Eating out or grabbing a quick bite on the go should be just as easy when you’re pregnant. Since Subway is in so many towns and cities around the world, it’d be good to know if you can eat there, right?
There are a couple of things to remember if you want to eat at Subway, as the majority of their sandwiches contain deli meat and other ingredients that need to be handled differently.
Can Pregnant Women Eat At Subway? Subway sandwiches are safe for pregnant women to eat if they’re heated until hot, rather than just warm. This means either microwaved for a few seconds or having the sandwich toasted – sometimes a little more than normal.
The American Pregnancy Association says to avoid eating deli meat sandwiches at places that don’t heat up the meat. They also recommend you choose other fillings where possible at Subway (source: APA). In the UK, the recommendations are slightly less restrictive on cold meat fillings, but you might want to be extra careful and follow the APA guidance.
What Pregnant Women Should Know About Eating at Subway
The reason you have to be more careful with Subway sandwiches is two-fold:
First, many Subway sandwiches contain deli meat, which has to be heated up until hot to eliminate any potential for listeria contamination (for more on specific deli meats, what the risks are and what to do with them at home too, check out my guide to deli meat in pregnancy).
Second, the salads at Subway are a mixture of items that are pre-sliced and bagged (like the lettuce), and ones that are sliced in-store (like the tomatoes). This may also differ from location to location, as each store is an individual Franchise.
Unless you’re washing it yourself at home, it’s generally a good idea to avoid bagged salad due to the same potential for listeria contamination.
If you want to eat Subway sandwiches safely when you’re pregnant, you can – if you make a couple of extra requests about heating and toasting.
Can Pregnant Women Eat Subway Sandwiches if They’re Toasted?
Pregnant women can eat many types of sandwiches at Subway IF they’re heated up until hot, not just warm. Heating up sandwich fillings like deli meat and/or salad kills listeria if the temperature goes above 165F, or 75C.
As a general rule, this is called ‘steaming hot’ temperatures, so you have a visual cue as to how hot the filling has to be if you’re not measuring it with a culinary thermometer.
Depending on how hot the machine is set and how long your sandwich is toasted, Subway may not automatically get your sandwich filling steaming hot. I reached out to them and their official stance is that pregnant women should either opt for non-deli meat options or ask for the deli meat to be heated more than usual.
Making a Special Request Subway Sandwich When You’re Pregnant
If the Subway sandwich you really want to eat contains deli meat or pre-bagged salad leaves like lettuce, ask for the filling to be heated up in the microwave first, until ‘steaming hot’. This only usually takes about 20-30 seconds, and most Subway branches have a microwave and will be happy to do this for you.
Alternatively, you can also ask for the sandwich contents to be toasted either more than once, or for a little longer or hotter than usual. Again, the goal here is to get the filling steaming hot.
Of course, lettuce doesn’t do very well when it’s heated, so you might want to swap this out for something else just as nutritious and tasty, like bell peppers.
Treat the special request as a ‘medical request’ and Subway staff should be fine with it. Back in 2016 a Subway employee refused to heat up a sandwich, more for time-saving reasons than it having anything to do with pregnancy. However, after the story hit the news, Subway commented that they had ‘re-trained’ their staff.
This means that these days it’s likely Subway staff know and understand that pregnant women need their deli meat heated up. If they don’t know, speak to the staff or the manager (or show them this article!) so that they understand the reasons why it’s important.
If all this sounds like a pain to do, the ‘least hassle’ option at Subway is to stick to non-deli meat fillings like tuna, steak and cheese, or meatball, according to the American Pregnancy Association (source: APA). A list of good pregnancy options at Subway is covered later on in this article, below.
Can Pregnant Women Eat Tuna at Subway?
Subway’s tuna sandwiches (usually tuna mayo) are fine for pregnant women to eat. If you’re adding salad, stick to the items that are prepped in-store, like the peppers, cucumbers and onions, rather than the lettuce, which is pre-prepared and bagged offsite.
