* Group produces annual chain restaurant "hall of shame"
* Shrimp dish has enough calories for 1 1/2 days
* Chains say they offer lower-calorie choices as well
By Lisa Baertlein
Jan 16 A Cheesecake Factory pasta dish with more
than 3,000 calories - or more than a day and a half of the
recommended caloric intake for an average adult - is among the
headliners on this year's Xtreme Eating list of the most
unhealthy dishes at U.S. chain restaurants.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a
consumer-focused nonprofit group that promotes healthier eating,
compiles an annual list of "food porn" to alert consumers to
menu items with eye-popping levels of calories, saturated fat,
sugar and/or sodium.
"You'd think that the size of their profits depended on
their increasing the size of your pants," CSPI Executive
Director Michael Jacobson said of the industry's Xtreme Eating
winners. The list was released on Wednesday.
CSPI for years has used the "awards" to raise awareness and
drum up support for calorie disclosure on restaurant menus -
something that larger chains soon will be required to do under
the U.S. health reform law.
The Cheesecake Factory's Bistro Shrimp Pasta, made
with a butter and cream sauce and topped with battered, fried
shrimp, has 3,120 calories and 89 grams of saturated fat and
1,090 milligrams of sodium, said CSPI, which said it confirmed
nutritional data with companies on the list.
Cheesecake Factory said that dish has 3,020 calories, 79
grams of saturated fat and 1,076 milligrams of sodium.
Typical adults are advised to consume no more than 20 grams
of saturated fat and 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day.
"It's like eating three orders of Olive Garden's Lasagna
Classico plus an order of tiramisu for dinner," CSPI said. Some
in the food and beverage industries have dubbed the
Washington-based group the "food police."
More than one-third of Americans are obese, and about 10
percent of the nation's healthcare bill is tied to
obesity-related diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease
and hypertension, according to the Organization for Economic
Co-operation and Development.
The nation's food and beverage industries are under
increasing pressure from consumer, health and parents' groups to
offer more healthy alternatives.
Restaurant companies say it is their job to give consumers
choices. Many, including Cheesecake Factory, have lower-calorie
sections on their menus alongside the indulgent offerings.
Cheesecake Factory is known for its ample portions and wide
array of cheesecakes - many of which weigh in at around 1,000
calories per slice.
It makes regular showings on the Xtreme Eating list, but
since August 2011 has promoted its "SkinnyLicious" menu of
entrees with 590 or fewer calories, including salmon rolls and a
pear and endive salad.
Jayne Hurley, CSPI's senior nutritionist and an author of
this year's Xtreme Eating report, said such lower-calorie items
should be recategorized as "normal" rather than "diet."
"It's the steady stream of high-calorie foods that sabotage
your diet not just for the day, but for the entire week," Hurley
"The Cheesecake Factory has always been about choices. Many
of our guests come in and want to celebrate and not be concerned
with calories," Donald Evans, the company's chief marketing
officer, said in a statement.
Evans also said Cheesecake Factory diners often share their
dishes or take home leftovers.
Other Xtreme Eating winners for 2013 include:
- Johnny Rockets' Bacon Cheddar Double Hamburger with 1,770
calories, 50 grams of saturated fat and 2,380 milligrams of
sodium. For comparison, three Quarter Pounders with Cheese from
McDonald's have 1,570 calories.
- Cheesecake Factory's Crispy Chicken Costoletta with 2,610
calories, 89 grams of saturated fat and 2,720 milligrams of
sodium. CSPI said an entire 12-piece bucket of KFC
Original Recipe fried chicken has about the same number of
calories but less than half the saturated fat. Cheesecake
Factory told Reuters that dish has 2,560 calories, 86 grams of
saturated fat and 2,767 milligrams of sodium.
- Smoothie King's Peanut Power Plus Grape Smoothie, which
includes peanut butter, banana, sugar and grape juice. A
40-ounce, large size of that drink has 1,460 calories and 22
teaspoons of added sugar plus 29 teaspoons of naturally
The U.S. government's Dietary Guidelines for Americans
recommends that women consume no more than six teaspoons of
added sugars per day and that men consume no more than nine.
- Chocolate Zuccotto Cake from Maggiano's Little Italy. One
slice weighs nearly one pound and has 1,820 calories, 62 grams
of saturated fat and 26 teaspoons of added sugar - or 15 Hostess
Ho Hos, CSPI said.