Dr. Becky Maes - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Becky Maes

Is Potbelly Sandwich Shop Bad For You?



Short answer

Potbelly Sandwich Shop offers a variety of food items that can fit into a balanced diet if chosen carefully. Opt for sandwiches with lean meats, whole grains, and veggies, and watch out for high-calorie dressings and sides. Be mindful of portion sizes to avoid excessive calorie and fat intake. Regular consumption of their high-sodium and high-saturated fat options could be detrimental to health, so moderation is key.



Long answer

Caloric Content and Nutritional Profile of Potbelly Menu Items

Understanding the caloric and nutritional content of food from Potbelly Sandwich Shop is crucial for maintaining a balanced diet. Let's break down what a typical meal at Potbelly might entail in terms of calories, macronutrients, and other nutritional values.

Caloric Breakdown of Popular Sandwiches:

  • A Wreck® Sandwich (Original size) contains approximately 720 calories, with high levels of protein and fat.
  • The Mediterranean Sandwich (Original size) comes in at around 530 calories, offering a more moderate calorie option with a focus on fresh vegetables and feta cheese.
  • The Smoked Ham Sandwich (Original size) typically has about 640 calories, balance of protein and carbs with less fat.


  • The Farmhouse Salad, which includes hard-boiled eggs and bacon, can have upwards of 600 calories without dressing, emphasizing the importance of choosing lighter dressing options.
  • The Powerhouse Salad offers a selection of nutrient-dense ingredients like avocado and chickpeas, totaling about 400 calories for a filling yet healthier choice.

Soups and Sides:

  • Broccoli Cheddar Soup may seem like a comforting choice, but a cup contains about 240 calories, mostly from fat and carbohydrates.
  • A side of Mac & Cheese can add another 380 calories to your meal, with cheese contributing to its high fat content.
  • Their Chickpea Veggie Salad, a lower-calorie side option, provides around 210 calories and an abundance of fiber from veggies.

Nutritional highlights and concerns for those watching their intake:

  • Many of the sandwiches are high in sodium, which could be a concern for individuals with blood pressure issues or those trying to reduce their salt intake.
  • Options like the Skinny Pair can be a more calorie-conscious choice, pairing a half sandwich with a side soup or salad, optimizing caloric intake while still enjoying a variety of flavors.
  • Some sandwiches can be customized with 'thin-cut' bread, which cuts about 100 calories by reducing the carbohydrate component.

While the caloric content provides an overview, it is vital to consider the macronutrient balance and the presence of vitamins and minerals that contribute to the overall nutritional value of a meal. For example, choosing a sandwich with plenty of vegetables can enhance the fiber and micronutrient profile, making it a more nutritious option.

In-depth nutrition information can often be found on the company's website or by request in-store, which can help in making informed choices based on individual dietary goals and needs. It's essential to read the nutritional information thoroughly and consider portion sizes in relation to daily caloric and nutritional requirements.

Expert opinion generally highlights the importance of balance and moderation when dining out. As Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests, mindful eating strategies, such as choosing smaller portion sizes and focusing on nutrient-dense foods, can help maintain a healthy diet while enjoying meals like those from Potbelly.

Hidden Calories: Dressings, Toppings, and Portion Sizes

When analyzing the nutritional landscape of fast-casual eateries like Potbelly Sandwich Shop, it's crucial to understand that hidden calories can significantly impact your overall dietary intake. Dressings, toppings, and portion sizes at such establishments play a pivotal role in transforming a seemingly healthy meal option into one that may contribute to unwanted weight gain or hinder health goals.

Dressings: Often high in fats and sugars, dressings can discreetly add hundreds of extra calories to your sandwich. For instance, a single serving of Potbelly's non-fat vinaigrette contains about 35 calories, while their ranch dressing can contain up to 200 calories per serving. Although some dressings contain beneficial oils and can provide healthy fats, the portion size is key. Excessive dressing not only increases calories but may also add excess sodium.

  • Avoid creamy dressings when possible; opt for vinegar or mustard-based ones instead.
  • Request dressings on the side to control the amount you consume.
  • Consider the hidden sugars in dressings which can contribute to the caloric total.

Toppings: Toppings such as cheese, bacon, and avocado are popular but also dense in calories. For example, adding cheddar cheese to your sandwich adds roughly another 100 calories, and avocado, while nutritious, adds about 60 calories per serving. Toppings contribute texture and flavor, yet they can also significantly increase the total calorie count of your meal.