Then, you can eat the sandwich cold, as the filling won’t contain bagged salad or deli meat.
According to their sourcing policy, Subway only uses skipjack and yellowfin tuna in their sandwiches. This is good news for pregnant women, as these are two types that are not particularly high in mercury – especially skipjack. Tuna is safe in pregnancy if you keep an eye on your intake due to mercury levels.
For help on this, you might want to read this Complete Guide to Tuna in Pregnancy.
Is Subway’s Mayonnaise Pasteurized?
Subway uses mayonnaise made from pasteurized eggs, so the mayonnaise at Subway is safe for pregnant women to eat. This includes any pre-mixed fillings like tuna mayo, or having mayonnaise added on as a sauce at the end with your chosen sandwich filling.
The same applies to Subway’s sauces and dressings that they offer to put on your salad or sandwich, such as Caesar, buffalo, ranch and so on. They’re all safe to eat in pregnancy.
Is The Cheese at Subway Pasteurized?
All the cheese varieties you can get at Subway, including American cheese, Swiss, cheddar, provolone, feta, pepperjack and mozzarella are all made from pasteurized milk, or are hard/processed cheeses that are pregnancy-safe (source: Subway). All these types of cheese at Subway are safe to eat when you’re pregnant.
If you’re a fan of cheese, you might find this ultimate Guide to Cheese in Pregnancy useful, since it lists dozens of different cheeses and their safety in pregnancy.
Pregnancy Options on the Subway Menu
If you’re pushed for time and just want to know which sandwiches you can eat at Subway, I’ve put together this guide to the Subway menu and the best options for pregnant women. It’s based on the USA menu and may differ depending on your country and region.
Tips that apply to ALL Subway sandwiches:
- Almost all the salad fillings are safe as they’re prepped on-site, but as the lettuce is shredded and bagged commercially off-site, if you want to have lettuce, ask for it to be microwaved for a couple of minutes or skip it. Hot lettuce isn’t that pleasant, anyway!
- All the spicy or marinated items (onions, jalepenos, pickles, olives, banana peppers etc) are fine in pregnancy.
- As mentioned above, the mayo and dressings are all safe for pregnant women to eat, and so are all the cheeses.
- Healthier options are the wraps, salads or smaller subs or sliders, without cheese and heavy dressings. Subway now publish calorie and nutritional information if you want to see what’s in your chosen sandwich combo.
Sandwiches that are safe IF you have the meat heated:
- Black Forest Ham
- Chicken and Bacon Ranch
- Italian BMT
- Cold Cuts (any combination)
- Spicy Italian
- Roast Beef
- Club Sandwich
- Turkey Breast
Sandwiches that are safe in pregnancy ‘as they come’, without lettuce:
- Classic Tuna (can be eaten as it is, cold)
- Oven-roasted, Teriyaki or Rotisserie Chicken
- Meatball Marinara
- Steak & Cheese
- Veggie Delite (can be eaten as it is, cold)
Help! I accidentally ate at Subway Without Toasting or Heating – What do I do?
Understandably, it’s not unusual to go ahead and eat a sandwich without having the deli meat heated, especially at convenient places like Subway, or simply because you didn’t realize it had to be heated in the first place.
The first thing is don’t panic. The chances of contracting listeria are VERY low. Heating the deli meat is merely a step to reduce an already low risk, and if you’ve eaten a couple of non-toasted Subway sandwiches, it does NOT mean that you will get listeria or have done anything harmful to your baby.
The best thing is that you now know what to do to reduce your risk in the future. In the meantime, be reassured that the risk is very low, and monitor yourself for a few days for any potential symptoms of listeria.
Listeriosis symptoms include similar feelings to the onset of mild flu, such as headaches, vomiting, aches, and nausea (Source: APA). As these can often be symptoms that are prevalent in pregnancy anyway (such as morning sickness), if you have any concerns at all, contact a medical professional right away, to be on the safe side.