Today’s blog treat comes courtesy of The Center for Science in the Public Interest and their 2009 Xtreme Eating Awards. Winners from 2007, like Uno Chicago Grill's 2,000-calorie Pizza Skins, have been replaced by BIGGER! BETTER! FATTIER! abominations. Applebee’s has created a fat-bomb bastard child of cheeseburgers and quesadillas. Olive Garden (Disclosure: I worked as a greeter here in high school--wore the jewel-toned vegetable tie and everything--so I have a teeny soft spot in my heart for it) has a new dish called the Tour of Italy, where the cooks manage to cram lasagna, chicken parm AND fettuccine alfredo onto one dish. And The Cheesecake Factory's Fried Macaroni and Cheese balls will make your heart explode with 1,570 calories and 69 grams of saturated fat. According to CSPI, eating an entire stick of butter would be healthier.
This reminds me of a story I wrote for Women’s Health a while back called "Restaurant Revolution," where I was charged with the task of eating at 10 popular chains like Olive Garden, TGIFriday’s, Red Lobster, Ruby Tuesday’s, etc. My goal: To find the three “healthiest” meals at each spot. Not an easy task when my Cheesecake Factory waitress let it slip that, when I asked what was in the sauce of my delish Miso-Glazed Salmon (heart-healthy!), “Oh, well they call it a ‘Miso Glaze’ but really, it’s just butter.”
Read on for a few of CSPI’s Xtreme Eating Award winners. Keep in mind that most people should limit themselves to about 2,000 calories, 20 grams of saturated fat, and 1,500 mg of sodium per day:
Applebee’s Quesadilla Burger: This one is crazy. Applebee’s came up with the brilliant idea to stuff a bacon cheeseburger INSIDE a quesadilla. Wrapped up in two monstrous flour tortillas, sprinkled with extra cheese and lettuce (a vegetable!! This is practically a salad!), slathered with “Mexi-ranch sauce” and served with fries, this puppy has 1,820 calories, 46 grams of saturated fat, and 4,410 mg of sodium. “Bonus heart-stopper,” says CSPI: Applebee’s invites you to top the fries with chili and even more cheese.
Cheesecake Factory Chicken and Biscuits: You wouldn’t sit down and shove yourself with an entire eight-piece bucket of KFC Original Recipe plus five biscuits, would you? Well, unless you live in a city with menu labeling (like Nashville, NYC, Philadelphia, Portland), you wouldn’t know that ordering this Cheesecake Factory dish is practically the same thing at 2,500 calories.
Red Lobster Ultimate Fondue: Red Lobster’s Ultimate version, “shrimp and crabmeat in a creamy lobster cheese sauce served in a warm crispy sourdough bowl,” is crammed with 1,490 calories, 40 grams of saturated fat, and 3,580 mg of sodium. That’s two days’ worth of both artery-clogging fat and blood-pressure-spiking sodium.
Chili’s Big Mouth Bites: Enjoy four mini (actually, they’re each the size of a quarter-pounder) bacon-cheeseburgers accompanied by french fries, fried onion strings and jalapeno ranch dipping sauce. As an entrée: 2,350 calories, 38 grams of saturated fat, and 3,940 milligrams of sodium.
Please, I beg of you, avoid these Strokes On a Plate at all costs.