Dr. Robert Cook - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Robert Cook

Is Eating At Firehouse Subs Bad For You?



Short answer

Eating at Firehouse Subs can be high in calories, fat, especially saturated fat, and sodium, which could negatively impact health if consumed regularly. Yet, by selecting smaller portions, lean meats, and plenty of veggies, and avoiding high-calorie dressings, these meals can be part of a balanced diet. Customization options allow for diet-friendly choices, even accommodating low-calorie, low-carb, and heart-healthy preferences.



Long answer

Caloric Content and Nutritional Profile of Firehouse Subs

Understanding the caloric content and nutritional profile is critical when assessing whether eating at Firehouse Subs can fit into a healthy diet. Firehouse Subs offers a variety of sandwiches, ranging from their signature hot subs to cold subs, salads, and soups. Each menu item carries its unique caloric load and nutrient density, which should be considered in the context of an individual's dietary needs.

Let's begin with the caloric content. Sub sandwiches from this establishment can vary significantly in calories. A small sub can have as few as 500 calories, whereas larger ones or those with richer ingredients can exceed 1000 calories. For those keeping an eye on calorie intake, choosing a smaller sub and being mindful of the toppings and dressings is key.

  • Small Sub: Approximately 500-700 calories
  • Medium Sub: Approximately 800-1000 calories
  • Large Sub: Over 1000 calories

Nutritional profiles also vary with ingredient choices. A sandwich loaded with fresh vegetables and lean proteins like chicken or turkey can offer a good balance of vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients. Conversely, subs containing processed meats, high-fat cheeses, and heavy dressings can be high in saturated fat and sodium.

  • Fat: Subs can range from 20 to over 60 grams of fat, depending on size and ingredients
  • Saturated Fat: Certain subs can have up to a day's worth of saturated fat
  • Sodium: Subs can exceed 1000mg of sodium, often surpassing half of the daily recommended intake
  • Carbohydrates: Primarily from bread, the carb count varies from 50 to over 100 grams
  • Fiber: Options with more veggies can provide a helpful boost in fiber
  • Proteins: Protein content can range widely based on the choice of meat or plant-based fillers

For those with specific dietary goals or restrictions, it is important to scrutinize the nutritional information provided by Firehouse Subs. For example, someone with hypertension should be particularly aware of sodium intake, while someone on a low-carb diet might opt for a salad instead of a sub.

While Firehouse Subs offers some healthier options, such as their "Under 500 Calories" menu, even these options need to be evaluated within the full dietary context of the day. Making informed choices involves not just considering one meal but looking at the overall nutritional landscape of your daily intake.

It is worth noting that nutritional needs can vary based on age, gender, activity level, and health status. Therefore, consulting with a registered dietitian or nutritionist can be beneficial in determining how meals from Firehouse Subs can fit into a balanced diet tailored to personal health requirements.

Studies suggest that frequent consumption of high-calorie, high-fat fast food can be linked to weight gain and negative health outcomes. To illustrate, a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found a positive association between fast food consumption and increased caloric intake and body weight (Smith et al., 2013). Thus, moderation is key when incorporating meals from Firehouse Subs into a health-conscious diet.

For those interested in maintaining a healthful diet while occasionally enjoying Firehouse Subs, it's useful to prioritize subs with plenty of vegetables, opt for smaller sizes, choose whole grain bread when available, and be cautioned with condiments and dressings, which can quickly escalate the caloric content of your meal.

Sodium Levels in Firehouse Subs Menu Items

When assessing the health impact of dining at Firehouse Subs, evaluating the sodium content in their menu items is crucial. The dietary guidelines recommend that adults consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. However, certain subs can reach or exceed this limit in just one meal, which is a significant consideration for those monitoring their sodium intake for blood pressure management or overall heart health.

Let's break down the sodium content in some of the popular offerings:

  • Hook & Ladder® Sub: A medium-sized sub may contain around 1,700 to 2,000 milligrams of sodium, edging close to the daily recommended intake.
  • Smokehouse Beef & Cheddar Brisket™: With high-sodium ingredients like beef brisket and cheddar cheese, a medium sub can deliver upwards of 2,500 milligrams of sodium.
  • Italian™ Sub: Packed with various processed meats such as salami, pepperoni, and ham, this sub can register over 2,300 milligrams of sodium for a medium size.
  • Firehouse Meatball®: Meatballs, marinara sauce, and cheese combine to create a flavor-rich sub, but also one that can contain about 1,800 milligrams of sodium or more.

It's also worth mentioning that these figures do not include additional sides and drinks, which could further increase the total sodium intake of the meal.

