Ah, ‘Murica. Land of the cheese. Home of the bacon.
To remind us how much we rule at gluttony, the Center for Science in the Public Interest compiles an annual Xtreme Eating Awards list from the top 200 restaurants in America according to Nation’s Restaurant News. CSPI notes that when it started in 2007, it was shocked to find chain restaurant dishes that reached the lofty heights of 1,500 calories. For 2014, almost all the winners clocked in around 2,000 calories, and some even topped 3,000. How far we’ve come!
Of course, calories aren’t the only considerations CSPI takes into account. Saturated fat, sodium, sugar—all the usual suspects—go into the algorithm that spits out the least healthy options. At least one of the “winners” contains a whole five days’ worth of your recommended daily saturated fat intake.
Before you get upset, hold up—we’re not saying this stuff isn’t delicious. Chain eating has its place, and when you gotta do it, you might as well do it right. But you should at least know what you’re getting into next time you step into a Cheesecake Factory or Red Robin.
Here are the top eight Xtreme Eating 2014 winners—a.k.a., America’s least healthy meals:
Super Cinco Combo at Chevy’s Fresh Mex
What’s in it: “Two enchiladas (one beef, one chicken), a Crispy or Soft Beef Taco, a hand-rolled Pork Tamale and a handcrafted Chile Relleno. Served with Fresh Mex rice, our signature sweet corn tamalito and choice of homemade Beans a la Charra or Refried Beans made with bacon or Vegetarian Black Beans.”
The damage: It packs a 1,920 calorie punch, while simultaneously delivering 36 grams of saturated fat and 3,950 milligrams of sodium. That’s nearly twice as much sodium as the CDC recommends you eat in a day. (Photo: CSPI)
Signature Deep Dish Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza (Small) at BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse
What’s in it: “9” of grilled garlic chicken, Applewood smoked bacon, jack and cheddar cheese, red onions, diced tomatoes and a drizzle of ranch on flavorful, lightly sauced bakery pizza crust with BJ’s signature five cheese blend”
Farfalle with Chicken and Roasted Garlic at The Cheesecake Factory
What’s in it: “Bow-Tie Pasta, Chicken, Mushrooms, Tomato, Pancetta, Peas and Caramelized Onions in a Roasted Garlic-Parmesan Cream Sauce”
The damage: It’s a 2,410 calorie, 63 grams of saturated fat monster. CSPI notes that it fares better on the sodium front, with only 1,370 mg—slightly under a day’s worth, and pretty low by this list’s standards.
Let’s talk about that 63 grams of saturated fat, though. According to the American Heart Association, healthy adults should get 7 percent of their daily caloric intake from saturated fat. That’s 16 grams for someone on a 2,000 calorie/day diet. (Photo: Flickr/BBQMag)
Prime New York Steak, Contadina-Style at Maggiano’s Little Italy
What’s in it: “Contadina-style” means this steak comes with two Italian sausage links, crispy red Vesuvio-style potatoes, roasted red and yellow peppers, roasted mushrooms, caramelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes, steak jus, and garlic butter.
The damage: The steak has 1,250 calories on its own. When you add the Contadina treatment, you get an additional 1,170 calories, for a total of 2,420. If that’s not enough, you also get 66 grams of saturated fat and 5,620 milligrams of sodium. (Photo: CSPI)
The Big Slab, St. Louis-Style Spare Ribs at Famous Dave’s
What’s in it: Nearly 1.5 pounds of meat that’s slathered in sauce over an open flame comes off the ribs by themselves. With it, you get your choice of two sides and a corn bread muffin.
The damage: CSPI says that if you get the Famous Fries and the Wilbur (baked) Beans as your sides, the total caloric damage is 2,770 calories. That comes with 54 grams of saturated fat, 4,320 milligrams of sodium, and 14 teaspoons of sugar.
The American Heart Association currently recommends that most American women limit added sugar intake (not counting naturally-occuring sugars from fruits and veggies) to 100 calories or less, and 150 calories or less for men. Translated to teaspoons, that’s six teaspoons for women and nine teaspoons for men. In March 2014, the World Health Organization lowered its own recommendation for total sugar intake to six teaspoons per day for everyone. (Photo: CSPI)
Bruléed French Toast at The Cheesecake Factory
What’s in it: “Extra thick slices of rustic French bread, baked and grilled golden brown. Topped with powdered sugar and served with maple- butter syrup and your choice of either bacon or grilled ham”
The damage: Coming in at 2,780 calories and packing in a massive 93 grams of saturated fat (nearly a work-week’s worth), this dessert-like breakfast also has 2,230 milligrams of sodium and 24 teaspoons of sugar. That’s some tough math for your digestive system. (Photo: CSPI)
The Big “Hook” Up at Joe’s Crab Shack
What’s in it: Great Balls of Fire, which are “seafood and crab balls full of jalapeños and cream cheese coated in panko breadcrumbs”…served with ranch; fish and chips, “which are flaky white fish hand dipped in a classic Samuel Adams beer batter and served with fries”; coconut shrimp, which are “jumbo shrimp hand dipped in shredded coconut with pineapple plum sauce for dipping”; and crab-stuffed shrimp, which are “plump shrimp hand stuffed with crab.” Comes with hush puppies and coleslaw.
The damage: It comes in at 3,280 calories, with 50 grams of saturated fat (hey, that’s less than the bruléed french toast!), and a staggering 7,610 milligrams of sodium. (Photo: CSPI)
Monster Meal with Monster Salted Caramel Shake at Red Robin
What’s in it: Making your gourmet burger a “monster” means you get an extra six-ounce beef patty for $1.99 more. Every Red Robin burger comes with bottomless steak fries. Making your classic shake a “monster” means you get a free refill tin for $1 more.
The damage: Assuming you go for monsterfication of the A1 Peppercorn burger (hardwood-smoked bacon, melted Pepper-Jack, A.1. Peppercorn Spread, tomatoes and crispy onion straws), the bottomless steak fries, and monsterfication of your Salted Caramel Shake, you get 3,540 calories, 69 grams of saturated fat, and 6,280 milligrams of sodium. That’s on top of 38 teaspoons of sugar.
All we can say is, we wonder what CSPI would make of the TGI Fridays Endless Appetizer promotion. Probably facepalms all around while sobbing into one of those monster salted caramel Red Robin shakes. (Photo: CSPI)
[via USA Today]