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 detailsor, 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 nutrientsand 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:
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.
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
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)
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)
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 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 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)
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 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