6 of the worst chain restaurant meals in the US
A single meal with 3,600 calories takes the prize at the Xtreme Eating Awards from the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Each year the nutritionists at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CPSI) assume the unnerving task of determining the most extreme restaurant meals in the United States, seeking out the meals which shame all others in terms of calories, saturated fat, sodium, and sugar. In a country known for its love of big awful food and a population of ever-expanding waistlines, they encounter no shortage of contenders.
But this year the nonprofit health-advocacy group found a meal that really impressed, a behemoth from Red Lobster that includes almost two days' worth of calories and four days’ worth of sodium. All in one handy meal!
“This nutritional shipwreck from Red Lobster exemplifies the kind of gargantuan restaurant meal that promotes obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related diseases,” said CSPI registered dietitian Paige Einstein. “If this meal were unusual, that would be one thing, but 'merica’s chain restaurants are serving up 2,000-calorie breakfasts, 2,000-calorie lunches, 2,000-calorie dinners, and 2,000-calorie desserts left and right. Abnormal is the new normal.”
And with that in mind, here are some of the so-called “dishonorees” included in this year’s list of winning losers.
IHOP: Chorizo Fiesta OmeletteThe sausage-party egg dish comes “loaded with spicy chorizo sausage, roasted peppers, onions & pepper jack cheese, then topped with a citrus chili sauce & sour cream and served with a fresh grilled serrano pepper,” and as such rings in with a mere 1,300 calories. But then this happens: three buttermilk pancakes as well. Why? One can only wonder. With the pancakes and four tablespoons of syrup, this morning meal at 1,990 calories meets some people’s daily calorie requirements and two days’ worth of saturated fat with 42 grams.
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit: 3 Meat PlateFor their analysis, CSPI opted for Polish sausage, pork ribs, and beef brisket with sides of fried Onion Tanglers and mac and cheese, plus the free roll, pickles, onions, and a 32-ounce sweet tea – and it’s not like they chose the large tea to pump up the calories, that’s the only size they offer. But wait, there’s more!: Free all-you-can-eat soft-serve ice cream after (or during or before, whenever you want!). Even with just one half-cup of ice cream in a cone for dessert, this meal rings in at 2,500-calories with 49 grams of saturated fat, 4,700 mg of sodium (two and a half to three days’ worth of each), plus 29 teaspoons of sugar. CSPI notes that this is the equivalent of three Big Macs with five Vanilla Cones.
The Cheesecake Factory: Louisiana Chicken PastaOne-and-a-half pounds of pasta with Parmesan crusted chicken will grace its eater with 2,370 calories, 80 grams of saturated fat, and 2,370 mg of sodium. What more is there to say?
Sonic: Pineapple Upside Down Master BlastAs a dessert, this doesn’t qualify as a meal, but when you consider that this is supposed to follow a meal? Egad. The concoction of vanilla ice cream, pineapple, and “salted caramel & pie crust pieces” with whipped cream provides 2,020 calories, 61 grams of saturated fat, 4.5 grams of trans fat and about 29 teaspoons of added sugar. For the same amount of calories, you could have four Dairy Queen banana splits.
Red Lobster: Create Your Own CombinationFor mix n’ match fun, CPSI chose the Parrot Isle Jumbo Coconut Shrimp, Walt’s Favorite Shrimp, and Shrimp Linguine Alfredo to go with the accompanying Caesar salad, French fries, and Cheddar Bay Biscuit. Throwing it all back with a cool Lobsterita – the chain's signature cocktail – the meal shoots up to an astronomical 3,600 calories, enough calories for almost two days and enough sodium (6,530 milligrams) for four.
Steak ‘n Shake: 7X7 Steakburger ‘n FriesFirst of all, that this option is only available from midnight to 6:00 a.m. suggests this is for the fourth meal (or more?) of the day. But what’s even worse is this: seven beef patties and seven slices of cheese … add in the side of fries and we’re talking 1,570 calories and more than two days’ worth of saturated fat. And why stop there? Add in a 960-calorie Chocolate Fudge Brownie Milkshake, the total comes to 2,530 calories, 68 grams of saturated fat, more than 5,000 mg of sodium, and 26 teaspoons of added sugar. CPSI compares it to eating, get this, four 9-ounce Outback Steakhouse sirloin steaks, each topped with two half-cup scoops of Breyers Chocolate Ice Cream.
“It’s not enough to have one or two patties on a burger, or one or two slices of cheese; now we’re seeing seven patties and seven slices of cheese on a burger,” said Einstein. “With our burgers getting bigger and bigger, it’s no surprise that many of our waistlines are, too.”
For more on these and to see the full list, visit CPSI.