  • Select fresh vegetable toppings like lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers to add nutrition without too many extra calories.
  • Be mindful of calorie-dense toppings and choose wisely based on your dietary needs.
  • Limit or avoid extra cheese and mayonnaise-based spreads which can double the calorie count unnoticeably.

Portion Sizes: Potbelly Sandwich Shop offers various sizes, such as Originals and Bigs. The calorie content changes accordingly, with 'Original' sandwiches averaging around 600-800 calories and 'Big' sandwiches climbing to around 1,000 calories or more. Bigger portion sizes can contribute significantly to daily caloric intake, potentially leading to caloric surplus and weight gain if consumed regularly.

  • Be conscious of the sandwich size you choose – 'Original' might be ample for most dietary needs.
  • Consider the cumulative effect of multiple high-calorie foods and adjust your portion size accordingly.
  • Remember that you can always save half for later to spread out the calorie intake over a longer period or share with a friend.

While the convenience of a sandwich from Potbelly can fit into a balanced diet, vigilance regarding dressings, toppings, and portion sizes is key. By tailoring your choices at Potbelly Sandwich Shop, you can enjoy their offerings without compromising your health objectives. Understanding these factors helps make informed decisions that align with your dietary needs.

It's worth noting that the nutritional information for each item is available on the Potbelly website and in-store. Consulting these details before ordering can help you stay informed and make better dietary choices.

Sodium Levels in Potbelly Sandwiches and Health Implications

When considering the nutrition of fast-casual dining options like Potbelly Sandwich Shop, it is essential to take a close look at sodium content. Sodium is a critical electrolyte in the body, but excessive consumption can lead to adverse health effects. Potbelly's menu, like many other sandwich chains, may offer items that are high in 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, particularly those with hypertension or prehypertension. It is important to be mindful of these guidelines when selecting menu items.

Breakdown of Sodium Content in Popular Potbelly Sandwiches:

  • A Wreck® Sandwich - Approximately 1,360 mg of sodium
  • Turkey Breast Sandwich - Around 1,230 mg of sodium
  • Italian Sandwich - Nearly 2,120 mg of sodium
  • Grilled Chicken Sandwich - Close to 1,130 mg of sodium

These figures suggest that a single Potbelly sandwich can often provide over half of the daily sodium limit recommended by the American Heart Association, and in some cases, may even exceed the ideal limit for the entire day.

Health Implications of High Sodium Intake:

  1. Increased Blood Pressure: High sodium intake has been linked to elevated blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Studies have shown that reducing salt consumption can help to lower blood pressure levels.
  2. Heart Disease: Excessive sodium can contribute to the development of heart disease over time. Research indicates that a diet lower in sodium could mitigate the risk of cardiovascular illnesses.
  3. Stroke: There is a correlation between high sodium consumption and the risk of stroke. Regulating sodium intake could be a preventative measure against this condition.
  4. Chronic Kidney Disease: Kidneys help to manage sodium levels in the body. High sodium can put stress on these organs, and over time, it may lead to kidney disease.
  5. Bloating and Weight Gain: High sodium can cause the body to retain water, leading to bloating and temporary weight gain, which some find uncomfortable or distressing.

While the occasional high-sodium meal may not pose a significant health risk to individuals in good health, frequent consumption of such meals from places like Potbelly Sandwich Shop can have cumulative negative effects, particularly for those with existing health concerns. It is important for consumers to be aware of sodium content and to balance their meals with lower-sodium options whenever possible. In addition, fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins can help balance out a high-sodium diet.

To mitigate these risks, individuals concerned about their sodium intake should consider customizing their Potbelly order to include less sodium-rich ingredients, choose smaller sandwich sizes, or share a sandwich to reduce portion sizes. Moreover, examining the nutritional information provided by Potbelly and opting for items marked as "Skinnys" or salads with dressings on the side can be more health-conscious choices.

Trans Fat and Saturated Fat in Potbelly Fare: What You Need To Know

When dining at Potbelly Sandwich Shop, it's crucial to understand the types of fat present in their menu items. Trans fat and saturated fat, while adding flavor to food, can pose risks to health when consumed in excess.

Understanding Trans Fats
Trans fats are created through an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils, making them more solid. The primary health concern regarding trans fat is their ability to increase the 'bad' LDL cholesterol and decrease the 'good' HDL cholesterol, potentially leading to heart disease. Thankfully, due to regulations and health considerations, many fast-food chains, including Potbelly, have greatly reduced or eliminated trans fats from their foods.

