By Natasha Persaud

If you’re like most Americans, you love eating out at restaurants. And if you’re health-conscious, you often choose menu items that sound like good options, such as a smoothie, chicken breast, veal or shrimp. Well, when it comes to restaurant meals, the devil is in the details—or, in this case, the food preparation.

Not only are these popular chain restaurant meals less healthy than you might think, they are some of the worst in 2013, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). The amount of calories, saturated fat, sodium and/or added sugar top more than a full day’s worth of these nutrients—and often several days’ worth.

To put the numbers into perspective, many people should eat about 2,000 calories a day (although some people do need more) and no more than 20 grams of saturated fat and 1,500 milligrams of sodium. When it comes to added sugar, the American Heart Association recommends limiting it to about 6 teaspoons per day for women and 9 teaspoons for men.

Why does it all matter? Eating extreme meals like these on a regular basis may increase your chances of serious health problems such as weight gain, diabetes and heart disease.

Here are the “winners” of CSPI’s Xtreme Eating Awards 2013:

Smoothie Image - Jorge Bach/CPSI

Peanut Power Plus Grape Smoothie at Smoothie King

The Smoothie: A 40-ounce large smoothie ("The King") made with peanut butter, banana and grape juice

The Damage: 1,460 calories (three-quarters of a day’s worth) and a 3 1/2-day supply of added sugar for a woman (22 teaspoons). The numbers for the strawberry version are in the same ballpark.

Steak, Eggs, Pancakes Image - Jorge Bach/CPSI

Country Fried Steak & Eggs at IHOP

The Meal: Deep-fried steak with gravy, two fried eggs, deep-fried potatoes, and two buttermilk pancakes

The Damage: 1,760 calories (almost a day’s worth), 23 grams saturated fat (a full day’s quota), 3,720 milligrams of sodium (2 1/2 days’ load), and 11 teaspoons sugar (close to two days’ allowance for women), if you use a typical quarter cup of syrup

Burger Image - Jorge Bach/CPSI

Bacon Cheddar Double Burger at Johnny Rockets

The Meal: White-flour bun stuffed with two one-third-pound beef patties, four slices of cheddar cheese, four strips of bacon, and a “special” sauce. On the side, you might add an order of the chain's Sweet Potato Fries and a Big Apple Shake—a milkshake that actually contains a slice of apple pie.

The Damage: 3,500 calories (nearly two days' worth), 88 grams of saturated fat (four and a half days' load) and 3,720 mg of sodium (two-and-a-half days' supply) and 15 teaspoons added sugar (2½ days worth for a woman’s diet)

Shrimp Pasta Image - Jorge Bach/CPSI

Bistro Shrimp Pasta at The Cheesecake Factory

The Meal: Fried battered shrimp, mushrooms, tomato and arugula tossed with spaghettini and a basil-garlic-lemon sauce (i.e., a butter-cream sauce)

The Damage: 3,120 calories (1 1/2 days’ worth), 89 grams of saturated fat (almost 4 1/2 days’ load) and 1,090 milligrams of sodium (two-thirds of a day’s allowance)

Chicken Image - Jorge Bach/CPSI

Crispy Chicken Costoletta at The Cheesecake Factory

The Meal: Three big pieces of breaded and fried chicken breast with lemon-butter sauce, mashed potatoes made with cream, and asparagus

The Damage: 2,610 calories (more than a day’s worth), 89 grams of saturated fat (almost 4½ days’ worth), and 2,720 milligrams of sodium (your limit for today and most of tomorrow)

Veal Image - Jorge Bach/CPSI

Veal Porterhouse at Maggiano’s Little Italy

The Meal: 18-ounce Veal porterhouse with butter sauce and a half pound of roasted, fried, and garlic-buttered crispy red potatoes

The Damage: 2,710 calories (almost 1 1/2 days’ worth), 45 grams of saturated fat (a 2 1/4 day supply), and 3,700 mg of sodium (2 1/2 days’ limit). And those numbers don’t include the Ciabatta roll that comes with the meal.

Baby Back Ribs Image - Jorge Bach/CPSI

Baby Back Ribs with Shiner Bock BBQ Sauce at Chili’s

The Meal: A full rack of baby back ribs with a beer barbecue sauce, home-style fries and cinnamon apples

The Damage: 2,330 calories (more than a day’s worth), 45 grams of saturated fat (2 1/4¼ days’ quota), and 6,490 mg of sodium (a stunning load for 4 1/3 days)

Macaroni Image - Jorge Bach/CPSI

Deep Dish Macaroni & 3-Cheese at Uno Chicago Grill

The Plate: Penne with Cabot aged cheddar, parmesan and romano plus an Alfredo sauce, sprinkled with a buttery crumb topping and baked in a deep dish pan

The Damage: 1,980 calories (you’re done for the day!), the saturated fat hits 71 grams (3 1/2 days’ worth), and the sodium reaches 3,110 milligrams (a two-day dose)

Chocolate Cake Image - Jorge Bach/CPSI

Chocolate Zuccotto Cake at Maggiano’s Little Italy

The Plate: An almost one-pound chocolate cake layered with sambuca chocolate mousse, iced with chocolate frosting and dusted with cocoa powder

The Damage: 1,820 calories (almost a day’s worth), 62 grams of saturated fat (a three-day load), and 26 teaspoons of added sugar (four days’ allowance for women)


American Heart Association

2013 Extreme Eating Report, Center for Science in the Public Interest (Jan 16, 2013)


National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 16 Jan 2013

Last Modified: 05 Dec 2014