Healthy Jimmy John’s Options for Athletes
Athletes looking for a quick meal on-the-go frequently stop at Jimmy John’s for a sandwich. It can be helpful for athletes to know what healthy Jimmy John’s options are available on the menu that can support their sports nutrition needs.
Let’s look at some general tips for making nutritious choices at sandwich shops. Then we will explore healthy options for athletes on the Jimmy John’s menu.
Healthy Choices for Athletes at Sandwich Shops
Athletes looking for healthy options at a sandwich shop should choose a sandwich that provides a good source of carbohydrates, a moderate amount of lean protein, as well as a variety of vegetables and healthy fats.
Carbohydrates provide the body with the energy needed to perform at its best, while protein is important for building and maintaining lean muscle mass.
To get the most benefit from protein intake, athletes are encouraged to consume protein throughout the day with meals and snacks. In regard to serving size, athletes should aim to eat ~0.25 grams of protein per kg body weight at each eating occasion (1).
This calculates to be in the range of 20-40 grams of protein (1) at each meal/snack, with larger athletes needing more protein than smaller athletes.
Choose Whole Grains
When possible, athletes should choose whole wheat or whole grain bread, sandwich rolls, and wraps to build their sandwich on. In addition to carbohydrates, whole grains provide fiber, vitamins, and minerals making them a nutritious option for athletes.
Select Lean Protein Sandwich Fillings
Lean sources of protein for sandwiches include chicken, turkey, ham, and roast. Bacon and Italian deli meats, such as salami and pepperoni, tend to be higher in saturated fat and less healthy choices.
Add on Veggies and Healthy Fats
To boost the nutrient content of their sandwiches, athletes should add a variety of fresh vegetable toppings. Requesting extra veggies on the sandwich is an easy way to add vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to the meal.
Finally, athletes should choose healthy sources of unsaturated fats to enjoy on their sandwiches. Avocado, guacamole, olive oil, and vinaigrette-based dressings all contain healthy unsaturated fat.
Sandwich toppings such as mayonnaise and Ranch tend to be high in saturated fat. Consider ordering mustard, Dijon mustard, or oil and vinegar in place of these toppings. Another option is to order the mayo/Ranch on the side so the athlete can control the amount added to the sandwich.
What is Jimmy John’s?
Jimmy John’s® is a popular sandwich chain restaurant in the United States. The restaurant hand-slices sandwich meat and cheese in the store and bakes their sandwich bread fresh throughout the day.
Jimmy John’s offers a variety of sandwich options and shares on their website that they don’t just make sandwiches, they make “The Sandwich of SandwichesSM.”
Healthy Jimmy John’s Options
All the nutrition and product information included in this article comes from the Jimmy John’s® website. Menu options and nutrition information may change as products are updated. For the most current nutrition information, refer to the Jimmy John’s website.
Jimmy John’s Bread and Sandwich Options
At Jimmy John’s, athletes can order their sandwich on fresh-baked French bread (Little John 6”, 8”, or 16”), thick-sliced wheat bread, or as a lettuce-wrapped Unwich®.
Since athletes need carbohydrates in their diet to support activity, I would recommend they order their sandwich on wheat or French bread rather than a lettuce wrap. This is particularly important if the athlete is eating the sandwich as part of their pre-game meal or following a game to help meet their recovery nutrition needs.
Little John Sandwiches
Jimmy John’s offers a variety of Little John sandwich options that come on 6” French bread. The Little John sandwiches contain ~10-16 grams of protein (depending on the type of sandwich ordered). In comparison, similar sandwiches made on the 8” French bread or thick-sliced wheat bread all contain over 20 grams of protein.
Given the lower protein content of the Little John sandwiches, I would encourage athletes to select a sandwich made on wheat bread or the 8” French bread. The larger serving size of protein on these subs is more in line with an athlete’s needs.
Jimmy John’s Gutted French Bread
In addition to sandwich size, some of the sandwiches offered on the Jimmy John’s menu are served on “GUTTED” French bread. Gutted French bread has the bread on the inside top half of the sub scooped out.
The gutted top half allows more room for the sandwich fillings. It also reduces the calorie and carbohydrate content of the sandwich.
Individuals can order any sandwich on the menu with “gutted” French bread. Conversely, if a sandwich comes “gutted” you can request the bread be left in. On Jimmy John’s nutrition guide, you will note the bread is listed with two options:
- LBI: Leave Bread In
- TBO: Take Bread Out
Healthy Jimmy John’s Sandwich Options
There are a variety of healthy sandwich options on the Jimmy John’s menu. As discussed above, athletes should consider ordering the mayo on the side to help reduce the saturated fat content of the sandwiches.
Some of my favorite healthy Jimmy John’s sandwich choices for athletes include:
- Turkey Tom: Basic turkey sandwich with lettuce, tomato, and mayo. For a delicious addition, order the avocado spread as a topping on the sandwich.
