Restaurant meals go to 'Xtremes,' group says

9:33 AM, Jan 16, 2013   |    comments
Courtesy: Jorge Bach/Center for Science in the Public Interest
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Take a milkshake, blend in a piece of apple pie and voila! You have an 1,140-calorie Big Apple Shake from Johnny Rockets restaurants.

Order it with the restaurant chain's Bacon Cheddar Double burger and Sweet Potato Fries and the meal has 3,500 calories.

These and other gastronomic heavyweights from other restaurants, including a smoothie with 1,460 calories and a piece of cake with 1,820 calories, have won The Center for Science in the Public Interest's dubious honor: the Xtreme Eating Awards. The Washington D.C.-based consumer group reviews the nutritional information on entrees, appetizers and desserts from 225 popular chain restaurants and identifies foods that are loaded with calories, artery-clogging saturated fat, sodium and sugar.

"These are huge portions of high-fat, high-calorie foods," says Jayne Hurley, senior nutritionist for the group. "The calories are in the stratosphere. Restaurants need to slim down their menus."

The Xtreme Eating Award entrees have between 1,700 to 3,100 calories in a single meal, she says.

The average American should consume about 2,000 calories a day, depending on height, weight and activity level, Hurley says.

Hurley's advice for people who are dining out: Skip the appetizer and dessert and split one entree with a friend or take half of it home, she says. "Or if there is a healthy, light or diet section of the menu, order off of that. You'll get fewer calories, but there's no guarantee you'll get less sodium."

Registered dietitian Joy Dubost, director of nutrition for the National Restaurant Association, said in a statement: "Consumers choose to dine out for many occasions -- whether it's a lunch outside the office or a special occasion, such as a birthday dinner. With this in mind, restaurants provide an array of menu options including a growing selection of healthful menu options. In fact, the National Restaurant Association's 2013 Restaurant Industry Forecast shows that over 85% of adults say there are more healthy options at restaurants than there were two years ago."

Other award winners, with comments from CSPI nutritionists in the January/February Nutrition Action Healthletter:
The Cheesecake Factory's Bistro Shrimp Pasta: 3,120 calories.
The Cheesecake Factory's Crispy Chicken Costoletta (lightly breaded chicken breasts) with mashed potatoes and asparagus: 2,610 calories. It "has more calories than any steak, chop, or burger meal on The Cheesecake Factory's menu."

Chili's Full Rack of Baby Back Ribs with Shiner Bock BBQ Sauce with fries and cinnamon apples: 2,330 calories. This has a "stunning four-day supply" of sodium (6,490 milligrams).
Uno Chicago Grill's Deep Dish Macaroni and 3-Cheese: 1,980 calories. "It's not just the three cheeses (cheddar, Parmesan, and Romano). There's Alfredo sauce which is made from heavy cream, cheese, rendered chicken fat and butter. And four cups of pasta plus the crushed Ritz Cracker crumbs also do their share to boost the calorie load."

IHOP's Country Fried Steak and Eggs combo which includes deep-fried steak (8 oz.) with gravy, two fried eggs, deep-fried potatoes, and two buttermilk pancakes: 1,760 calories. "Think of it as five McDonald's Egg McMuffins sprinkled with 10 packets of sugar."

Smoothie King's Peanut Power Plus Grape Smoothie (40-oz. size): 1,460 calories. "Somehow, people believe that smoothies are healthy no matter what."

Maggiano's Little Italy's Chocolate Zuccotto Cake: 1,820 calories. "Each slice is five inches tall and four inches wide and weighs just short of a pound."

Nanci Hellmich



Gannett/USA Today

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