Consumer Group CSPI Reveals 2013 Xtreme Eating Awards – Foods Packed With Calories

Lawrence LeBlond for – Your Universe Online

Each January Americans everywhere are busy making their New Year´s resolutions, resolving to quit that unhealthy smoking habit, stop procrastinating quite so much, or making amends to get into the gym a little more often. But perhaps the most popular resolution each year has to do with food.

How often have you stood in front of the mirror around the New Year a made the resolve to stop eating quite so many caloric, fat-laden, and sodium-enriched foods?

If you´re like most people, then the answer is likely at least once or twice. And for those of you who are this year making that resolution to eat a little less of those unhealthy meals, have we got a story for you.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has just released their annual (6th) Xtreme Eating Awards list. Each January CSPI delves into the darkness of diners everywhere and unleashes their greatest horror stories, which in this case, are the seemingly endless doses of calories, fat, salt and sugar.

Nutritionists with the Washington DC-based consumer group reviewed the nutritional content on appetizers, entrees, desserts and specialty drinks from 225 popular chain restaurants around the country and shared nine contenders which are among the worst offenders.

Many, if not all, of these foods go way over-the-top in bringing calorie-drenched foods to American eateries everywhere.

Jayne Hurley, a senior nutritionist with CSPI, said: “These are huge portions of high-fat, high-calorie foods“¦ The calories are in the stratosphere. Restaurants need to slim down their menus. There are pages of foods like these that are bad for you.”

The group lists nine single entrees that have between 1,600 and 3,200 calories in a single meal, but highlight those with more calories based on added extras that come with most dishes. Hurley noted that with most of these dishes people are getting more calories in a single meal than what most should be eating in a single day.

Hurley said the average American should be getting about 2,000 calories per day. But this depends on height, weight and activity level. Some people need fewer calories and others need more.

Hurley advises that people should limit what they eat when they dine out. She said that skipping the appetizer or dessert or even sharing the meal is a much healthier option. Other ideas would be to order off a diet or light menu if the eatery offers it. “You’ll get fewer calories, but there’s no guarantee you’ll get less sodium,” she cautioned.

The CSPI has been at this game now for the 6 years and after careful consideration, lists the winners, or losers, depending on how you look at it, in its Nutrition Action Healthletter.

While each year the group finds a sizable assortment of top offenders, Hurley believes this year´s winners take the cake.

Michael F. Jacobson, executive director at CSPI, said it seems like many of those on the list this year “are scientifically engineering these extreme meals with the express purpose of promoting obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.”

“You’d think that the size of their profits depended on their increasing the size of your pants,” he remarked.

Most people would not sit down and eat a 12-piece bucket of chicken from KFC all by themselves, said CSPI. But some of these restaurants on the list are offering single entrees that equal, or even surpass, the amount of calories found in that KFC 12-pack.

Legislation passed in 2010 under President Obama that will require chain restaurants to begin showing how many calories come packed in their dishes, as the government looks at ways to reverse a growing health crisis in America. The FDA has recently drafted up regulations that will implement those calorie-labeling provisions, yet final regulations have been stalled for months, according to the CSPI.

“I hope the Obama Administration promptly finalizes overdue calorie labeling rules for chain restaurants,” Jacobson said. “Not only do Americans deserve to know what they’re eating, but, as our Xtreme Eating ℠winners´ clearly indicate, lives are at stake. And perhaps when calories become mandatory on menus, chains will begin innovating in a healthier direction, instead of competing with each other to make Americans heavier and sicker.”

With that being said, here is a rundown of some of CSPI´s worst offenders from the Xtreme Eating Awards:

-Topping the list is The Cheesecake Factory´s ℠Bistro Shrimp Pasta´ which may sound healthy because it comes with mushrooms and arugula. But the truth is this extreme dish comes packed with a whopping 3,120 calories (roughly 1.5 days´ worth for the average consumer). The dish also has a hefty 89 grams of saturated fat and more than 1,000 milligrams of sodium (nearly 70 percent of a daily serving).

-Not to be outdone, another dish from The Cheesecake Factory comes in at a close second on the calorific contention list. Its Crispy Chicken Costoletta may also sound somewhat on the healthy side. To be honest, it is only lightly breaded and comes with mashed potato (instead of fried) and tasty asparagus. But it may surprise you to learn that this healthy-appearing dish is packed with 2,610 calories and 89 grams of fat. And while the Bistro Shrimp dish ousts this one in the calorie department, the Crispy Chicken Costoletta racks up a very unhealthy 2,720 milligrams of sodium.

-When you think of Italian food, do you think of veal? Apparently many people seem to associate Italian food with healthy eating, simply for the fact that they believe veal is a healthier food option than beef. However, this is sadly not true. Especially when you consider Maggiano´s Little Italy´s 18oz. Veal Porterhouse, which comes drizzled in butter sauce and a half-pound of roasted, fried, garlic-butter-glazed Crispy Red Potatoes. Even if you don´t eat the starchy side dish, you are pulling in 1,900 calories, 40 grams of saturated fat and 2,860 milligrams of sodium with the slab of veal. Add those potatoes in and the numbers jump up 2,710 calories and 3,700 mg of sodium. I say“¦ Where´s the Beef?

-Taking a slight dip in the calorie department is Chili´s ℠Full Rack of Baby Back Ribs with Shiner Bock BBQ Sauce.´ But don´t be fooled, although this zesty, lip-smacking, finger-sucking, dinner option only weighs you down with 1,660 calories, it does add 39 grams of saturated fat to your hips and attacks your blood pressure with more than 5,000 mg of sodium (more than 3 times the daily recommended intake). Toss in the sides that come standard (Homestyle Fries and Cinnamon Apples) and your sodium intake quickly swooshes past 6,490 mg, not to forget another 670 calories.

-Looking for a tasty dessert now that you stuffed in a week´s worth of calories and sodium? Try Maggiano´s Little Italy´s ℠Chocolate Zuccotto Cake.´ This chocolaty decadent dessert comes standard with 1,820 calories, 62 grams of saturated fat and 26 teaspoons of added sugar (about 4 days the recommended allotment). Just one helping of this delightfully dreadful dessert is nearly equal to an entire Entenmann´s Chocolate Fudge Cake, which can give you up to eight servings.

-Lastly we take a look at Smoothie King, which offers one drink that is surely to give your taste buds a treat, but will also give your body a boost of the blahs. Its offering, the “King” size 40 oz. Peanut Power Plus Grape Smoothie (or the Strawberry Smoothie) treats you to 1,460 calories and 22 teaspoons of added sugar. This doesn´t include the already 17 teaspoons of natural sugar that comes with the grape. Add them together and you just administered yourself a 6.5-day-dose of glucose in one sitting. If you are thinking you will go for the strawberry version instead, don´t bother–the outcome is not much different.

While these are startling and disturbing findings, Registered dietitian Joy Dubost, director of nutrition for the National Restaurant Association, said in a statement that “restaurants provide an array of menu options including a growing selection of healthful menu options [for everyone]. In fact, the National Restaurant Association’s 2013 Restaurant Industry Forecast shows that over 85% of adults say there are more healthy options at restaurants than there were two years ago.”

Still, such options make it difficult to choose when restaurants usually bury them in the back of their menus and typically do not give good image descriptions of what you are getting, saving their menu space for more appealing, appetizing and mouth-watering entrees.

Check out CSPI’s full list of Xtreme Eating Awards here.

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