Health is definitely not the reason you head to Red Lobster or The Cheesecake Factory. Anyone can tell you that loading up your plate with deep-fried carb-crusted shrimp or enough chicken tenders to feed a small village isn’t good for you.
Even when we’re making bad food choices, we want to know we’re making the best bad food choices we can. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has just released its 2015 Xtreme Eating Awards list, which “honors” the most objectively unhealthy chain restaurant meals in the country.
Horrifying? Yes, once you know how bad they are. Fascinating? Also yes. Undoubtedly, many of these look kind of good (especially at 3 am after a really rough night). This year, nine chain restaurant meals made the cut. Below are the top five, but you can head over to CSPI to read the full list.
Top 5 Unhealthiest Chain Restaurant Meals
1. Red Lobster’s “Create Your Own Combination”
Calories: 2,710 without the signature “Lobsterita”; 3,600 with the “Lobsterita”
Sodium: 6,530 milligrams (that’s four days’ worth)
What’s in it: The CSPI described it like this: “Imagine chowing down on an eight-piece bucket of KFC Original Recipe fried chicken, four sides of mashed potatoes with gravy, four pieces of corn on the cob, and eight packets of buttery spread—all by yourself. It takes a lot to shock the nutritionists at the Center for Science in the Public Interest who compile the annual Xtreme Eating Awards. But this year they found a single restaurant meal that’s the nutritional equivalent of that KFC binge.”
To reach the astounding numbers above, CSPI combined the Parrot Isle Jumbo Coconut Shrimp, Walt’s Favorite Shrimp, and Shrimp Linguine Alfredo. To that, they added a Caesar salad, French fries, a single Cheddar Bay biscuit, and that Lobsterita. CSPI registered dietitian Paige Einstein called it “a nutritional shipwreck.”
We’d like to add that this single entry managed to break CSPI’s previous record, which was set by the 3,540-calorie-having Monster Meal with Monster Salted Caramel Shake at Red Robin last year.
2. Steak ‘n Shake 7X7 Steakburger ‘n Fries
Calories: 1,570 in the burger and fries alone; 2,530 when you add a Chocolate Fudge Brownie Milkshake. (The place is called Steak ‘n Shake, after all.)
Sodium: 5,060 mg (three-and-a-half days’ worth)
Saturated Fat: 68 grams (three-and-a-half days’ worth here, too)
Sugar: 26 tsp
What’s in it: 7 Steakburgers and 7 slices of American cheese stuffed between two buns, plus fries and that shake. CSPI says “It’s like polishing off four 9 oz. Outback sirloin steaks, each topped with two halfcup scoops of Breyers Chocolate Ice Cream.”
3. Dickey’s Barbecue Pit’s 3 Meat Plate
Calories: 2,500 (but hey, that includes a half-cup of free ice cream!)
Sodium: 4,700 mg (two-and-a-half to three days’ worth)
Saturated fat: 49 grams (another two-and-a-half to three days’ worth)
Sugar: 29 tsp
What’s in it: CSPI’s plate included: Polish sausage, pork ribs, and beef brisket as the three meats; fried onion tanglers & mac n’ cheese as the sides. This meal also came with a free roll, pickles, onions, and a Big Yellow Cup of Miss Ollie Dickey’s Famous Southern Sweet Tea. They also added a half cup of that free ice cream in a cone.
For all the criticism McDonald’s gets about unhealthy food, CSPI says this meal is like downing five Big Macs and matching it with five Vanilla Cones. Further proof that you can eat as healthily/unhealthily as you want just about anywhere.
4. Outback Steakhouse Herb Roasted Prime Rib Dinner
Sodium: 3,560 mg (two days’ worth)
Saturated fat: 71 grams (three-and-a-half days’ worth)
What’s in it: A 16 oz. prime rib comes with your choice of sides. The CSPI chose a dressed baked potato and the classic blue cheese wedge salad. It also comes with a mini loaf of bread; they factored in eating half a loaf of that with “a light schmear” of butter.
5. The Cheesecake Factory Louisiana Chicken Pasta
Sodium: 2,370mg (one-and-a-half days’ worth, which puts it pretty low on this list)
Saturated fat: 80 grams (four days’ worth)
What’s in it: A whopping one-and-a-half pounds of pasta is topped with Parmesan breaded chicken with mushrooms, peppers, and onions. The pasta is lovingly bathed in a New Orleans sauce made with butter and heavy cream.
To see the entire list (including a single shake from Sonic that tops 2,000 calories on its own—without those tots), check out the CSPI’s full 2015 Xtreme Eating Awards.