Healthy Options at The Counter

September 20, 2010 3:09 pm
Posted in: Menu Mondays
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The Counter's Menu

The Counter has been serving up “custom-built burgers” since 2003, and already has over 25 locations — mostly in California, but with a few others scattered around the country and the globe.

You get to custom-design your burger from an overwhelming list of options, with a whopping 312,120+ possible combinations.

If you’re the kind of person who has trouble making decisions, you can always get one of their “signature burger” choices, which are simply pre-selected recommendations. Better yet, scroll down to see some of my suggestions.

They claim their beef is antibiotic and hormone free, and is “humanely raised and handled.”  The website doesn’t elaborate, unfortunately, so it’s difficult to tell what those terms actually mean.

They let you choose 1/3 lb., 2/3 lb. or a grotesquely-large one pound patty.  Those are weights after cooking, which means these are some seriously big burgers: Get the 1/3 pound patty.

Everything can be put on a bun, or made in a bowl on top of a bed of lettuce or organic greens.  Of course, the bowl is the healthiest way to go — reducing the calories and sodium, in particular.  If you get a burger, it’s almost impossible to keep your sandwich under 1,000mg of sodium.  Better than many restaurants, but still too high.

They add a significant amount of salt to the turkey and beef patties when they cook them — so order them “no salt added” and save about 300 to 400mg of sodium. (The veggie burger is pre-salted, unfortunately, and according to their nutrition info the chicken only gets a miniscule bit of salt — though it certainly doesn’t hurt to order those salt-free as well, just in case you have an overzealous line cook!).

Sidenote: The location I visited (Marina Del Rey, CA) couldn’t give me any nutritional information when I asked, which was disappointing (at least it’s online).  I’d also love to see them add an online nutrition calculator, so you can specify all your options and have it total everything up for you.

The Burger – Better Choices

I say again: Get the 1/3 lb patty!

Chicken Burger, 1/3 pound (patty only)
230 cal, 1.5g sat fat, 5g total fat, 100mg sodium, no carbs, no fiber, 44g protein
Can be ordered with “no salt added” which reduces it to 78mg sodium.

Veggie Burger, 1/3 pound (patty only)
190 cal, no sat fat, 3.5g total fat, 677mg sodium, 35g carbs, 3g fiber, 6g protein
Unfortunately it can’t be ordered unsalted, since no extra salt is added during cooking. Even so, it’s the lowest in calories and fat and highest in fiber.

Turkey Burger – No Salt Added During Cooking, 1/3 pound (patty only)
310 cal, 8g sat fat, 20g total fat, 90mg sodium, 1g carbs,  no fiber, 29g protein
Higher in calories and saturated fat, hence no green checkmark.

The Burger – Worst Choices

Turkey Burger, 1/3 pound (patty only)
310 cal, 8g sat fat, 20g total fat, 492mg sodium, 1g carbs,  no fiber, 29g protein

Beef Burger, 1/3 pound (patty only) X
450 cal, 12g sat fat, 33g total fat, 409mg sodium, no carbs, no fiber, 33g protein
At least if you order it “unsalted” you’ll reduce it to 95mg sodium.

Beef Burger, 1 pound (patty only) X X
1,210 cal, 33g sat fat, 91g total fat, 1,110mg sodium, no carbs, no fiber, 91g protein

The Bun or Bowl – Better Choices

Getting your burger on a bed of greens is certainly the healthiest choice, but I get it — sometimes you just gotta have that burger.

In a Bowl – Lettuce Blend
30 cal, no sat fat, 0.5g total fat, 15mg sodium, 6g carbs, 4g fiber, 2g protein

In a Bowl – Organic Mixed Greens
15 cal, no fat, 15mg sodium, 3g carbs, 2g fiber, 2g protein

On a Bun – English Muffin
190 cal, no sat fat, 2g total fat, 280mg sodium, 37g carbs, <1g fiber, 2g protein

On a Bun – Wheat Bun
270 cal, 1.5g sat fat, 7g total fat, 440mg sodium, 46g carbs, 3g fiber, 8g protein

The Bun – Worst Choices

On a Bun – Texas Toast (2 slices) X
310 cal, 1.5g sat fat, 10g total fat, 520mg sodium, 46g carbs, 2g fiber, 8g protein

On a Bun – Plain Bun X
290 cal, 1g sat fat, 7g total fat, 410mg sodium, 49g carbs, 1g fiber, 8g protein

Cheese – Better Choices

All of the cheeses (with the exception of Greek Feta) are between 80-100 calories per serving, and between 4-5 grams of sat fat, and between 6-8 grams total fat.