Firehouse Subs does offer under 500-calorie subs, and while these options may be lower in calories, they're not necessarily low in sodium. For instance, the Sriracha Beef™ boasts under 500 calories but still packs a hefty sodium punch.

Fortunately, for those trying to reduce sodium intake, Firehouse Subs provide the ability to customize your sub. Choosing to forgo toppings like cheese and condiments, opting for smaller sizes, or picking lower-sodium meats such as chicken over processed options can make a significant difference in the meal's overall sodium content.

As health professionals emphasize, the key to sodium consumption is moderation and awareness. Regularly consuming high-sodium meals can lead to long-term health issues, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Therefore, understanding and moderating sodium intake at restaurants like Firehouse Subs is an essential aspect of maintaining a balanced and health-conscious diet.

For those concerned about their sodium intake, it’s advisable to consult with a dietitian to better understand the effects of sodium on their personal health and to receive customized guidance appropriate for their dietary needs.

Additives and Processed Ingredients in Firehouse Subs

Understanding the potential health implications of additives and processed ingredients is pivotal when examining fast-food choices like Firehouse Subs. Dining at this popular sandwich chain means confronting a menu filled with ingredients that enhance flavor, preserve freshness, and improve texture, but which may also affect your health in various ways.

Let's peel back the layers of a typical Firehouse Subs sandwich to inspect the additives and processed components:

  • Preservatives: Preservatives such as sodium nitrite are common in processed meats, which are a staple at Firehouse Subs. These compounds help prevent bacterial growth and maintain color in meats. However, the World Health Organization classifies processed meats as a Group 1 carcinogen, which means they have sufficient evidence linking them to cancer, especially colorectal cancer.
  • Artificial Colorings: Certain menu items may contain artificial colorings or dyes. Although these are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), studies have suggested potential links between artificial colorings and behavioral issues in children, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Flavor Enhancers: Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavor enhancer that might be found in some Firehouse Subs products. While the FDA classes MSG as generally recognized as safe, some individuals report sensitivity to this additive, leading to symptoms named as "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome" which include headaches, flushing, and sweating.
  • Emulsifiers and Texturizers: To maintain consistency and mouthfeel, especially in dressings and sauces, emulsifiers like soy lecithin or guar gum might be used. These additives are generally considered safe, but some research suggests a potential alteration of gut microbiota with excessive consumption.

Beyond the more controversial additives, others such as yeast extract, natural flavors, and various thickeners and stabilizers make an appearance in the menu items. While each of these ingredients contributes to the shelf-life, taste, and texture of the food, they also move it further away from its natural state.

Focusing on the health implications, it's imperative to consider the context and quantity of these additives in your diet. The occasional sandwich with processed ingredients may not pose a significant health risk for the average person. Still, frequent consumption, especially as part of an overall diet high in processed foods, can contribute to chronic health issues like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

The general advice from nutritionists and health experts is to prioritize whole, minimally processed foods in your diet. When choosing to dine at fast-food chains like Firehouse Subs, it's beneficial to be aware of how additives and processed ingredients might play into your overall health and wellness goals.

For those particularly sensitive to additives or with dietary restrictions, carefully examining the ingredient list and consulting with a healthcare provider or a dietician would be wise to minimize potential adverse effects.

Comparative Analysis of Fast-Food Chain Options

Eating at fast-food chains has become a ubiquitous part of modern life. However, not all fast-food menus are created equal when it comes to their impact on health. Let's compare Firehouse Subs to other popular chains and investigate how their offerings stack up in terms of nutrition and diet friendliness.

First, it's important to analyze the typical menu items you'd find at Firehouse Subs. Sandwiches here are often characterized by large portions and come with a variety of meats, cheeses, and condiments. The availability of vegetables as toppings might imply an opportunity to incorporate more nutrients into a meal. However, the health implications of these meals depend largely on the specific choices made by the consumer.

For comparison, let's consider other fast-food chains that serve similar fare. We will look at items such as the calorie content, sodium levels, presence of saturated fats, and availability of nutrients through a comparative lens. Remember, the key to a balanced diet is moderation, variety, and understanding portion sizes.

Chain Calories Sodium (mg) Saturated Fats (g) Fiber (g)
Firehouse Subs (Medium Hook & Ladder Sub) 820 1,670 13.5 5
Subway (Footlong Turkey Breast) 560 1,590 2.5 10
Jimmy John's (8" Turkey Tom) 515 1,175 1 2
Quiznos (Classic Italian 8") 710 1,940 9 2

Through this comparison, we can observe that while Firehouse Subs offers a hearty meal, the calorie and sodium content can be quite high. This is comparable to Quiznos, which also has high sodium levels. On the other hand, Subway offers a lower-calorie option with higher fiber content, likely due to their emphasis on fresh veggies and leaner meats. Jimmy John's serves a sandwich lower in saturated fat, which can be beneficial for heart health.

