It's no secret that eating out at restaurants can up your calorie intake for the day. But for the restaurant foods featured on the "Xtreme Eating 2013" list, people may be eating themselves to chronic disease or worse.
That's the message from the advocacy group the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which unveiled its list "Restaurant Confidential" list of unhealthy fare served at popular restaurants.
"It's as if IHOP, The Cheesecake Factory, Maggiano's Little Italy, and other major restaurant chains are scientifically engineering these extreme meals with the express purpose of promoting obesity, diabetes, and heart disease," CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson said in a written statement. "You'd think that the size of their profits depended on their increasing the size of your pants."
How unhealthy can these foods be? The group notes that most people would not sit down for a meal and chow down an entire 12-piece bucket of KFC Original Recipe fried chicken. However, the CSPI says a single serving of The Cheesecake Factory's Crispy Chicken Costoletta contains the same amount of calories in one meal (2,610 calories) as the bucket plus 4.5 days worth of saturated fat servings -- about twice the saturated fat as in the 12-piece. The meal exceeds the U.S. daily recommended limit of 2,000 calories.
That's a common theme for the foods on the "Xtreme Eating" list. According to the group, many of these foods exceed other recommended dietary guidelines, including the recommended sodium cap of 1,500 milligrams per day and the recommended sugar limit of no more than six teaspoons of added sugar per day for women and nine for men.
Take Chili's popular Baby Back Ribs with Shiner Bock BBQ Sauce. They contain 1,660 calories, 39 grams of saturated fat and 5,025 milligrams of sodium -- not including the two sides that come with the entree. A full meal can pack a four-day of supply of sodium, according to CSPI.
The organization is calling for implementation of government legislation that was enacted in 2010 that requires chain restaurants to post calorie counts on menu. CSPI calls the regulations "long overdue," and adds they have been stalled for months in Food and Drug Administration review.
"Not only do Americans deserve to know what they're eating, but, as our Xtreme Eating 'winners' clearly indicate, lives are at stake," says Jacobson. "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."
Which IHOP breakfast does the CSPI compare to eating five McDonald's Egg McMuffins sprinkled with 10 packets of sugar? Which pasta dish packs enough sodium and saturated fat that the advocacy group calls the same as eating a full Family Size box of Stouffer's Macaroni & Cheese with half a stick of butter melted on top? Which frosted beverage contains six-and-a-half day's worth of added sugars?
Be sure to check out the slideshow above to see the complete list of CSPI's Xtreme Eating "dis-honorees."
The CSPI's full report can be found on its website.