Nutritionals are back

food truck-17

This picture marks the beginning of our journey to uncover Clover’s nutritionals. Yup, I’m wearing a T-shirt in the picture. For those of you who have been asking, and waiting, and asking, and patiently waiting, we’ve finally pulled this together.

As with everything at Clover these will evolve. Over the next few weeks we’ll be sharing basic nutritional data for our sandwiches, soups, fries, beverages. We’ll take our time and this will give us a chance to talk about choices we’ve made, ingredients, methods, etc. It’s going to be a fun ride.

Now, for a few words about our approach to this stuff. First, we know that a bunch of you could care less: stop reading now, we’ve already wasted your time. Others have been very curious. Exactly how should I think about that egg+egg in my hand? Is it a healthy choice? We’ve been hearing these questions and more.

Our first concern is always going to be that you can’t wait to eat that sandwich in your hand. If you don’t love the food you wont eat it and the nutritional content is meaningless.

Our second concern is related to the first, we’re committed to making sure your sandwich is made from the best tasting ingredients. We think local in season food tastes better. And we think whole foods are much more filling per calorie. This is why we use whole wheat bread, tons of fresh seasonal and local vegetables, whole chickpeas, etc. It’s also why we use our own hands to make pretty much everything we sell you (with the exception of the smokey tempeh strips, but that’s another post). We think better ingredients taste better.

Only after we are satisfied that the food tastes great, and we’re happy with the ingredients, only then do we start to worry ourselves with other issues: speed, cost, unique but familiar and accessible, local economies. Ok, and somewhere in that mix “health” pops up. And we’re always striving for transparency, so obviously we had to find a way to answer your questions.

Read on for more about Clover’s nutritionals (including some cool charts I spent too much time building)

APPROACH

I’m going to have Chris and Rolando weigh in with future posts, but for now I’ll lay out our thoughts about nutritional information in a simple way. A huge part of what your body gets from our food is what folks call “micronutrients.” It’s all the tiny stuff that doesn’t really show up in a simple food label. Vitamins, etc. And it’s not just the quantity of those items, but it’s also about the quality. I’m not going to spend a bunch of time going into this, but the basic idea is that the fiber you get eating our granola is much more diverse in form and does more for you than the fiber you get in fortified frosted flakes.

I know some of you are reading this and saying to yourself “yeah yeah, but what is the fat, what are the calories?” These are the two numbers most people track if they track anything.

OUR GOAL:

Our worst is better than their best

So what does “worst” mean? Very high in fat. Absurdly caloric. High levels of cholesterol.

I believe nutritional information must be seen in context of the choices you face. You’ll find a bunch of comparisons with competitors as we post this information, not something Clover normally does. But in this case I can’t see how you make sense of this data, these fat and calorie numbers unless they are in the context of other choices you could be making.

METHOD

We started building our nutritional data the way most companies do, using tables of pre-existing values. When we got to some of our core components (french fries, chickpea fritter, fried eggplant) that wasn’t good enough. So we packed up samples and sent them out to a lab. We used Krueger Food Labs. Then we took the results and worked up our final nutritional charts.

For competitors I was really most interested in getting a realistic reading of their sandwiches. I didn’t build any silly sandwich that nobody would ever order to get super high fat content, and I didn’t accept any “sandwich” that didn’t include normal condiments and toppings (I’m looking at you Subway). For the most “popular” sandwich I just called a couple of local locations (in Boston) and asked them “what’s your most popular sandwich?”

RANT

OK, I didn’t know anything about this when I got started. And I was absolutely shocked with some of what I found. In a way these nutritional numbers get to be like anything. They are pretty meaningless unless you look at them in context, and often. When Clover first opened I had no idea what a “good day” would mean in terms of sales. Now we all know exactly what different numbers mean. It’s been that way with the nutritional data. I started out without any good sense of what “good” meant. Of course there’s the USDA pyramid, but I didn’t know much about that either.

So like many of you I thought Subway had relatively “healthy” sandwiches. And I thought McDonald’s was evil. I was dead wrong. Subway is a cheat. First, they only report 6″ sandwiches, even though most of their customers buy 12″. You read that right, they ONLY report 6″, as in you cannot find anything else on their website. But that’s not enough for them. If you get Subway’s nutritionals for a veggie delite they don’t include ANY condiments, that’s right, dry. And no cheese. And as far as I can tell they don’t include vegetables in their nutrition quotes. They’re basically quoting you bread and meat. Everything else appears to be a “condiment” or “option” that you have to manually add in. Total pain.