The sodium content across these chains is consistently high, often exceeding more than half the recommended daily limit of 2,300 mg for an average adult, as suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. High sodium intake is linked to increased blood pressure and an elevated risk of heart disease and stroke. Consumers should be particularly mindful of this when choosing menu items.

Saturated fats are another concern, with some sandwiches contributing a significant portion of the maximum daily intake recommended by the American Heart Association of 13 grams for a 2,000-calorie diet. While Firehouse Subs and Quiznos rank higher in saturated fats, opting for turkey or veggie options at these establishments can reduce this intake.

In terms of nutrients, the presence of fiber is a positive aspect. Fiber aids digestion, helps maintain blood sugar levels, and can keep you feeling full longer. Subway takes the lead in this category primarily due to their customized sandwich options that can include a variety of vegetables.

One final point to consider is how customizable these meals can be. Many chains, including Firehouse Subs, allow you to tailor your sandwich to fit dietary needs, whether it's by choosing smaller portion sizes, opting for whole-grain bread, avoiding certain high-fat dressings or cheeses, or piling on the veggies for added nutrition.

This analysis is a snapshot of the broader menu offerings; individual choices can dramatically alter the nutritional value of a meal from any of these chains. It's essential to look beyond the numbers and also consider the quality of ingredients, potential additives, and the level of processing involved. Knowing the nutritional content is the first step in making informed decisions that align with your dietary goals.

Firehouse Subs Diet-Friendly Options and Modifications

Eating out, especially at fast-food chains, can be challenging for those trying to maintain a specific dietary regimen. Fortunately, with a little knowledge about the menu and some strategic modifications, dining at Firehouse Subs can fit into various diet plans. To help you navigate the menu, let's explore the diet-friendly options and modifications you can make to stay aligned with your nutritional goals.

Low-Calorie Choices:

  • Hook & Ladder Light Sub – A leaner version of their classic, which includes turkey breast, Virginia honey ham, and melted Monterey Jack cheese, served on a light wheat roll.
  • Firehouse Salad – Opt for the salad with turkey breast, grilled chicken, or simply with vegetables to keep calories in check.
  • Small or Medium Subs – Choose smaller sized subs instead of the large size to control portion sizes and calories.

Low-Carb Modifications:

  • Order any sub as a salad – This lets you enjoy your favorite sub flavors without the bread, significantly reducing the carbohydrate count.
  • Skip the dressings or opt for low-carb options – Dressings can be high in sugars and carbs, so ask for them on the side or choose a vinegar-based dressing.

High-Protein Options:

  • Smokehouse Beef & Cheddar Brisket – Brisket is a protein-rich meat, making this sub a good option for those looking to boost their protein intake.
  • Firehouse Meatball Sub – Ask for extra meatballs and cheese for an increase in protein.

Vegetarian and Vegan Friendly:

  • Veggie Sub – Stacked with bell peppers, sautéed mushrooms, and onions, this sub can be customized by skipping the cheese and mayonnaise for a vegan-friendly option.
  • Salad Options – Choose salads that feature a variety of vegetables and be mindful of cheese and dressings if you follow a vegan diet.

Heart-Healthy Modifications:

  • Skip processed meats – Choose options with grilled chicken or avoid meat for a healthier heart profile.
  • Ask for less cheese or no cheese – Reducing cheese can cut down on both saturated fats and sodium.
  • Opt for wholegrain bread – When wholegrain options are available, they are a healthier choice for heart health due to their fiber content.

Gluten-Free Needs:

  • While Firehouse Subs does not currently offer gluten-free bread, individuals with gluten sensitivity can opt for a sub in a bowl or a salad to avoid gluten.

Customization Tips:

  • Be clear about your dietary restrictions or preferences when ordering.
  • Request for certain ingredients to be left out of your sandwich or salad.
  • Consider the portion size – sometimes a smaller sub or splitting a larger sub can help keep your diet on track.

By carefully selecting menu items and tailoring them to your diet through the suggested modifications, Firehouse Subs can accommodate a variety of dietary needs. However, it’s always recommended to consult nutritional information provided by the restaurant and consider the impact of the overall meal on your specific dietary goals.

For further customization, many Firehouse Subs locations are open to special requests to cater to unique dietary requirements. Don’t hesitate to ask – often, staff are more than willing to help you enjoy a meal that fits your lifestyle.

