February 15, 2012.
The nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has released its latest “X-treme Eating Awards,” which highlight the unhealthiest chain restaurant meals in America. Here are some of the “winners.” To put the numbers into perspective, most people should eat about 2,000 calories a day and no more than 20 grams of saturated fat and 1,500 milligrams of sodium.
Worst Restaurant Meals
The Cheesecake Factory Farmhouse Cheeseburger: 1,530 calories, 36 grams saturated fat and 3,210 milligrams sodium.
Applebee’s Provolone-Stuffed Meatballs with Fettuccine: 1,520 calories, 43 grams saturated fat and 3,700 milligrams sodium.
Denny’s Fried Cheese Melt (four fried mozzarella sticks with melted American cheese in a sandwich, plus fries on the side): 1,260 calories, 21 grams saturated fat and 3,010 milligrams sodium.
IHOP Monster Bacon ’N Beef Cheeseburger: 1,250 calories, 42 grams saturated fat and 1,590 milligrams sodium.
Sweets are hardly off the hook. A Cold Stone Creamery PB&C Shake (with peanut butter and chocolate ice cream) has even more calories (2,010) and saturated fat (68 grams) than the entrees. One slice of Red Velvet Cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory has 1,540 calories and 59 grams saturated fat.
Though these are the extremes, most restaurant meals still have more calories, fat and sodium than you should eat in one sitting. You don’t have to bypass chain restaurants altogether, but if you do pull up to one on occasion, here are ways to keep things under control:
Spot Unhealthy Menu Options: 5 Tips
Pay attention to nutrition information. If it’s not posted or on menus, it will be once the FDA finalizes mandatory labeling rules for major chain restaurants, mandated by the new health care legislation.
- Skip anything described as stacked, stuffed or topped, such as a burger topped with a fried egg, bacon or pork belly, or pizza crust stuffed with cheese.
- Order the smallest sizes. No one needs a large serving of fries, for instance—or a 24-ounce smoothie or shake, even if it has some healthy ingredients. Still, small sizes can be big in calories.
- Ask your server to hold the fries, onion rings, garlic bread or other extras that may be included in your meal. Such side dishes can add hundreds of calories.
- Skip indulgent desserts, or order just one for the whole table. The most pleasure usually comes from the first two or three bites, anyway.
- If you do overindulge, make up for the calories by eating lighter the rest of the day—or perhaps the rest of the week.
Adapted from the University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter (January 2012)