Burger King, where I worked for a few weeks, was beautifully transparent (and made my research easy). They show exactly what they are quoting in the nutritional data and allow you to tweak it very easily.

CALORIES

So here’s the results for Clover’s sandwiches:

Chickpea fritter 455 kcal

Egg and eggplant 418 kcal

Soy BLT 301 kcal

BBQ seitan 320 kcal

And here’s how we compare to some of your other fast and fast casual options:

Calories

FAT

And here are the results for fat content for Clover’s sandwiches:

Chickpea fritter 12 g

Egg and eggplant 19 g

Soy BLT 7 g

BBQ seitan 7 g

And here’s how we compare on fat:

Fat

Alright, this is already the longest post of all time. There will be more detail to come, stay tuned…

43 Responses to Nutritionals are back

  1. Jessica 22 January, 2010 at 3:50 pm #

    Thanks so much!
    As a diabetic, I’m really hoping that you’ll include grams of carbohydrates eventually in your stats too.

  2. ayr 22 January, 2010 at 3:55 pm #

    Full stats coming, but to give you a quick answer:

    Chickpea fritter 73 g

    Egg and eggplant 43 g

    Soy BLT 46 g

    BBQ seitan 47 g

    I’ll show these in context later. Don’t forget those are “brown” carbohydrates: from whole grains (matters a bunch for diabetes)

  3. Monica 22 January, 2010 at 4:23 pm #

    I really appreciate that you guys are being transparent about this. I need to watch my cholesterol, and I successfully lowered it last semester eating lunch at Clover about 2-3 times a week. I am however really interested in the saturated fat numbers so I can get a better perspective on how often I can eat which sandwiches. I’m looking forward to more of your details!

  4. Nicholas 22 January, 2010 at 4:54 pm #

    Thanks a lot for posting this. My main nutritional maxim is to try to eat “real food,” but I also try to consider total calories in each meal, so these figures are very helpful!

    One question: for the comparisons to Cosi, ABP, etc., did you consider all kinds of foods in the best-popular-worst range, or the other vendors’ sandwiches (or equivalent)?

  5. Alex 22 January, 2010 at 5:17 pm #

    Hi,

    The graphs do not seem to agree with the numerical values. It seems that the four sandwhiches are mixed up either on the graph or on the numerical list. Please, clarify.

    Judging by taste, I’m more inclined to believe the numerical values.

    Best Regards,
    Alex

  6. ayr 22 January, 2010 at 11:57 pm #

    There was a mistake on the graph, thanks Alex for the catch, just a label error, now fixed.

    Regarding menu items, we’re comparing like to like. So for now it’s sandwiches to sandwiches. We’ll get to fries and salads and soups etc. later.

  7. Tina 26 January, 2010 at 2:15 pm #

    I was just sitting here wondering how your oatmeal is prepared so that I could get an idea of the nutritional information for it. I’m so excited (but not surprised) that you all understand how important it is to understand what/how we are fueling our bodies. kudos! I look forward to the full list

  8. Dan P 26 January, 2010 at 2:17 pm #

    Thanks a lot for this info. As a customer who’s spent a successful last year on weight watchers (50+ lb and now lifetime) while eating lunch from the truck at least once a week, there were a couple of interesting surprises:

    – The egg and egg that I have once a week is more expensive than I thought in points. Since I still lost the weight I’m certainly not complaining.

    + The chickpea fritters that I’ve been avoiding for the last year are probably the same points as the egg and egg! Had my first one today and it was delicious!

    The reason I’m estimating above is that grams of fiber are required to compute points. Please reveal those too. For my current guesswork, I’m assuming that both (all) sandwiches hit the 4 gram max for point calculation. Even though I’m not trying to loose any more, I’m trying very hard not to gain it back so tracking points is probably a permanent part of my life. In reference to all of your initial comments, which I agree with,
    the requirement is to track but not obsess about them.

  9. Les 26 January, 2010 at 2:18 pm #

    Can you also give the sodium content of the sandwiches? I am on a low sodium diet

  10. natalya 27 January, 2010 at 9:58 am #

    I would also like to second the request for sodium content as I am also on a low sodium diet.

    Thank you for sharing this information. As another person who has lost weight and am now maintaining (and tracking/journaling) this is extremely helpful.

  11. Liz 27 January, 2010 at 4:02 pm #

    When are you publishing the rest of the results? The suspense is killing me. Protein’s the only macronutrient that I really need to track.