However, they vary significantly in the amount of sodium — from 45 mg all the way up to 600 mg!

Imported Swiss
80 cal,  4g sat fat, 6g total fat, 45mg sodium, 6g protein

Gruyere
90 cal, 4.5g sat fat, 7g total fat, 75mg sodium, 7g protein

Jalapeno Jack
80 cal, 4g sat fat, 6g total fat, 150mg sodium, 5g protein

Tillamook Cheddar
90 cal, 5g sat fat, 8g total fat, 140mg sodium, 6g protein

Soft Ripened Brie
100 cal, 5g sat fat, 8g total fat, 180mg sodium, 6g protein

Cheese – Worst Choices

Greek Feta X X
140 cal, 8g sat fat, 11g total fat, 600mg sodium, 8g protein

Yellow American X X
80 cal, 5g sat fat, 7g total fat, 410mg sodium, 5g protein

Danish Blue Cheese X
90 cal, 5g sat fat, 7g total fat, 360mg sodium, 5g protein

Herbed Goat Cheese
100 cal, 5g sat fat, 7g total fat, 240mg sodium, 7g protein

Toppings – Better Choices

You get to choose up to four toppings, so the choices here can really add up to make a huge difference.  As usual, you’ve got to watch the sodium carefully.

If I omitted nutritional info, it’s because the numbers are zero or negligible.

Bermuda Red Onion

Carrot Strings

Lettuce Blend

Organic Mixed Greens

Scallions

Roasted Peppers

Sliced Cucumber

Sprouts

Tomatoes

Grilled Pineapple
35 cal, 9g carbs

Hard Boiled Eggs
80 cal, 1.5g sat fat, 5g total fat, 60mg sodium, 6g protein

Avocado
60 cal, 1g sat fat, 6g total fat, no sodium, 3g carbs, 3g fiber

Roasted Chiles
85mg sodium

Sautéed Mushrooms
25 cal, 1.5g total fat, 90mg sodium, 2g carbs, 2g protein

Dried Cranberries
90 cal, no fat, 23g carbs (mostly sugars, I assume), 2g fiber

Toppings – Worst Choices

Black Forest Ham X
60 cal, 0.5g sat fat, 1g total fat, 570mg sodium, 11g protein

Chili (Beef) X X
550 cal, 13g sat fat, 39g total fat, 1,310mg sodium, 15g carbs, 5g fiber, 35g protein

Fried Onion Strings X X
110 cal, 1g sat fat, 8g total fat, 105mg sodium, 8g carbs

Honey Cured Bacon X
60 cal, 2g sat fat, 5g total fat, 240mg sodium, no carbs, 4g protein

Sun Dried Tomatoes X
80 cal, 1g sat fat, 6g total fat, 310mg sodium, 7g carbs, 1g fiber 2g protein

Jalapeños X
280mg sodium

Grilled Onions X
70 cal, 2.5g total fat, 350mg sodium, 10g carbs, 2g fiber

Black Olives
20 cal, 2g fat, 150mg sodium

Spicy Pepperoncinis
150mg sodium

Dill Pickle Chips
170mg sodium

Cole Slaw
79 cal, 1g sat fat, 6.5g total fat, 165mg sodium, 3g carbs

Corn & Black Bean Salsa
40 cal, 1.5g total fat, 330mg sodium, 6g carbs, 2g fiber, 1g protein

Guacamole
80 cal, 7g total fat, 170mg sodium
Get the Avocado Slices instead.

Fried Egg
130 cal, 2.5g sat fat, 11g total fat, 120mg sodium, no fiber, 6g protein
I’m a fan of eggs, but you’re better off getting the hard boiled egg.

Sauces – Better Choices

This is where The Counter really falls down, sadly.  There are only a few choices that aren’t egregious offenders in at least one category.

With over 20 sauces (ranging from 45 to 430 calories, and from 55 to 1,120mg sodium), you must choose… but choose wisely.

“Better Choices” are 150 calories and 200 mg sodium or less. If I omitted nutritional info, it’s because the numbers are zero or negligible

Tzatziki Sauce
45 cal, 55mg sodium

Basil Pesto
80 cal, 9g fat, 200mg sodium

Steak Sauce
10 cal, 180mg sodium

Sauces – Worst Choices

Apricot Sauce
110 cal, 220mg sodium, 28g carbs
That’s like adding 3 teaspoons of sugar to your burger.

Spicy Sour Cream
120 cal, 7g sat fat, 12g total fat, 170mg sodium, 3g carbs
Although this meets the calorie and sodium requirements for a Better Choice, it’s got 1/3 of your day’s supply of saturated fat.

