Which is Healthier: McDonald’s or Burger King?
- Which is Healthier: McDonald’s or Subway?
- Which Is Healthier: McDonald’s or KFC?
- Which Is Healthier Chick-Fil-A or McDonald’s?
- Which is Healthier: Chick-Fil-A or Panda Express?
- Which Is Healthier Subway or Chipotle?
About The Author
Amanda Parker is an author, nutrition coach, and Certified Naturopath. She works with bodybuilders, Olympic weightlifters, and powerlifters to increase performance through nutrition and lifestyle coaching.
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