Restaurant Calories: 'Extreme Eating'

Need a reality check about restaurant calories? A consumer
group says so; but the restaurant industry says diners have many healthy

The spat about fat and calories in restaurant food started with an article
published by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) in
its Nutrition Action Health Letter.

The CSPI has, in the past, criticized unhealthy Chinese, Italian, and other
restaurant fare.

The CSPI's new article, titled "X-Treme Eating," highlights eight
menu items from chain restaurants with sky-high calories, saturated fat, and

Here's a look at those items:

  • Ruby Tuesday Colossal Burger (two large patties, bun, and melted American
    and Monterey Jack cheese): 1,940 calories and 141 grams fat.


  • UNO Chicago Grill Pizza Skins (deep-dish pizza with mozzarella, mashed
    potatoes, crispy bacon, cheddar, and sour cream: 2,050 calories with 48 grams
    fat and 3,140 milligrams (mg) sodium.


  • On the Border Double-Stacked Club Quesadillas (two white-flour tortillas
    with fajita chicken, cheese, crumbled bacon and avocado, served with sour cream
    and ranch dressing): 1,860 calories, 52 grams saturated fat, and 3,140 mg


  • Ruby Tuesday Fresh Chicken & Broccoli Pasta (white-meat chicken,
    broccoli, and penne pasta in a parmesan cream sauce topped with cheddar cheese
    and baked): 2,060 calories and 128 grams fat.


  • On the Border Ranchiladas (an 8-ounce steak served with two cheese
    enchiladas, chile con carne, rice, and either refried or black beans with
    cheese): 1,870 calories, 46 grams saturated fat, and 3,810 mg sodium.


  • Cold Stone Creamery Gotta Have It Founder's Favorite (a large waffle bowl
    with 14 ounces of ice cream with pecans, brownie pieces, fudge, and caramel):
    1,740 calories, 48 grams saturated fat, and 4 grams trans fat.


  • Romano's Macaroni Grill Twice-Baked Lasagna With Meatballs (six layers of
    pasta stuffed with meatballs, three cheeses, and Bolognese sauce): 1,360
    calories, 38 grams saturated fat, and 3,900 mg sodium.


  • The Cheesecake Factory Chris' Outrageous Chocolate Cake (layers of
    chocolate cake, brownie, coconut pecan filling, and creamy chocolate chip
    coconut cheesecake): 1,380 calories, 32 teaspoons sugar, 33 grams saturated
    fat, and 5 grams trans fat.


The nutritional breakdowns for these items "come from the companies
themselves, though obviously not from the companies' menus," states a CSPI
news release.


Full Disclosure?

Restaurant Industry Responds

The CSPI's article is half-baked, according to the National Restaurant

America's 935,000 restaurants and food-service outlets "provide a wide
variety of venues and countless menu options to fit anyone's dietary needs and
preferences," the association says in a news release.

"Pointing to a select few menu items at a select few restaurants as
being high in calories, and generalizing that to all restaurant fare is
misleading, inaccurate, and does the public a grave disservice," states the

"Virtually all restaurants provide healthful options," and diners
can request that chefs curb calories or fat, the association says.

Many national chain restaurants make nutrition information available, the
association notes. Since many diners customize their orders, the association
says it would be hard to post simple nutritional information on menus and menu

'Food Police'

What you put on your plate is your business, whether it's a decadent splurge
or spa cuisine, according to th association.

Diners are "free to choose what to eat, whether being mindful of calorie
and fat intake, or indulging themselves with their favorite dishes," states
the association.

"Our research shows that 95% of survey respondents feel they are
qualified to make their own dietary choices, and more than two out of three
(68%) say they are tired of the 'food police' telling them what to eat,"
the association says.

By Miranda Hitti
Reviewed by Louise Chang
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