The 2016 Xtreme Eating Awards include a single Uno Pizzeria burger with almost 3,000 calories and 4 teaspoon of salt.
Consider this a three-sentence short story straight from the CDC: “More than one-third (34.9% or 78.6 million) of U.S. adults are obese. Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death. The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. is $147 billion in U.S. dollars.”
That’s really the only introduction needed for a post about the 2016 Xtreme Eating Awards – a who’s who of chain restaurant nutritional disasters selected annually by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). Far from doing their part to reverse the obesity epidemic, notes CSPI, America’s chain restaurants are "pouring gasoline on the fire, crossing fried chicken and waffles with Eggs Benedict, merging cheeseburgers and egg rolls, and repurposing macaroni and cheese as a sandwich filling."
“Unfortunately, these extreme meals are more like the rule, not the exception,” says CSPI dietitian Lindsay Moyer. “America’s restaurant chains are serving up meals that seem engineered to promote diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and strokes. The 3,000-calorie burger platters of today make McDonald’s Quarter Pounders look like sliders.”
How bad can they be? See for yourself.
1. Applebee’s: Build Your Sampler
The mix-and-match appetizer atrocity allows the customer to choose two to five options, which include delicacies such as Cheeseburger Egg Rolls – a 630-calorie snack of ground beef and cheddar wrapped in white-flour tortillas – or the 960-calorie Spinach & Artichoke Dip. A diner going for all five appetizers would wind up with 3,390 calories, 65 grams of saturated fat, and 11,650 milligrams of sodium. Split between two and the yield is 1,700 calories. Even for a table of four, that’s 850 calories each and way above the daily sodium recommendation … for an appetizer.
2. Maggiano’s Little Italy: Marco’s Meal For Two
While meant for two people, this romantic dining experience may be better suited for two families, given the calories, sodium and fat. For one price you start with white-flour rolls, move on to an appetizer or flatbread or two side salads, then make room for two “Classic” pasta dishes, and of course wind it all up with dessert. Oh, and two more pasta dishes to take home, because … breakfast?
As CPSI points out, let’s say you pass on the rolls and go straight to the 1,530-calorie Mozzarella Marinara appetizer, the 1,400-calorie sausage-y Taylor Street Baked Ziti and the 1,560-calorie Fettuccine Alfredo as your pasta dishes, and the 1,180-calorie Warm Apple Crostada for dessert – congratulations! You just earned around 2,840 calories plus a four-day supply of saturated fat (79 grams) and sodium (6,390 mg). Plus, 11 teaspoons of sugar from dessert. And that’s not even considering the 2,000+ calories packed for home to keep the sodium and fat intake going strong for another meal.
3. The Cheesecake Factory: Fried Chicken & Waffles Benedict
Good golly, what kind of hybrid hell is this? As if chicken and waffles or eggs benedict weren’t indulgent enough on their own, The Cheesecake Factory smashes them together into this nutritional TKO: A “Belgian waffle topped with crispy fried chicken strips, poached eggs and Hollandaise” along with maple-butter syrup and a side of breakfast potatoes. The bottom line? 2,580 calories, 86 grams of saturated fat (that’s four days’ worth), 3,390 mg of sodium and 15 teaspoons of sugar.
4. Dave & Buster’s: Short Rib & Cheesy Mac Stack
I think I see where the “buster” part of Dave & Buster’s comes from. Exhibit A: The Short Rib & Cheesy Mac Stack, comprised of macaroni & cheese and short rib piled high between two thick slices of white bread. And for the gut-busting clincher, a side of “crispy seasoned tots.” With 1,910 calories, 42 grams of fat and 3,390 mg of sodium, you could eat three McDonald’s Big Macs and a medium fries, plus an extra half day’s saturated fat for the nutritional equivalent.
5. SONIC: RT 44 Grape Slush with Rainbow Candy
Take a frozen sugar slurry and add extra sugar-y treats for … wait for it … "sippable candy"! What every overweight kid in America surely needs. The RT 44 Grape Slush with Rainbow Candy rings in at 970 calories. Not only do you get 1¼ cups of sugar, but also a flourish of Red 40 and Blue 1 food dyes and artificial flavors.
6. Romano’s Macaroni Grill: Cremini Pork Shank
On first impressions, “Braised pork shank, marsala wine sauce, caramelized onions, mushrooms, roasted parmesan potatoes,” may not sound as awful as a platter of fried food – braised and roasted can be healthy ways to cook things. But … no. With 1,800 calories, 43 grams of saturated fat, and 3,700 mg of sodium, you could have devoured two Outback Steakhouse 10-ounce Ribeye Steaks with two orders of seasoned French fries. And that’s not even counting the bonus Rosemary Peasant Bread for an extra 480 calories.
7. Uno Pizzeria & Grill: Whole Hog Burger (photo top)
Honestly, I just can’t. In the words of Uno Pizzeria & Grill: “Hamburger, sausage, bacon, prosciutto and pepperoni. PLUS–Four types of cheese, garlic mayo & pickles. With fries & onion rings. Extra napkins free!” Isn’t the free extra napkins part cute? All part of the funsy ploy to make you think it’s ok to eat 2,850 calories – more than a day’s worth – in one sitting. Plus three days’ worth of saturated fat (62 grams) and 9,790 mg of sodium, which is equivalent to more than 4 teaspoons of salt. CSPI did the math, this one meal equals four McDonald’s Quarter Pounders with Cheese and two medium fries doused with 18 packets of salt.
8. Buffalo Wild Wings (B-Dubs): Dessert Nachos
Ok this isn’t a meal, per se, but it’s nachos! And it’s so grotesque that it really does deserve mention. Are you sitting down? Here goes: “A crispy flour tortilla sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, loaded with ice cream and our gooey breaded cheesecake bites, all topped with chocolate and caramel sauce.” After the initial convulsions, I’m still trying to wrap my head around why cheesecake bites need breading.
The secret of this dish’s success, aside from breaded cheesecake of course, could be the beef tallow used in frying the tortilla … or maybe it’s the 30 teaspoons of sugar? Regardless, the tally comes to 2,100 calories and 64 grams of saturated fat. Notes CSPI, it’s like eating four beef and cheese Taco Bell Crunchy Tacos topped with a 14-ounce container of Häagen-Dazs Vanilla Ice Cream and two melted Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bars. “Start your meal with nachos. End it with dessert nachos,” quipped B-Dubs on Facebook, “It’s the circle of nacho life.” Which makes my inner Dante imagine the Third Circle of Nacho Hell.
For the complete list and more on these items, visit CSPI.