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Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the most caloric of them all?

By Elaine Watson, 20-Jul-2011

Related topics: Trans- and saturated fats, The obesity problem, Sodium reduction, Markets

Calorie labeling, healthier options and reformulation work notwithstanding, some of America’s biggest restaurant chains are still selling products so eye-wateringly caloric that diners eating just one course are getting all the calories they need for the entire day.

In its Xtreme Eating awards, a nutritional ‘hall of shame’ published in its latest Nutrition Action newsletter, health advocacy group the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) singles out eight products from The Cheesecake Factory, Applebee’s, IHOP and other well-known brands as examples of caloric excess.

Given that adults should limit themselves to about 2,000-2,500 calories, 20g of saturated fat, and 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day, diners at these restaurants had to exercise tremendous discipline to avoid exceeding their daily fat, sugar and sodium requirements in a single sitting, said CSPI nutrition director Bonnie Liebman.

“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.”

Lower calorie options are available

Many of these chains did offer healthier options acknowledged CSPI co-founder Michael Jacobson.

IHOP, for example, includes SIMPLE & FIT options with a maximum of 600 calories; Applebee’s has a small number of items at 550 kcals or fewer; Denny’s has recently introduced its Fit Fare range and The Cheesecake Factory has a large menu containing several lower calorie salads and entrees.

However, their standard fare was far too caloric, said Jacobson.

“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?”

Products singled out by the CSPI include:

Denny’s Fried Cheese Melt (four fried mozzarella sticks and melted cheese grilled between two slices of sourdough bread with a side of French fries and marinara sauce).

The Cheesecake Factory Farmhouse Cheeseburger (burger topped with grilled smoked pork belly cheddar cheese, onions, lettuce, tomato, mayo and a fried egg).

IHOP Bacon ’N Beef Cheeseburger (two patties with American and Provolone cheese on a Romano-Parmesan bun).

Cold Stone Creamery PB&C Shake (24-oz shake of peanut butter, chocolate ice cream, and milk).

Applebee’s Provolone-Stuffed Meatballs With Fettuccine (meatballs, fettuccine with marinara sauce and Parmesan cream sauce and a piece of garlic bread).

The Cheesecake Factory Ultimate Red Velvet Cake Cheesecake (slice of red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting and whipped cream).

The Steakhouse (Morton’s) Porterhouse Steak and mash (prime beef steak and mashed potatoes).

Great Steak extra large King Fries (fries topped with cheese, bacon, and sour cream).