No single diet is right for everyone, and what defines a "healthy choice" can vary greatly depending on individual health goals and nutritional needs. As with any fast-food option, consider these choices as occasional indulgences rather than everyday occurrences, and always strive for balance with whole foods and home-cooked meals when possible.

The Overall Impact of Regularly Eating at Firehouse Subs

When considering the impact of regularly eating at restaurants like Firehouse Subs, it's important to assess the nutritional content of their menu items, as well as how these items fit into an individual's daily dietary requirements. Eating at Firehouse Subs frequently can have various effects on your health, depending on the choices you make. Here are some points to ponder:

  • Caloric Intake: Many Firehouse Subs offerings are high in calories. For example, a typical medium sub can range between 800 to 1,000 calories. Regular consumption of high-calorie meals can lead to weight gain if not balanced out with physical activity and other low-calorie food choices.
  • Sodium Content: Processed meats and cheeses, which are staples in Firehouse Subs' sandwiches, typically contain high amounts of sodium. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams a day and moving toward an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults. A single Firehouse Sub sandwich can contain well over 2,000 mg of sodium, potentially leading to hypertension and cardiovascular issues if consumed too regularly.
  • Saturated Fats: The ingredients in many of their subs, such as sausages, meatballs, and cheese, are high in saturated fats. Frequent intake of saturated fats can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, according to the American Heart Association.
  • Additives and Preservatives: The meats used in Firehouse Subs are often processed and might contain additives and preservatives like nitrates, which have been linked to various health issues when consumed in excess including certain types of cancer.
  • Nutritional Benefits: On the positive side, Firehouse Subs also offers options with vegetables and lean meats. Selecting subs with plenty of vegetables and avoiding high-calorie dressings can turn a potentially unhealthy meal into a more balanced one, delivering essential nutrients and fiber.
  • Variability: The ability to customize your sub order allows for the potential to reduce calorie, fat, and sodium content by opting for smaller sizes, choosing lean meats, skipping the cheese, and avoiding added condiments like mayonnaise or dressings.

It's crucial to look at the broader context of an individual's diet when evaluating the impact of frequent visits to Firehouse Subs. A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy, in combination with occasional Firehouse subs eaten in moderation and customized for health, can fit into an overall healthy eating plan. However, the excess caloric and sodium content typical of many menu items, if not addressed, could contribute to diet-related health issues over time.

While indulging in a sub from Firehouse Subs once in a while can be part of a balanced diet, it is essential to make informed choices. Being mindful of portion sizes, customizing orders to enhance nutrient density, and balancing out these meals with healthier food choices throughout the day is key to maintaining a nutritious diet and minimizing potential health risks.

For those concerned with the long-term health implications of regularly consuming meals from Firehouse Subs, consider consulting with a registered dietitian or healthcare provider. They can offer personalized advice that takes into account an individual's specific health needs and dietary goals.

Frequently asked questions

Firehouse Subs offers vegetarian options such as the Veggie Sub, which can be made vegan by omitting cheese and mayonnaise. For a fuller meal, you can add more vegetables, or choose a salad and customize it to fit your dietary preferences.

Yes, you can enjoy Firehouse Subs on a low-fat diet by choosing subs with lean proteins like turkey or chicken breast, avoiding high-fat meats like meatballs and sausages, skipping the cheese and high-fat dressings, and selecting smaller sub sizes or opting for a salad instead.

To make a Firehouse Sub meal heart-healthy, choose subs with lower sodium content by avoiding processed meats and opt for chicken or veggie subs, reduce saturated fats by saying no to cheeses and creamy dressings, select whole-grain bread options, and include plenty of fresh vegetables in your sub or salad.

If you have diabetes, focus on controlling carbohydrate intake by choosing a salad over a sub, or requesting your sub as a bowl without the bread. Opt for lean proteins and load up on non-starchy vegetables, and be cautious with dressings, as they can contain added sugars.

Ask a question about Firehouse Subs and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • increased caloric intake
  • high sodium levels
  • potential additive sensitivity reactions

Possible long-term side effects

  • weight gain
  • hypertension
  • cardiovascular disease
  • increased cancer risk
  • nutrient deficiencies

Commonly found in

  • processed meats
  • dressings
  • breads
  • cheese

Ingredients to be aware of

  • processed meats
  • saturated fats
  • sodium
  • additives
  • preservatives
  • artificial colorings
  • flavor enhancers
  • emulsifiers


  • customizable meals
  • availability of lean proteins and vegetables
  • options with high fiber

Healthier alternatives

  • lean meat choices
  • smaller portion sizes
  • whole grain bread
  • fresh vegetables
  • low-calorie dressings
  • salad options

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 11-28-2023
Last updated: 12-07-2023

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 11-28-2023
Last updated: 12-07-2023

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