Eating a full meal at an American chain restaurant can be hazardous to your health. That's the message of the annual XTreme Eating Awards, which are given out by The Centre for Science in the Public Interest.
The Awards go to restaurants that serve single meals which have as many calories as an average person needs in a whole day - or even more.
For instance, Johnny Rockets, an American burger chain that also has restaurants in Canada, won an Award for a meal made up of a Big Apple Shake (that's a milkshake with a piece of apple pie blended into it), a Bacon Cheddar Double Burger and Sweet Potato Fries.
Total calorie count? 3,500. Average calories required per day for most healthy people? 2,000 or so.
The Xtreme Eating Awards are designed to bring attention to the excessive amount of high-fat, high-calorie foods on restaurant menus. All the "Award-winning" entrees pack between 1,700 and 3,100 calories into a single meal.
"The calories are in the stratosphere," Jayne Hurley, senior nutritionist for The Centre, told USA Today. "Restaurants need to slim down their menus. There are pages of foods like these that are bad for you."
The National Restaurant Association's director of nutrition, registered dietitian Joy Dubost, released a statement responding to the Awards announcement.
It says, in part: "restaurants provide an array of menu options including a growing selection of healthy menu options. In fact, the National Restaurant Association's 2013 Restaurant Industry Forecast shows that over 85 per cent of adults say there are more healthy options at restaurants than there were two years ago."
Hurley does recommend that diners pick from the healthier sections of the menu, or at least skip dessert and split an entrée with a friend.
But she also says lower-calorie dishes may still carry health risks: "If there is a healthy, light or diet section of the menu, order off of that. You'll get fewer calories, but there's no guarantee you'll get less sodium."
Here are some of the most noteworthy dishes that won XTreme Eating Awards, along with commentary from CSPI nutritionists from the January/February 'Nutrition Action Healthletter'.
The Cheesecake Factory's Bistro Shrimp Pasta - 3,120 Calories
"This dish has the dubious distinction of delivering more calories than any other entree on the menu," CSPI says. And it's also packed with 89 grams of saturated fat. Their website says that's "enough to keep your arteries busy from Monday morning to noon on Friday."
Smoothie King's Peanut Power Plus Grape Smoothie - 1,460 Calories
You'd think a smoothie would be healthy, right (it does say "Nutritional Lifestyle Centers" right on the cup)? Well, no. In addition to its massive calorie count, this one packs "three-and-a-half days' worth of added sugar (22 teaspoons). Make that six-and-a-half days' worth, since the 17 teaspoons of naturally occurring sugar in the grape juice aren't any healthier than added sugar."
IHOP's Country Fried Steak & Eggs Combo - 1,760 Calories
Good morning! Here's a great way to start your day: 23 grams of saturated fat, 3,720 mg of sodium, and 11 teaspoons of added sugar. "CSPI says that's like having five McDonald's Egg McMuffins sprinkled with 10 packets of sugar."
Maggiano's Little Italy's Chocolate Zuccotto Cake - 1,820 Calories
This beauty boasts three days' worth of saturated fat (62 grams) and four days' worth of added sugar (26 teaspoons). "Each slice is five inches tall and four inches wide and weighs just short of a pound," according to CSPI.
The Cheesecake Factory's Crispy Chicken Costoletta (breaded chicken breasts) - 2,610 Calories
"It's like eating an entire KFC 12-piece Original Recipe bucket, except the KFC chicken has less saturated fat." 'Nuff said.
If you're feeling a little smug right now about the difference between American and Canadian restaurants, consider this: there's a lot of salt in Canada's fast food, according to an article published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
In fact, in a study conducted by Dr. Norm Campbell of the Canadian Stroke Network and his colleagues, Canadian Chicken McNuggets were saltier than those in any other country, including the U.S. and the UK. The same is true of our fast food salads.
Experts estimate that reducing sodium in Canadians' diets to recommended levels could save between 11,000 to 15,000 Canadian lives each year by reducing deaths from heart disease and strokes.
Via: USA Today