- Totally Tuna: The Jimmy John’s tuna salad is made fresh in the store. The tuna is topped with lettuce, tomato, and cucumber. This sandwich is great on the thick-sliced wheat bread.
- Big John: Roast beef sandwich with lettuce, tomato, and mayo. Try substituting Dijon mustard for the mayo for a healthier choice.
- Bootlegger Club: Roast beef, turkey, lettuce, tomato, and mayo. This is one of my favorite Jimmy John’s options, providing a great source of lean protein. Try adding the Jimmy Peppers® as a sandwich topping for an extra spicy kick.
- Veggie: Athletes following a plant-based diet can order the Veggie sandwich at Jimmy John’s, which includes Provolone cheese, avocado spread, cucumber, lettuce, tomatoes, and mayo.
Jimmy John’s Plain Slims® Sandwiches
The Jimmy John’s Plain Slims® sandwiches are a convenient option for athletes who like their sandwiches plain – just meat and/or cheese. The Plain Slims® come without vegetable toppings or dressings, although you can get mustard and mayo on the side.
The roast beef, tuna, and turkey Plain Slim® sandwiches are all good options, providing both lean protein and carbohydrates for athletes. If an athlete wants to order a sandwich to eat later in the day, the Plain Slims® sandwiches are a convenient choice.
The sandwich will hold better without the added dressings and toppings. Athletes should make sure to store the sandwich cold until they are ready to eat it later in the day.
Healthy Jimmy John’s Sandwich Toppings
At Jimmy John’s, individuals can add lettuce, tomato, onion, sliced pickles, and cucumbers as toppings on their sandwich. You can also request Jimmy Peppers® be included on your sandwich for some added spice (and they are spicy!).
For a healthy dressing on your sandwich, the avocado spread, Jimmy Mustard®, Grey Poupon®, and Oil and Vinegar are all good choices.
Finally, athletes can finish off their Jimmy John’s sandwich with a dash of oregano and basil for added flavor.
Healthy Jimmy John’s Side Options
Jimmy John’s offers limited side options aside from potato chips, dill pickles, and cookies. Jimmy John’s does offer reduced-fat potato chips, referred to as Thinny Chips®.
The Thinny Chips® contain less total and saturated fat, as well as more carbohydrates, than their regular potato chips. Thus, they are a better choice for athletes to enjoy with their meal.
The Jumbo Kosker Dill Jimmy Pickles®, served as a side item at Jimmy John’s, are high in sodium (1,710 mg). Following a workout or competition, athletes need to replace the fluid and sodium lost in sweat. Consuming salty foods, such as pickles, with their post-workout/game meals can help with replacing sweat sodium losses and supporting their recovery nutrition needs.
However, if an athlete has been advised to limit their sodium intake, they should not order the Jimmy Pickles® as a side with their sandwich.
Jimmy John’s Allergen Menu
Jimmy John’s has an allergen menu available to download from their website. The allergen menu identifies food items containing any of the nine major allergens as well as gluten.
Jimmy John’s notes on the allergen menu that their food is prepared in a shared kitchen. Thus, it is possible that menu items may come into contact with allergens during preparation, Therefore, Jimmy John’s cannot guarantee that any items are allergen free.
Jimmy John’s Gluten Free Options for Athletes
The French bread and wheat bread at Jimmy John’s both contain gluten. Athletes following a gluten-free diet can order an Unwich® lettuce wrap for their meal to avoid the gluten in the bread.
Ham, turkey, roast beef, salami, bacon, capocollo, and provolone cheese are all gluten-free protein toppings that athletes can add to their sandwich. Athletes who are sensitive to gluten should avoid the tuna salad at Jimmy John’s, as it does contain gluten.
With the meal, athletes following a gluten-free diet can order the Jimmy John’s Thinny Chips®, which are also gluten-free.
Jimmy John’s Catering for a Team
If taking meals on the bus, the Jimmy John’s individual box lunches are a convenient option. Make sure to purchase bottled water for the athletes to drink with their boxed meal.
Healthy Jimmy John’s Options for Athletes
You are now set with a variety of healthy Jimmy John’s options for athletes. Whether athletes are enjoying the sandwich before or after a competition or as a meal on their day off, there are plenty of sandwiches at Jimmy John’s that athletes can choose from to support their nutrition needs.
If you are interested in additional sports nutrition tips for dining out, check out my blog on fast food for athletes.
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About the Author
Mandy is a Sports Dietitian Nutritionist in the San Antonio, TX area. She is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian, a Board-Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, a Licensed Athletic Trainer, and is a Certified Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine. Mandy has experience working with athletes at the high school, collegiate, and professional levels. She believes the key to reaching one’s full potential, both in everyday life and in sports performance, relies on a healthy nutritional foundation. Learn more about the work Mandy does here.