Screw cheesesteaks, the Phillies, pork sandwiches and the LOVE statue. Wawa rules.
I can say this with utter confidence because I
went without was forced to go without Wawa for six long, grueling years while living in DC. It was rough, people. What got me particularly peeved wasn’t even the lack of Wawas, per se, but the fact that the chain very obviously and nose-thumbingly skipped over the District, planting outposts just out of sanity’s reach in both Maryland and Virginia. The nerve.
But now that I’m back in the area, I couldn’t be happier to be within spitting distance (at almost all times!) of Wawa stores once again. Add to it the annual Hoagiefest promotion, which I just missed by a matter of weeks last summer, and I am officially in convenience store heaven.
If you’re a Hoagiefest devotee, you know that Wawa’s running the deal a bit differently this year. Instead of featuring various discounted Shorti hoagies each week, this summer all Classic hoagies—i.e. all 30-plus breakfast, hot and cold varieties—are going for a cool $4.79 each.
Not wanting to get too far ahead of myself, I checked in with Club La Maison dietician-in-residence Kelly Strogen, who so handily navigated the menu at Shake Shack last month, to see if I’m deluding myself into thinking I can get by fairly healthily on a Wawa hoagie.
“You can … sort of,” she said with hesitation in her voice. “Sodium’s the big problem here.”
Strogen says that while most restaurant foods pack serious doses of the salty stuff, Wawa’s sodium numbers always give her pause—in a bad way. “They cram so much sodium into everything,” she says. Some examples: a large chicken noodle soup has 1,760 milligrams of sodium. An American Shorti with provolone and mayo has 1,870 milligrams. And that Italian Classic you’re craving? A jaw-dropping 2,320 milligrams—900 mg’s of which come from the roll alone.
“The recommendation for most people is less than 2,300 milligrams per day,” says Strogen. “Here, you’re getting more than a day’s worth in one meal.”
And we all know what too much sodium leads to: high blood pressure, which contributes to heart disease and stroke. It also compromises calcium efforts, putting you at greater risk for osteoporosis.
With salt out of the way, Strogen gave me her top tips for Wawa ordering, which I’ll now pass on to you. In a nutshell, it’s not all bad. You just have to be smart. And avoid the Italian.
Kelly’s Tips for Navigating Wawa’s Hoagiefest
1) Avoid “Salad” Sandwiches At All Cost. That means no more tuna, chicken or egg salad—those suckers are loaded with calories and fat. At the Classic size, here’s how they break down: 850 calories and 47 fat grams for chicken salad; 880 calories and 53 fat grams for egg salad; and a terrifying 960 calories and 59 fat grams for the tuna salad. The chief culprit? All that mayo, says Strogen.
2) Beware of Add-Ons. That easy-to-use touchscreen ordering system can be a deathtrap if you’re trying to watch your weight. It’s just so easy to add s smear of barbecue sauce, extra cheese, or even a few bonus shakes of salt. “As with most stuff at Wawa, adding on toppings will add lots of extra sodium,” says Strogen. Spicy mustard will set you back 460 milligrams, for example; American cheese, 50o. Then there’s the added fat and calories: Mayo contributes an extra 210 calories and 24 fat grams. And that creamy pesto you love so much? That’ll cost you 360 calories and 39 fat grams.
3) Go for Avocado. Finally! Something to love! “Avocado is all healthy fats. I think it’s the healthiest food,” says Strogen. “Its like a fruit, veggie, healthy fat, and protein all in one.”
4) Veggies, Veggies and More Veggies. The nice thing about Wawa is that you can control what goes on your sandwich; the bad thing about Wawa is that you can control what goes on your sandwich. Do yourself a favor and use the opportunity to load up on veggies. The store now offers everything from peppers to tomatoes to raw spinach.
5) Don’t Hold the Meat. You read that right—Strogen wants you to eat meat. Surprised? “Eating a just-veggie sandwich will leave you without much protein and full of carbs,” Strogen says. “Adding a lean meat and avocado will make for a much more satisfying meal.” She recommends turkey, ham or roast beef. Just be sure to avoid processed meats like salami, pastrami and bacon. Besides the high fat content, Strogen says, “studies have found that people who eat the highest amounts of red and processed meats are at the highest risk for the most diseases—heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers.” Your best bet is skipping the Italian hoagie all together.
6) Save Some for Later. You didn’t really think you’d get out of here without a word on portion control, did you? Wawa’s Classic hoagies clock in at a far-too-lengthy-for-one-meal 10 inches. So here’s a trick: Order your Classic but get the condiments (if you must, go for yellow mustard) on the side. Then, eat half of your Classic at lunch and half at dinner. You won’t have a sogginess issue, you’ll spread out your calories more evenly, and you’ll have spent just $2.39 per meal. What’s not to love?