Although Jimmy John’s has been serving its gourmet sandwiches since 1983, it only made its way to our area a few years ago, with the first DC location opening last year. With fresh-baked bread, sliced-in-house meats, and handy delivery service, it has been well received.
Still, there are some things to be weary of at this sub joint, says Alison Sonak, a registered dietitian based in Sterling, Virginia.
“I don’t think it’s a great place to go for lunch. It’s got a lot of high-fat and high-sodium choices, but that’s typical for a sub shop,” she says. “And the portion sizes are very large, but that’s everywhere in our country.”
Check out her analysis to help navigate the menu in the healthiest way possible.
EIGHT-INCH SUB SANDWICHES
• Worst--J.J.B.L.T: With six slices of bacon and a hearty slathering of mayo, this sub offers 634 calories, 35 grams of fat, and 1,329 milligrams of sodium. "Because of the bacon, the saturated fat is high as well," Sonak says. "Although the Totally Tuna [sandwich] has more calories, at least it has the benefit of fish."
• Better--Vegetarian: Our expert says, "A lot of the fat comes from the avocado spread, so it's heart-healthy fat. It has a lot of veggies, and that makes it a good choice." With 578 calories, and a relatively tame 873 milligrams of sodium, the sandwich is okay to eat in one sitting. Lose the cheese and mayo, or swap it for mustard, to give this sandwich a boost.
• Best--Turkey Tom: It's a simple sandwich--turkey breast, alfalfa sprouts, lettuce, tomato, and mayo--but that's part of what makes it a good choice. Although high in sodium, it has the fewest calories and lowest fat of the eight-inch subs. Compared with the vegetarian sandwich, "It has more protein, and also doesn't have cheese, like the veggie sub does," Sonak explains. Make it even better by avoiding the mayo.
GIANT CLUB SANDWICHES
• Worst--Italian Night Club: With three meats (two of them processed), cheese, and a negligible amount of veggies, this calorie bomb of a sandwich is not going to do you any favors. "It's almost 1,000 calories, 50 grams of fat, and an entire day's worth of sodium," Sonak says. Even eating only half won't redeem it, she says: "It might help from a caloric standpoint, but definitely not a nutritional one."
• Best--Bootlegger Club: Another simple option claims the top spot. This roast beef, turkey, lettuce, tomato, and mayo sandwich is the least harmful choice in this hearty section of the menu, with the lowest calories and fat and more lean meats and veggies than other sandwiches. But you should still be cautious of its 684 calories, and 1,660 milligrams of sodium.
• Worst--Slim 5: salami, capicola, and cheese: This "slim" sandwich has 599 calories, 19 grams of fat (8 saturated), and a whopping 1,450 milligrams of sodium. It's all processed meat and cheese, and zero veggies.
• Best--Slim 2: roast beef: Our expert says, "I chose this one because people get so tired of eating turkey, but calorie-wise [turkey and roast beef] are similar; roast beef is higher in fat, but maybe by one or two points." Granted, this option is just meat and bread (amounting to 424 calories and 996 milligrams of sodium), but it does give you the chance to dress it up in a healthy way.
While the gourmet sandwich shop is no health utopia, you might expect the low-fat/low-carb options to be a bright spot--but you'd be somewhat mistaken, according to Sonak.
"Their low-fat options can be deceiving. If you order the Turkey Tom the way they make it, it's still 21 grams of fat, which is not low," she explains. And while the low-cal options are "true to title," she points out that the JJ Gargantuan Unwich packs more than a day's worth of sodium (2,468 milligrams) and almost a full day's worth of fat (54 grams).
"People think they're making healthy choices with the low-fat and low-carb options, but that's not necessarily the case," she says. "This is one of the reasons why I always advise my clients to look at the menu and make educated decisions."
Her other bits of advice include always skipping mayo, and using phone apps that give you one-stop access to the menus and nutritional information from popular eateries. Be careful with processed meats, which are high in sodium and often carry potentially harmful nitrates. She also recommends eating half of your sandwiches. "If you're still hungry, supplement with other things. Try to get your hands on some fruit or vegetables," she says.