  12. Josh 3 February, 2010 at 1:48 pm #

    I love the taste, and the healthy alternative to other sandwich providers (and presumably jerusalem cafe and gooseberry’s too!)…but I feel like part of that is because your sandwiches are just smaller. Or at least less filling. What do you think about having some baby carrots available as a side to help fill us up without adding much calories (or cost)? (Yes, I could bring them in from home more cheaply then I could buy them from you…but then, I could bring healthy sandwiches from home too!)

  13. mj 20 July, 2010 at 10:27 am #

    hello, i am MJ, an editor of magazine called Bar&dining, published in Korea. As a Gourmet editor, I’d like to write about Clover Food Lab on my article of our magazine’s August issue. So I am asking you if I can use your photo for my article. Can we? Please e-mail me ASAP. Thank you.

  14. Kristen 20 August, 2010 at 3:01 pm #

    Dear Clover,

    First, I have to tell you that I LOVE LOVE LOVE you! But second, is there any way you could use a little less oil in your salads? They’re awesome and creative and I love them, but they’re usually pretty heavy on the oil. I for one don’t think the flavor or texture of any of the salads I’ve had would be in any way diminished if they had a little less oil in them, and my enjoyment of them would be much greater, so I just figured I’d ask …

    Thanks!

    XOXO,
    Kristen

  15. ayr 22 August, 2010 at 8:19 am #

    Thanks Kristen —

    Really appreciate this note. Sometimes I think the same thing. Something we need to fix between kitchen and truck prep. We’re on it,

    Ayr

  16. Debra 3 September, 2010 at 1:49 pm #

    Hi Clover,

    I am a nutrition graduate student and would love to do your nutrition calculations. You are doing delicious great things with healthier foods!

    My start-up company, RetailFoodRx, Inc. is a pro at down and dirty nutrient calculations. We not only look at quantity and quality of your ingredients, but also consider your cooking methodology.

    We promise quick turn around including proper food labels and reports!

    Thanks for the healthier alternatives,
    Debra

  17. natalya 24 September, 2010 at 11:22 am #

    I recall seeing a separate post with full nutritionals for the BLT, but now it seems to be missing. What happened? Is there any chance we’ll see that again? Or is it still around and I’m just skipping over it?

    Also, I would like to second Kristen’s request for less oil in the salads. I really like the salads, but due to the high oil content, I usually stay away.

    Thanks!

  18. ayr 27 September, 2010 at 8:40 pm #

    You know I thought I remembered the same. But couldn’t find it today. Oh well, maybe I never got around to it. I’ll add it to the list of things to do. Thanks!

  19. Kiszona kapusta 17 December, 2010 at 6:40 pm #

    Hello Thank you for great article. I never seen better blog.

  20. Josh 3 April, 2011 at 4:49 pm #

    Many thanks for providing this info.

    I like that your food has healthier ingredients. But I just want to point out that fewer calories doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthier!

    Having sandwiches with only 300 calories means that many of us need to eat at least 2 of them in order to get the same fill-up that we’d get from a single burrito. Having the pleasure of eating two of your sandwiches is no problem, it’s just twice the cost for the same amount of food.

    Even if it every batch isn’t exactly the same, it would be great to have some idea about the nutritionals for the soups — for example, is that cauliflower soup so yummy because it has a little bit of cream in it, or a lot?

  21. ayr 5 April, 2011 at 11:28 am #

    Josh —

    We’re working on it. A few words on the nutritionals. First, we don’t have a single sandwich that is as low as 300 calories. Did you hear that from a truck employee? Most of the sandwiches are hovering between 400-500 calories. We think that’s a pretty good range. Most people should be taking in between 1,800 and 2,200 calories a day (obviously this will depend on a bunch of things). So we aim to keep a full lunch less than 1/3rd of that daily intake. Remember, a lot of customers get something to drink (30-80 calories) and fries (a couple hundred more calories) or a salad. So we aim for plain sandwich to be at the lower end of the envelope (say 400 calories) and a “full meal” to be at the higher end (say 800 calories). Does that make sense?

    Remember that feeling full has to do with a lot more than calories. That topic deserves it’s own post.

    Soups are going to be hard. Right now we have 76 different soups we make, and we add to that number all the time. We’re going to have to wait until we’re better resourced before we’re going to be able to get those all up. I can tell you that we don’t use much cream in any of our soups. There is a splash in the cauliflower, and in the potato leek. But when I say a splash I mean that. Very very little. For that particular soup there is 1/2 fl. oz. of half and half per serving, that contributes about 20 calories and 2 grams of fat.

  22. Josh 5 April, 2011 at 3:37 pm #

    Ayr –

    Thanks so much for the reply! That’s great to hear about the soups. A little half and half is no problem — I just wanted to know that I’m not drinking a cupful of cream.