Chipotle Aioli X
180 cal, 20g fat, 270mg sodium
Aioli is just a fancy name for Mayonnaise.

Classic Caesar X X
270 cal, 28g fat, 580mg sodium

Buttermilk Ranch X X
220 cal, 22g fat, 500mg sodium

Dijon Balsamic Dressing X
240 cal, 19g fat, 400mg sodium, 16g carbs

Ginger Soy Glaze X
45 cal, 830mg sodium

Honey Mustard X
240 cal, 22g fat, 530mg sodium, 10g carbs

Horseradish Mayo X X
430 cal, 6g sat fat, 47g fat, 540mg sodium

Hot Wing Sauce X
100 cal, 7g sat fat, 11g total fat, 550mg sodium

Mayonnaise X
180 cal, 20g fat, 180mg sodium

Peanut Sauce
90 cal, 7g fat, 380mg sodium, 6g carbs

Red Relish X
60 cal, 590mg sodium, 15g carbs

Roasted Garlic Aioli X X
340 cal, 5g sat fat, 35g total fat, 610mg sodium, 4g carbs

Russian Dressing X X
270 cal, 4g sat fat, 28g total fat, 580mg sodium, 3g carbs

Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette
25 cal, 390mg sodium

Sweet BBQ Sauce X X
90 cal, 1,120mg sodium, 21g sugars
Whoa. That’s at least half a day’s sodium.  In just the sauce.

Starters – Better Choices

Most of the starters are as you’d expect at a burger joint – deep-fried salt bombs.  If you simply have to get something fried, get the “single order” sweet potato fries, and share them with a friend — it’ll be enough to satisfy the craving without doubling the calories (and fat, and sodium) of your meal.

Side Salad (without dressing)
30 cal, no fat, 10mg sodium, 6g carbs, 2g fiber, 1g protein
Try the Tzatziki Sauce for your dressing!

Grilled Vegetables
190 cal, 1g sat fat, 6g total fat, 340mg sodium, 35g carbs, 7g fiber, no protein

Sweet Potato Fries (single order)
240 cal, 0.5g sat fat, 11g total fat, 560mg sodium, 34g carbs, 4g fiber, 3g protein

Starters – Worst Choices

On their nutritional information page, they say “each starter [is] large enough to feed 2 people.” While I appreciate that they’re encouraging you to split it, I cry foul!

Even if you split an 1,850-calorie starter, that’s likely more calories than you should eat in an entire meal!

Fried Dill Pickle Chips X
560 cal, 6g sat fat, 40g total fat, 1,820mg sodium, 40g carbs, 3g fiber, 10g protein

Fried Onion Strings X
630 cal, 7g sat fat, 46g total fat, 980mg sodium, 48g carbs, 5g fiber, 6g protein

French Fries X
1,210 cal, 14g sat fat, 84g total fat, 1,240mg sodium, 98g carbs, 9g fiber, 9g protein
Yes, that’s an entire day’s supply of fat.

French Fries with Cheddar Cheese X X
1,710 cal, 53g sat fat, 130g total fat, 2,450mg sodium, 75g carbs, 7g fiber, 58g protein
Nearly a day’s calories, three day’s worth of saturated fat, two day’s worth of total fat, and a day’s sodium.

Chili Cheese Fries X X
1,850 cal,  52g sat fat, 138g total fat, 2,720mg sodium, 87g carbs, 10g fiber, 60g protein
Nearly a day’s calories, three day’s worth of saturated fat, two day’s worth of total fat, and more than a day’s sodium.

Sweet Potato Fries X
970 cal, 2.5g sat fat, 43g total fat, 1,370mg sodium, 135g carbs, 16g fiber, 11g protein

50/50 options (fries/sweet potatoes, fries/onion strings, or sweet potatoes/onion strings) X
I’ll let you do the math; see above.

Mini Burgers X X
1,660 cal, 35g sat fat, 80g total fat, 1,067mg sodium, 161g carbs, 9g fiber, 77g  protein
What is so “Mini” about these?

Beef Chili X
910 cal, 24g sat fat, 62g total fat, 1,730mg sodium, 43g carbs, 7g fiber, 46g protein

Turkey Chili X
750 cal, 8g sat fat, 27g total fat, 1,530mg sodium, 92g carbs, 11g fiber, 38g protein

Sandwiches – Better Choice

Of the three regular sandwiches on the menu, the stacked BLT takes the lead.  Still too much fat & sodium, and not enough fiber, but relatively speaking it’s pretty good.

