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Nine Dishes to Avoid in Chain Restaurants

Just in time for the unofficial beginning of summer, when Americans pile into cars for Memorial Day weekend road trips, an organization Tuesday announced its annual list of foods in chain restaurants that travelers would be better off passing on U.S. highways.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest's "dishonorees" were picked for their high caloric intake and lack of nutrition. Americans are advised to consume about 2,000 calories per day and no more than 20 grams of saturated fat. The organization used those measures to pick the nine dishes as the worst diners could eat in 2010.

Winners ranged from the simple-sounding bacon cheeseburger (920 calories, 30 grams of saturated fat) at Five Guys burger joints to California Pizza Kitchen's Tostada Pizza with Grilled Steak (1,680 calories, 32 grams of saturated fat), which the center describes as "like eating a Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pepperoni Pizza topped with six Taco Bell Crunchy beef Tacos."

"These chains don't promote moderation," Michael F. Jacobson, the center's executive director, said in a statement. "They practice caloric extremism, and they're helping make modern-day Americans become the most obese people ever to walk the Earth."

At Bob Evans Restaurants, the Cinnamon Cream Stacked & Stuffed Hotcakes weighs in at 1,380 calories and 34 grams of saturated fat, and that's not counting syrup, which adds 200 more calories to each four tablespoons consumed.

More high-calorie dishes include:

• Outback Steakhouse's New Zealand Rack of Lamb (1,300 calories and 60 grams of saturated fat)
• California Pizza Kitchen's Pesto Cream Penne (1,350 calories, 49 grams of saturated fat)
• Chevys' Crab & Shrimp Quesadilla (1,790 calories, 63 grams of saturated fat)

Other dishes were chosen for the amount of salt they contain, such as P.F. Chang's Double Pan-Fried Noodles Combo. The center notes that the dish's 7,690 milligrams of sodium is the amount Americans are advised to consume in a five-day period.

Two items from The Cheesecake Factory's menu also caught the center's attention. The restaurant's Pasta Carbonara with Chicken was described last year as a "heart attack on a plate." The dish's 2,500 calories and 85 grams of saturated fat earned it a spot on this year's list. The center compared it to eating the restaurant's "onion-ring-topped Grilled Rib-Eye Steak with French Fries and a slice of Tiramisu Cheesecake."

Dessert items weren't excluded from the center's annual list. The Cheesecake Factory's Chocolate Tower Truffle Cake (1,670 calories, 48 grams of saturated fat) rounded out this year's list with the center comparing the dish to eating 14 Hostess Ho Hos in one sitting.

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On the Web

PDF of Center for Science in the Public Interest's 2010 annual dishonorees