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Report Claims 'Xtreme Eating Running Amok'; IHOP, Chili's, Uno Top List

The Center for Science in the Public Interest issued a detailed examination of extreme eating in chain restaurants.


Information courtesy of the Center for Science in the Public Interest

A milkshake with a slice of apple pie blended right in. A 3,000-calorie plate of pasta. A breakfast that includes deep-fried steak and pancakes (and hash browns and eggs and gravy and syrup).

Obesity rates may show signs of leveling off, but it looks like America’s major restaurant chains are doing everything possible to reverse the trend, according to the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest. The group unveiled the latest "winners" of its Xtreme Eating Awards in the current issue of its Nutrition Action Healthletter.

"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," said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. "You'd think that the size of their profits depended on their increasing the size of your pants."

The Xtreme Eating dis-honorees include:

  • IHOP serves a breakfast consisting of deep-fried steak with gravy, two fried eggs, deep-fried potatoes and two buttermilk pancakes. The Country Fried Steak & Eggs combo has 1,760 calories, 23 grams of saturated fat, 3,720 mg of sodium and 11 teaspoons of added sugar. CSPI says that's like having five McDonald's Egg McMuffins sprinkled with 10 packets of sugar.
  • Chili’s serves 20,000 miles’ worth of Baby Back Ribs every year, reports the Web site of Brinker International, the chain’s corporate parent. It’s “almost enough to wrap around the globe!” And a good start if you want to look like one. A Full Rack of Baby Back Ribs with Shiner Bock BBQ Sauce (made with Shiner Bock Beer) packs 1,660 calories, 39 grams of saturated fat, and 5,025 milligrams of sodium. Toss in the Homestyle Fries (400 calories) and Cinnamon Apples (270 calories) that come with the ribs, and you’re talking a real ribs dinner.
  • The Cheesecake Factory Crispy Chicken Costoletta doesn’t sound like much of an indulgence. Sure, the chicken breast is “lightly breaded and sauteed to a crisp golden brown,” but it is chicken breast, after all. And the dish comes with mashed potatoes (not fries) and fresh asparagus (a green veggie!). So you might be a tad surprised to learn that, according to the company, the meal packs 2,610 calories (more than a day’s worth), 89 grams of saturated fat (enough for almost a full work week), and 2,720 milligrams of sodium (your limit for today and most of tomorrow).

Others on the list include Johnny Rockets, Chili's, Smoothie King, Maggiano's and Uno Chicago Grill. Find the list, and full descriptions of the meals, here.

Calorie counts will soon be required on chain restaurant menus, thanks to the landmark health care reform legislation signed by President Obama in March 2010 and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in June. 

Patch readers: do you eat any of these "extreme options?" If so, which ones? How often? How do you feel about restaurants serving these?

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