Stacked BLT
680 cal, 9g sat fat, 45g total fat,  1,420mg sodium, 51g carbs, 3g fiber, 17g protein

Sandwiches – Worst Choices

Grilled Cheese Trifecta X
840 cal, 29g sat fat, 52g total fat, 1,960mg sodium, 50g carbs, 2g fiber, 42g protein

Ham and Swiss
760 cal, 18g sat fat, 36g total fat, 1,810mg sodium, 51g carbs, 2g fiber, 53g protein

What Would Andrew Order?

I was going to give you the best/worst choices of the “Signature” burgers, but I’m not impressed with their options (too many calories, or too much saturated fat or sodium).

Instead, here are a few recommendations that I’ve put together for your consideration. Note that I’m using a couple of items from the “Worst Choices” lists — but I’m modifying them, or making sure everything else is a Better Choice, so there’s room for a little extravagance.

Note that these aren’t “perfect” — they’re still high in sodium — but I wanted to present some intriguing options that are pretty darn close, and won’t leave you feeing deprived.

Disclaimer: I haven’t actually tried these yet… if you try them, please report back and let me know how they are!

The Swiss Garden (with Veggie)
Veggie Burger on Wheat, with Bermuda Red Onion, Carrot Strings, Organic Mixed Greens, Sliced Cucumber, and Gruyere Cheese (skip the sauce).
564 cal, 6g sat fat, 17.5g total fat, 1,212mg sodium, 85g carbs, 6.5g fiber, 21g protein

The Swiss Garden (with Turkey)
Turkey Burger (ordered “no salt added”) on Wheat, with Bermuda Red Onion, Carrot Strings, Organic Mixed Greens, Sliced Cucumber, and Gruyere Cheese (skip the sauce).
684 cal, 14g sat fat, 24g total fat, 630mg sodium, 51g carbs, 3.5g fiber, 44g protein
The tradeoff between these two is more than twice the saturated fat, but about half the sodium.  You’ll have to decide what’s right for you!

Breakfast Burger
Veggie Burger on English Muffin, with a Fried Egg, Tomato, Organic Mixed Greens, and Basil Pesto sauce (no cheese).
590 cal, 4g sat fat, 23.5g total fat, 1,277mg sodium, 74g carbs, 3.5g fiber, 16.5g protein

The Pan-Pacific
Chicken Burger (ordered “no salt added”) on Wheat, Grilled Pineapple, Hard-Boiled Egg, Bermuda Red Onion, Scallions, and 1/2 portion of Ginger Soy Glaze.
638 cal, 4.5g sat fat, 17g total fat, 993mg sodium, 60g carbs, 3g fiber, 58.5g protein

Feisty Cowboy
Open-Faced Chicken Burger on 1-Slice of Texas Toast, Corn & Black Bean Salsa, Roasted Peppers, Tomatoes, Avocado, and Jalapeño Jack cheese.
580 cal, 7g sat fat, 24g total fat, 845mg sodium, 35g carbs, 6g fiber, 54g protein
Order it with only one slice, so you don’t waste food and are not tempted to eat the other piece of toast.

The Mediterranean
Veggie Burger on Wheat, Bermuda Red Onions, Tomatoes, Avocado, Sautéed Mushrooms, and Tzatziki Sauce (no cheese).
595 cal, 3g sat fat, 22g total fat, 1,262mg sodium, 88g carbs, 9g fiber, 17g protein

Menu Mondays are my recommendations for the most healthful options at chain restaurants. Although it may be tough to find “perfect” options when eating out, it’s important to choose “better” whenever possible, and I hope these guides will help make that easier for you.

indicates the “best-of-the-best,” and X indicates the “worst-of-the-worst,” more or less.

The Counter’s Nutrition Info

Photo by Andrei Z.

3 Comments on "Healthy Options at The Counter"
  1. Comment left on:
    January 11, 2013 at 7:07 pm
    Pj says:

    Im at the restaurant now, your review saved me!

    • Comment left on:
      January 11, 2013 at 7:08 pm
      Andrew says:

      Nice!

  2. Comment left on:
    June 12, 2014 at 8:49 am
    Brian says:

    This review may be helpful for those people looking to reduce calories but “healthy” is a subjective term. The author has been brainwashed by the media that saturated fat is the enemy and fiber is your friend. Becoming educated in nutrition would help a lot of people as frankly this review is not providing good information.

    Your body NEEDS saturated fat for so many reasons including the regulation of hormones. Everyone should take this review with a grain of salt and try and learn the basics of human physiology and nutrition.

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