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Xtreme Eating Awards Carry Some Weight

The wait is over. The challengers have been weighed and measured, and the awards have been given. Only getting this prize is not a good thing. The “dishonorees” are the most caloric dishes in America, and the weight is what people are liable to gain from eating too much of them.

Tuesday the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) announced the winners of its Xtreme Eating Awards, given to what it says are the most unhealthy offerings on restaurant menus in 2011.

Fast food choices pale in comparison to the monstrous meals that won this competition, all of which are offered at sit down establishments — with the exception of items featured at Coldstone Creamery, such as the peanut butter and chocolate shake, which contains 2,010 calories (over a day’s allotment for the average person) and 68 grams of saturated fat (3¬Ω days’ servings).

Another list-topper is Morton’s Steakhouse’s Porterhouse Steak, which is 1,390 calories a la carte, but climbs up to 2,570 calories when paired with a side of mashed potatoes and creamed spinach. Saturated fat in this meal adds up to 85 grams, over four times the recommended daily intake of 20 grams.  

“If Americans are feeling a little more full when lumbering out of The Cheesecake Factory, Applebee’s, Denny’s and other chains, it’s not in their heads,” said CSPI nutrition director Bonnie Lieban at a press conference Tuesday. “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, heart attacks and cancer.”

Other frontrunners among the country’s most calorie-laden meals include:

– Denny’s fried cheese melt: “Four fried mozerella sticks and melted American cheese grilled between two slices of sourdough bread,” according to the restaurant. With a side of French fries, the meal comes out to 1,260 calories and 21 grams of saturated fat.

Farmhouse-Burger-featured.jpg– The Cheesecake Factory Farmhouse Cheeseburger: Cheddar cheese, a fried egg, lettuce, tomato, onion, tomato and mayo top the patty on this burger. The total? 1,530 calories and 36 grams of saturated fat.

– Applebee’s Provolone-Stuffed Meatballs With Fettucine: This dish is self-explanatory, and includes a side of garlic bread, bringing its calorie count to 1,520, with 43 grams of saturated fat, the equivalent of two days’ allotments.

cheescakefactoryslice-featured.jpg– The Cheesecake Factory Ultimate Red Velvet Cake Cheesecake: Take two layers of the restaurant’s classic cheesecake, stack them between two layers of red velvet cake, add cream cheese frosting, chocolate shavings and whipped cream, and the result is a 1,540 calorie dessert.

And these selections aren’t too out of the ordinary, according to the Xtreme Eating article. An average restaurant meal, not including appetizers or desserts, is around 1,000 calories, or half of a person’s recommended daily intake.

“Look at it this way: Some diners may want to put on extra weight, boost their blood pressure, and bump up their LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Restaurants are just there to help,” reads the intro to the descriptions of the award winners.

But while restaurants may have been able to keep these hefty numbers under wraps in the past, a new law mandated by the Affordable Health Care for America Act of 2010 requires all chain restaurants and vending machines to post calorie information next to menu choices.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) accepted comments this spring on its draft guidelines for implementing the new rules, and is expected to release the final version soon.

“Perhaps calorie labeling will usher in a new era of common sense at American’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,” said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of CSPI.  

“I hope at some point chains will stop stuffing, stacking and topping with cheese and meat and white flour. 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?” said Jacobson.

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