Saturated Fat Content in Menu Items
Saturated fats are naturally occurring fats found in meat, dairy, and certain oils. They can raise LDL cholesterol levels, with implications for heart disease risk. When reviewing Potbelly's nutritional information, the presence of saturated fat is notable particularly in their signature sandwiches, which include salami, bacon, and cheese—ingredients rich in saturated fat.

For example, a Bigs version of Potbelly's signature 'A Wreck' sandwich contains substantial saturated fat content. Below is a nutritional breakdown:

  • Calories: Varies, based on customization
  • Total Fat: Varies, based on customization
  • Saturated Fat: Approximately 14g in the original size
  • Trans Fat: 0g

Healthier Choices
In pursuit of a heart-healthy diet, patrons might opt for sandwiches with lean meats such as turkey or chicken and include plenty of vegetables. Reducing portions by choosing "Skinnys" or halves of sandwiches may also minimize saturated fat intake while still enjoying the Potbelly experience.

Expert Opinions
Nutritionists and dietitians often advise moderation when it comes to consuming saturated fats, echoing the American Heart Association's recommendation that saturated fats should not exceed 5-6% of total daily calories. Therefore, for an individual following a 2,000-calorie daily diet, saturated fat intake should be limited to around 13 grams per day.

Bottom Line
It is important for individuals who frequent Potbelly Sandwich Shop to be mindful of saturated fat, and to a lesser extent, trans fat content in their menu choices. While indulging in a favorite sandwich occasionally can be part of a balanced diet, consistently opting for high-saturated fat options without moderation can have detrimental effects on heart health.

Always review the nutritional information provided by the restaurant, and consider these values in the context of your overall dietary patterns and health goals. As the familiar adage goes: everything in moderation.

Balancing Convenience with Healthy Eating: Potbelly in Moderation

Understanding the balance between convenience and healthy eating is crucial when considering dining options like Potbelly Sandwich Shop. While the allure of a quick, tasty sandwich is undeniable, it's important to navigate the menu with a mindful approach to nutrition. Here’s how you can enjoy Potbelly in moderation without derailing your health goals:

  • Review Nutritional Information: Potbelly provides nutritional details for all their menu items. Prior to ordering, glance at the calorie counts, sodium levels, and fat content of your chosen sandwich. This proactive step can prevent the unintended consumption of excessive calories or unhealthy fats.
  • Choose Wisely: Opt for sandwiches with whole grains, lean proteins, and plenty of vegetables. For instance, a turkey breast sandwich on multigrain bread with all the veggies can be a balanced choice that contributes to your daily intake of fiber and essential nutrients.
  • Portion Control: Potbelly's offerings range from "skinnys" to originals and bigs. If you're striving to moderate your intake, select a "skinny" option or ask for a half portion. This doesn’t just apply to sandwiches – be aware of portion sizes for soups, shakes, and other sides as well.
  • Customize Your Order: Take charge of your meal by asking for modifications. Requesting less cheese, sauce on the side, or additional vegetables are small tweaks that can make a noticeable difference in the nutritional quality of your meal.
  • Sensible Sides: Instead of reaching for a bag of chips or a cookie, consider healthier side options like a side salad or apple slices. These alternatives provide essential vitamins and minerals and are lower in calories and unhealthy fats.
  • Limit High-Calorie Extras: Be mindful of add-ons like bacon, cheese, and mayonnaise-based dressings. These can quickly escalate the calorie and fat content of your meal. Instead, opt for mustard, vinegar, or a squeeze of fresh lemon juice for added flavor without the added health costs.
  • Mind Your Beverages: Sugar-sweetened beverages can be a hidden source of empty calories. Choose water, unsweetened iced tea, or other low-calorie drinks to keep your meal balanced and hydrating.

By making informed choices and focusing on moderation, you can enjoy the convenience of Potbelly without compromising your nutrition goals. A myriad of options are at your disposal, and with a strategic approach to ordering, Potbelly can fit within a balanced, health-conscious diet.

These guidelines are supported by insights from experts. A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics revealed the importance of making informed choices when dining out to maintain a healthy diet. Additionally, dietary recommendations from the American Heart Association emphasize the role of portion control and nutrient-rich foods in disease prevention and overall health.

Healthier Menu Alternatives at Potbelly Sandwich Shop

Making healthier food choices at fast-casual chains like Potbelly Sandwich Shop can be challenging, but it's not impossible. Although the menu is packed with indulgent items, there are several strategies to modify your order to better align with nutritional goals. By selecting the right combination of ingredients, you can enjoy a satisfying meal that doesn't derail your diet. Below, we'll explore the healthier options available at Potbelly Sandwich Shop.

