The Unhealthiest Foods at Chain Restaurants Revealed

by | January 25, 2013 at 11:48 AM | Food, Health

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A new report reveals the unhealthiest menu options at the biggest restaurant chains across America.

By Meg Hemphill

Macaroni and cheese with 1,980 calories and 71 grams of saturated fat. A slice of chocolate cake that chalks up 1,820 calories and 62 grams of saturated fat. That’s a whole day’s worth of fat and calories in one menu item (two days if you eat them together) at some of America’s most popular restaurants. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has just released its annual Xtreme Eating report, which logs the latest in unhealthy food options at chain restaurants.

One of my favorite meals — as in, wow that’s a crazy amount of calories — on this year’s report comes from Johnny Rockets, the Americana diner-style chain started in L.A. in the ’80s. A Bacon Cheddar Double with sweet potato fries and a Big Apple Shake (which literally blends a slice of pie into a shake) packs in 3,500 calories and 88 grams of saturated fat. For that nutritional content, you could pop by McDonald’s and enjoy a meal of three Quarter Pounders with cheese, large fries, a McCafé shake and two apples pies.

Or there’s IHOP’s Country Fried Steak & Eggs Breakfast, which delivers 1,760 calories and 23 grams of saturated fat on a breakfast plate. The big country breakfast has always been popular (and necessary) among farmers, who need a lot of fuel to help them through their sunup-to-sundown work days. So if you’re a farmer who will burn thousands of calories in the day, then maybe you can afford to stop at IHOP. If you sit at a desk all day, maybe not.

And then there’s the Cheesecake Factory, which I personally love, if for nothing more than the tome that serves as its menu: Page after page of mouth-watering items that you can consider as you delve into the warm bread basket and perfectly salted butter. The Factory’s star of the 2013 CSPI list is definitely the Bistro Shrimp Pasta, which to me looks simply like spaghetti in a light cream sauce with mushrooms and battered shrimp on top. Can this seemingly harmless dish really serve up 3,120 calories and 89 grams of saturated fat? It can indeed.

Believe me, sweet potato fries and a bowl of shrimp pasta get my salivary glands revved up, however, I don’t think they quite fit with my health objectives. I try to follow what I call my BK regimen. (Beyoncé Knowles not Burger King). I once read that she adds a zero onto her goal weight to determine how many calories to eat per day, which is a rule I like to follow if I want to drop a few pounds. If I want to be 140 pounds, I aim to eat 1,400 calories per day (except I don’t count most vegetables because those are unlimited in my book). Government guidelines, currently being revamped, say the average adult should consume about 2,000 calories and no more than 20 grams of saturated fat per day. If you tried to stay within these guidelines, but ordered pretty much anything on the CSPI report, you wouldn’t be allowed to finish it…or eat anything else that day. But maybe that’s a splurge some of us are willing to make?

Personally, if I were going to blow a whole day’s calories on one meal, I’d beeline to Chipotle and order a chicken Burrito Bowl, hold the cheese and sour cream, add guac, get a bag of salty lime Chips and three Margaritas. But that’s a big if…

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.