    Re nutritionals — I mentioned 300 calories because the BLT is listed above at 301 and the BBQ seitan (my favorite) at 320. I usually drink water and avoid fries. There aren’t any salads at Clover HSQ, so I often opt for a soup, or I get a second sandwich, though that’s more expensive. It’s helpful to see that the E&E and chickpea sandwiches are heartier!

  23. Kristin 11 April, 2011 at 3:20 pm #

    Hi,

    I was just able to compute the points value for all the sandwiches under the new WW system. The BBQ is 8 points, Egg and Egg is 10 Points, Fritter Sandwich is 11 points. For us trying to manage our weight, it is great to have this information! Kudos on your quest for the healthier muffin. I am still having sticker shock from calculating baked good points values for Au Bon Pain items!

  24. Ashley 11 April, 2011 at 8:22 pm #

    Do you have the calories counts for your chickpea and eggplant plates? And your mushroom sandwich?

  25. ayr 12 April, 2011 at 11:42 am #

    Haven’t worked up the plates yet. We’ll work on this.

    We’re probably not going to have the nutritionals for the seasonal sandwiches. They’re only around for a few weeks and it takes us much longer than that to send samples out to lab/ etc.

  26. ayr 12 April, 2011 at 11:50 am #

    You’re right on the BLT, it’s our lowest calorie sandwich.

  27. Jill 1 September, 2011 at 1:50 pm #

    Can you give the nutritionals for the Quinoa Salad please?

  28. Ann 7 September, 2011 at 10:05 pm #

    Any Clover customer on Weight Watchers is going to need Protein, Carbs, Fat, and Fiber data in order to calculate points. For a company that calls itself a “Food Lab” it’s insufferably lame that you can’t “B. Good” and get this info together in one place.

  29. Alicia 24 January, 2012 at 1:53 pm #

    Hiya!
    Can you post nutritional info for the cauliflower sandwich and coconut shitake soup?

    Thanks!
    Alicia

  30. CJ 25 January, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

    I second Alicia’s request on both those items! I would buy your delicious vegetarian soups every day if I knew which ones were lower-calorie (shitake tastes WAY too sinful to be low-cal). Glad to hear (above) that you use the cream sparsely.

    Keep up the excellent work and the nutritional transparency!

  31. Katarina Burin 1 April, 2012 at 7:45 pm #

    I’m curious about the delicious white bean kale cabbage soup and its calorie numbers?! It’s so good and quite filling! My favorite there so far.

  32. Debby O 4 April, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

    Tried and loved the Sweet Potato sandwich this week. When will you post the nutritionals on this sandwich?

  33. s 7 May, 2012 at 11:39 am #

    What are the nutritionals on the yogurt and granola (rhubarb compote?)

  34. lucia 10 May, 2012 at 10:22 am #

    We’re working on getting all the nutritionals going for breakfast items. Stay tuned over the next month or so,

  35. Rebecca O. 24 May, 2012 at 5:16 pm #

    Wonderful! Thanks! helpful info to enter into my fitness pal!

  36. PW 20 June, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

    So Close! For my weightwatchers peeps, please also include the grams of fiber for each. The points are figured via fat grams, carb grams, protein grams, and fiber grams. All you need now is the fiber!

  37. Kim 24 August, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

    I was wondering what the nutritional information for the tomato sandwich is?

    Thanks!

  38. lucia 7 September, 2012 at 10:09 am #

    We don’t have it all calculated yet. But I can give you a good idea of where to start:
    1 whole-wheat pita
    2 teaspoons mayo sauce (Hellmans mayo mixed with water)
    2 thin slices of cheddar
    1 enormous slice of tomato
    1 big leaf lettuce

  39. Jeanne Eberhart 5 October, 2012 at 2:40 pm #

    Do you have the nutritionals on your egg-tomato-cheddar-in-pita breakfast sandwich? (I do see you’ve posted the nutritionals on the pita you use.) Nutritionals–or at least calories–on the popovers would be great, too! Thanks-

  40. lucia 17 October, 2012 at 9:17 am #

    Not yet, Jeanne. Coming soon. Thanks for writing.

  41. lucia 22 January, 2013 at 10:00 pm #

    Just posted breakfast sandwich nutritionals, hope it’s helpful!

  42. Kate 5 July, 2013 at 7:02 pm #

    In this case, soy BLT, but it doesn’t matter. Please, just post it all.

    Standard nutrition label, please. Don’t make me enter all the data for each ingredient in my tracker and then add each ingredient to my day.

    Sigh.

    Thanks,

    Kate

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