The winners for the 2017 Xtreme Eating Awards are in, offering a glimpse into why obesity might be overtaking the U.S.
Seven years ago, Congress decided that people should have the right to know how many calories were hidden in the menu items purchased from chain restaurants and elsewhere, and May 5th was supposed to be the deadline for posting such information. But then came Trump. The rules were not just delayed, but reopened and now subject to weakening. Given that deregulation seems to be the flavor du jour, we're guessing that the food lobbyists are going to get their way with this one.
All one needs to do is take a stroll through some menu items' nutrition information to understand why restaurants might not want to be flaunting the secrets of their dishes. Of course these items aren't exactly hiding the fact that they're not healthy, but still, nearly 3,000 calories for dinner? Thankfully, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a group that has been advocating for a healthier food system for nearly half a century, isn't letting anyone off the hook. And to make their point, each year they produce the Xtreme Eating Awards, to "honor" dishes at major restaurant chains "that are designed to add a notch to your belt and a blow to your heart."
Keep in mind, the average recommended daily limits looks like this:
Calories: 2,000 | Saturated Fat: 20 g | Sodium: 2,300 mg | Added sugar: 50 g
And the winners are?
IHOP: Cheeseburger Omelette
With a breakfast like this, who needs lunch? Or Dinner? Eggs with hamburger patty bits, hash browns, tomatoes, onions, American cheese, ketchup, mustard, and pickles. But wait, there's more! Three Buttermilk Pancakes with butter and two tablespoons of syrup.
Calories: 1,990 | Saturated Fat: 45 g |Sodium: 4,580 mg | Added sugar: 44 g
The Cheesecake Factory's Flying Gorilla
Would you like something to drink while you're looking over the menu? How about “A ‘kicked-up’ chocolate banana milkshake with dark chocolate and banana liqueurs.” For the same damage, you could have a 20-ounce Budweiser over five scoops of Breyers Chocolate ice cream, figures CPSI ... all before dinner.
Calories: 950 | Saturated Fat: 26 g | Added sugar: 60 g
Chili’s Ultimate Smokehouse Combo
“Choose any 3 meats,” says Chili’s online menu. “New smoked bone-in BBQ chicken breast, new jalapeño-cheddar smoked sausage, hand-battered Chicken Crispers or a half rack of house-smoked baby back ribs.” CPSI selected
the sausage, the Crispers (with honey mustard sauce), and the Texas Dry Rub ribs. Sides included roasted street corn, homestyle fries, chile-garlic toast, and garlic dill pickles. All together, the combo was equivalent to three Chili’s sirloin steak dinners: Meaning, three 10 oz. sirloins topped with garlic butter, plus three orders of loaded mashed potatoes and three orders of steamed broccoli.
Calories: 2,400 | Sodium: 7610 mg | Saturated Fat: 41 g
The Cheesecake Factory: Pasta Napoletana
Pasta with a tomato-based sauce and a lot of vegetables can be a great choice. Pasta in cream and butter topped with a mountain of Italian sausage, pepperoni, meatballs, and bacon does not fall into the category of great choices. Eating an order of Pasta Napoletana is like eating a Pizza Hut Meat Lover’s Personal Pan Pizza topped with three cups of pasta and a cup of heavy cream, says CPSI.
Calories: 2,310 | Saturated Fat: 79 g | Sodium: 4,370 mg
Buffalo Wild Wings: Cheese Curd Bacon Burger
Take a burger, add battered, deep-fried cheese curds, more cheese, bacon strips, and smother with a mayo-rich “cool heat sauce.” Plus fries. The whole shebang nets the equivalent of roughly five
Burger King Bacon Double Cheeseburgers.
Calories: 1,950 | Saturated Fat: 53 g | Sodium: 4,700 mg
Dave & Buster’s Carnivore Pizzadilla
This "super-cheesy" 12-inch quesadilla has lots of company: Manchego and cheddar cheeses, pepperoni, and Italian sausage, then topped with even more pepperoni and Italian sausage, plus bacon, marinara, and mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. As CPSI note: "A Carnivore Pizzadilla looks like 100 slices of pepperoni layered atop two Taco Bell Cheese Quesadillas, or half a stick of butter melted over three McDonald’s Quarter Pounders with Cheese."
Calories: 1,970 | Saturated Fat: 67 g | Sodium: 4,440 mg
Texas Roadhouse 16-ounce Prime Rib
The 16-ounce hunk of Prime Rib alone rings in at 1,570 calories. But you get a choice of side dishes too. Select the Loaded Sweet Potato, which comes decorated with mini marshmallows and caramel sauce and you get a bonus 770 calories! Take the "healthy" choice of a Caesar salad for choice number two and the equivalent would be two of their 12 oz. New York strip steak dinners with mashed potatoes and vegetables plus a slice of strawberry cheesecake.
Calories: 2,820 | Sodium: 5,330 mg | Saturated Fat: 72 g
Uno Pizzeria & Grill’s Ridiculously Awesome, Insanely Large Chocolate Cake
You could basically eat this for nearly all of for your daily calories, more than your daily saturated fat, and more than three times your added sugar. Or you could just have it for dessert after one of your three meals for the day. Ridiculous, yes, insane, yes, and inspiring awe, but not in the good way.
Calories: 1,740 | Sodium: 770 mg | Saturated Fat: 32 g | Added sugar: 168 g
While surely (hopefully) some of these items are meant to be shared, I'm not sure everyone is getting the message. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the prevalence of obesity in the United States is 36+ percent for adults and 17 percent for youth. WIth 3,000-calorie dinners, is it any wonder?
For helpful advice on what to eat, what not to eat, what to avoid, and how to improve, visit CSPI's Eating Healthy section.