Choose Lean Proteins: Opting for leaner protein options can significantly reduce the saturated fat and calorie count of your meal. Look for these healthier choices:

  • Grilled chicken — high in protein and lower in fat.
  • Turkey breast — another lean option that is low in fat and calories.

Select Whole-Grain Bread: Whole-grain bread is a better option compared to regular white bread due to its higher fiber content, which aids in digestion and promotes satiety. Potbelly offers a multigrain bread that can be a healthier choice for your sandwiches.

Go for Abundant Greens: Fill your sandwich or salad with a variety of vegetables to increase the nutritional value. Not only do they add flavor and texture, but they also provide essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Options like lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions are good starters. Consider the following:

  • A pickle side: A low-calorie, crunchy addition instead of chips.
  • Garden Side Salad: A fresh mix of greens you can have on the side with a light vinaigrette.

Watch the Cheese: While cheese can be a great source of calcium and protein, it is also high in saturated fat and calories. Consider these options:

  • Skip the cheese entirely, or ask for half the portion to reduce the impact.
  • Choose a cheese that's naturally lower in fat, like feta or mozzarella, when available.

Limit High-Calorie Add-Ons: Certain toppings and condiments can significantly increase the calorie content of your meal without contributing much nutritionally.

  • Avoid mayonnaise and creamy dressings; opt for mustard or vinaigrette instead.
  • Skip high-calorie items like bacon and meatballs that can quickly elevate the fat content.

Consider Soup: Potbelly offers a variety of soups, some of which can be hearty and nutrient-dense while being lower in calories.

  • Choose broth-based soups over cream-based ones to limit calorie intake.
  • Look for soups with a vegetable or lean protein base for a balanced meal.

Modifying Portion Sizes: Sometimes the smartest move is to control how much you eat. Potbelly allows customers to order "Skinnys" which are smaller versions of their original sandwiches. Additionally, consider splitting a sandwich or saving half for another meal.

Incorporating these strategies when ordering at Potbelly Sandwich Shop can help you enjoy their offerings while staying mindful of nutrition. Remember to balance your meal by combining protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats, and don't be afraid to customize your order to suit your dietary needs.

Keeping these suggestions in mind will enable you to navigate Potbelly's menu and find choices that contribute positively to your health without sacrificing flavor or satisfaction.

Frequently asked questions

Potbelly Sandwich Shop may provide some items with lower sodium content, but specific information on low-sodium options is not typically advertised on the menu. To reduce sodium intake, request no added salt or select sandwiches with inherently lower-sodium ingredients, like those with more vegetables and lean proteins without processed meats. You can also ask for dressings and sauces on the side to control the amount of sodium you consume.

Individuals with gluten sensitivity may need to exercise caution at Potbelly Sandwich Shop. While they do not have a dedicated gluten-free menu, you may be able to customize your order to avoid gluten-containing ingredients by selecting salads without croutons or sandwiches without bread. Be sure to ask the staff about cross-contamination risks and other gluten-free options available.

Yes, Potbelly Sandwich Shop offers vegetarian options such as the Mediterranean Sandwich, which includes vegetables and feta cheese, and the Chickpea Veggie Salad for those seeking plant-based alternatives. Customizing your sandwich to include a variety of vegetables without meat is another way to enjoy vegetarian fare at the shop.

To make your Potbelly order more heart-healthy, opt for whole grain bread, lean proteins like turkey or grilled chicken, and load up on fresh vegetable toppings. Avoid high-saturated fat items like bacon and full-fat cheese, and choose lighter dressing options or request them on the side. Portion control by choosing 'Skinnys' or half-sized sandwiches and avoiding high-calorie sides can also contribute to a heart-healthy meal.

Ask a question about Potbelly Sandwich Shop and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • increased blood pressure
  • bloating
  • temporary weight gain

Possible long-term side effects

  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • chronic kidney disease
  • elevated blood pressure
  • weight gain

Ingredients to be aware of


  • protein intake
  • fiber intake
  • micronutrient intake
  • satiety

Healthier alternatives

  • lean meats like turkey or chicken
  • whole-grain bread
  • abundant greens
  • low-fat cheese
  • broth-based soups
  • skinnys or smaller sandwich sizes
  • fresh vegetable toppings
  • vinegar or mustard-based dressings

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-18-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-18-2024

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