A peanut butter and chocolate ice cream shake that contains more than a day's worth of recommended calories and a grilled cheese sandwich stuffed with deep-fried mozzarella sticks have been named some of the 'dishonorees' in a nutritional hall of shame.
Scientists at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) released their annual Xtreme Eating Awards July 19, singling out eight calorific meals from restaurant chains like Denny's, The Cheesecake Factory and Applebee's - some of which contain three days' worth of both salt and fat.
A typical eater is advised, for instance, to limit caloric intake to 2,000 to 2,500 calories, 20 g of saturated fat and 1,500 mg of sodium a day.
Cold Stone Creamery, for instance, tipped the scales beating out a bacon and fried-egg topped burger and a deep-fried cheese sandwich with its PB&C peanut butter and chocolate milkshake containing a day's worth of calories (2,010) and three and a half days' worth of saturated fat (68 g).
To put the calorie content in perspective, one large PB&C shake is equivalent to consuming two 16-oz (450 g) T-bone steaks plus a buttered baked potato, the report says.
Denny's Fried Cheese Melt, a concoction that ups the extreme sandwich ante by stuffing four deep-fried mozzarella sticks between slices of American cheese and sourdough bread was also singled out for providing diners with 1,260 calories, a day's worth of fat (21 g) and two days' worth of sodium (3,010 mg) for $4.
"If Americans are feeling a little more full when lumbering out of The Cheesecake Factory, Applebee's, Denny's, and other chains, it's not in their heads," said CSPI nutrition director Bonnie Liebman in a statement. "It's as if the restaurants were targeting the remaining one out of three Americans who are still normal weight in order to boost their risk of obesity, diabetes, heart attacks, and cancer."
Another extreme example is The Cheesecake Factory's Farmhouse Cheeseburger, topped with grilled pork belly, cheddar cheese, and a fried egg. Washing it down with a side of fries is equivalent to wolfing down four Quarter Pounders with cheese from McDonald's.
The report also identified Applebee's Provolone-stuffed meatballs with fettuccine and The Cheesecake Factory's Ultimate Red Velvet Cake Cheesecake - alternate layers of cheesecake and red velvet cake - as calorific culprits.
Recent changes to the health care reform legislation, however, should give consumers tools to make healthier food choices as the US Food and Drug Administration is in the midst of finalizing a calorie-labeling provision that will force restaurants to post nutritional information on menus, the report points out.
"Perhaps calorie labeling will usher in a new era of common sense at America's chain restaurants, and chains will compete with each other to come up with new, healthy menu items with more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains," said spokesman Michael F. Jacobson.
The proposal, signed by President Barack Obama in March, would allow consumers to see the calorie counts of menu items when dining in restaurants that have 20 or more locations.
The CSPI is a not-for-profit consumer advocacy group that focuses on food safety, health and nutrition. Past campaigns include highlighting the staggering calorie and fat content of movie theater popcorn, Chinese food and steakhouses.
Meanwhile, another study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that nearly one in five dishes served at US restaurants has at least 100 more calories than advertised, a difference that could pack on up to 15 kilograms (22 pounds) per year.
To learn more about the Xtreme Eating Awards report, visit http://www.cspinet.org/new/201107191.html.