July 19, 2011 -- What has 1,540 calories, 59 grams of saturated fat, and weighs nearly three-quarters of a pound? A single slice of the Cheesecake Factory's Ultimate Red Velvet Cake Cheesecake, a winner of one of this year's Xtreme Eating Awards from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).
The CSPI, a consumer health advocacy organization, named the seven "dishonorees" at a news conference. Eight awards were given; the Cheesecake Factory received two.
"It's as if the restaurants were targeting the remaining one out of three Americans who are still normal weight in order to boost their risk of obesity, diabetes, [and] heart attacks," CSPI Nutrition Director Bonnie Liebman says in a news release.
Xtreme Eating Winners
In addition to the Red Velvet Cake, the winners include:
The Farmhouse Cheeseburger. Topped with pork belly and a fried egg, it weighs in at 1,530 calories with 36 grams of saturated fat. The fries served with it add an additional 460 calories and 1,460 milligrams of sodium. (Cheesecake Factory).
PB&C Shake. This 24-ounce peanut butter and chocolate ice cream shake has 2,010 calories and 68 grams of saturated fat. That's a full day's recommended calories and three and half days' recommended saturated fat, the CSPI points out. (Cold Stone Creamery).
Provolone-Stuffed Meatballs with Fettuccine. Served with garlic bread, this meal packs 1,520 calories, 43 grams of saturated fat, and 3,700 milligrams of sodium onto your plate. (Applebee's).
Great Fries. An extra large order is about 1 1/3 pounds. It has 930 calories and nearly 2,500 milligrams of sodium. That's before it's dressed up in an assortment of toppings, including cheese, bacon, chili, and sour cream. (Great Steak).
Monster Bacon 'N Beef Cheeseburger. The bacon is blended into the two ground beef patties for a total of 1,250 calories and 42 grams of saturated fat. A side of 300-calorie fries, 620-calorie onion rings, or 80-calorie fruit salad completes the plate. (IHOP).
Fried Cheese Melt. Four fried mozzarella sticks, melted American cheese, sourdough bread, and a side of fries give diners a meal that has 1,260 calories, 21 grams of saturated fat, and 3,010 milligrams of sodium. (Denny's).
Porterhouse Steak. This 1 1/2 pound piece of beef comes with 1,390 calories, 36 grams of saturated fat, and 1,200 milligrams of sodium. Want mashed potatoes and creamed spinach with that? The calorie count nearly doubles, to 2,570, while the fat shoots up to 85 grams and the sodium to 2,980 milligrams. (Morton's The Steakhouse).
Calorie Counts on Menus
Soon, you may be able to view those calorie counts on restaurant menus. In April, the FDA proposed a regulation that would require calorie labeling in chain restaurants, retail food establishments, and vending machines.
"Perhaps calorie labeling will usher in a new era of common sense at America's chain restaurants, and chains will compete with each other to come up with new, healthy menu items with more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains," CSPI Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson says in a news release.
According to Nancy Mays, a spokeswoman for Applebee's, the restaurant chain offers nutritional information online and in the restaurant.
"We offer a lot of great-tasting dishes, including six Unbelievably Great Tasting and Under 550 Calories selections and five Weight Watchers-endorsed entrees," Mays says in a statement.
Cold Stone Creamery also offers lower-calorie menu items, says spokeswoman Jean Smoke in a statement, including "Sinless Ice Cream and Non-Dairy Sorbet, and ... at least one flavor of low-fat frozen yogurt that starts at 34 calories an ounce."
Smoke, also speaking on behalf of Great Steak, says that while Great Steak does offer some lower-calorie sides and salads, "We serve a consumer who is looking for true comfort food. Comfort food will oftentimes involve high-calorie items."
The National Restaurant Association, which says in a statement that it advocated for the menu labeling law, points out in the same statement that "restaurants have and will continue to offer a growing selection of healthful menu options."
To the CSPI, such limited nods to healthy eating are not enough.
"Instead of setting aside a few menu items called something like 'Lean & Fit,' why can't menus have a small section called 'Fatten Up!' and keep the rest of the menu healthy?" Jacobson asks in a news release.