Red Lobster, The Cheesecake Factory, Sonic Top 2015 Xtreme Eating Awards
One Red Lobster Meal, Plus Cocktail, Hits 3,600 Calories
June 3, 2015
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. Red Lobster’s “Create Your Own Combination” delivers 2,710 calories, and four days’ worth of sodium (6,530 milligrams), if you choose the Parrot Isle Jumbo Coconut Shrimp, Walt’s Favorite Shrimp, and Shrimp Linguine Alfredo to go with the Caesar salad, French fries, and one Cheddar Bay Biscuit. But wait, there’s more!
Wash down that combo with the Lobsterita—the chain’s trademarked 890-calorie, 24-ounce margarita—and the meal reaches 3,600 calories, enough calories for today and most of tomorrow. It’s the highest-calorie meal among the 2015 Xtreme Eating “dishonorees,” as CSPI calls them.
For our Create Your Own Combination at Red Lobster, we picked three shrimp dishes (Parrot Isle Jumbo Coconut, Walt’s Favorite, and Linguine Alfredo). With french fries as our side, Caesar as our salad, and just one Cheddar Bay Biscuit, our total came to 2,710 calories and 6,530 mg (a four-day supply) of sodium.
“This nutritional shipwreck from Red Lobster exemplifies the kind of gargantuan restaurant meal that promotes obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related diseases,” said CSPI registered dietitian Paige Einstein. “If this meal were unusual, that would be one thing, but America’s chain restaurants are serving up 2,000-calorie breakfasts, 2,000-calorie lunches, 2,000-calorie dinners, and 2,000-calorie desserts left and right. Abnormal is the new normal.”
The full list of “winners” was published today in the June issue of CSPI’s flagship publication, Nutrition Action Healthletter. Some of them include:
- IHOP’s Chorizo Fiesta Omelette. On its own, the omelette, “loaded with spicy chorizo sausage, roasted peppers, onions & pepper jack cheese, then topped with a citrus chili sauce & sour cream and served with a fresh grilled serrano pepper,” has 1,300 calories. But it comes with three buttermilk pancakes (or hash browns, toast, or fruit). With pancakes and four tablespoons of syrup, this breakfast has a day’s worth of calories (1,990) and two days’ worth of saturated fat (42 grams).
- Dickey’s Barbecue Pit’s 3 Meat Plate. CSPI chose Polish sausage, pork ribs, and beef brisket and sides of fried Onion Tanglers and mac and cheese, plus the free roll, pickles, onions, and a 32-ounce (the only size offered) sweet tea. This chain invites diners to consume as much free soft-serve ice cream as they want. With just one half-cup of ice cream in a cone, this 2,500-calorie meal has 49 grams of saturated fat, 4,700 mg of sodium (two and a half to three days’ worth of each), plus 29 teaspoons of sugar. CSPI says it’s like eating three Big Macs with five Vanilla Cones.
- Louisiana Chicken Pasta from The Cheesecake Factory is “parmesan crusted chicken served over pasta with mushrooms, peppers, and onions in a spicy New Orleans sauce.” At 1½ pounds, this plate from the Xtreme Eating mainstay has 2,370 calories (more than a day’s worth), 80 grams of saturated fat (a four-day supply), and 2,370 mg of sodium. It’s the equivalent of two orders of Fettuccine Alfredo plus two breadsticks at Olive Garden.
- A large Pineapple Upside Down Master Blast from Sonic is a 32-ounce cup filled with vanilla ice cream, pineapple, and “salted caramel & pie crust pieces” and topped with several inches of whipped cream. It has 2,020 calories, 61 grams of saturated fat (three days’ worth), 4½ grams of trans fat (over two days’ worth), and about 29 teaspoons of added sugar. It has the calories of roughly four Dairy Queen Banana Splits.
- Steak ‘n Shake’s 7x7 Steakburger ‘n Fries is only available from midnight to 6:00 a.m. on the chain’s “Up All Night” menu. The burger’s seven beef patties and seven slices of cheese, plus a side of fries, totals 1,570 calories and more than two days’ worth of saturated fat. With a 960-calorie Chocolate Fudge Brownie Milkshake, the grand total comes to 2,530 calories, 68 grams of saturated fat, more than 5,000 mg of sodium, and 26 teaspoons of added sugar. It’s like sitting down to four 9-ounce Outback Steakhouse sirloin steaks, each topped with two half-cup scoops of Breyers Chocolate Ice Cream.
“It’s not enough to have one or two patties on a burger, or one or two slices of cheese; now we’re seeing seven patties and seven slices of cheese on a burger,” said Einstein. “With our burgers getting bigger and bigger, it’s no surprise that many of our waistlines are, too.”
Rules finalized by the Food and Drug Administration requiring calories to be listed on chain-restaurant menus are scheduled to take effect in December. Until then, CSPI suggests avoiding extreme entrées by ordering from “light” menus, where available, such as the Simple & Fit menu at IHOP or the SkinnyLicious menu at The Cheesecake Factory. With about 600 calories, those meals aren’t exactly Lean Cuisine, but they are far better than what you’d find on the rest of the menu. To cut calories, CSPI recommends ordering a thin crust pizza over hand-tossed or pan; a small filet or sirloin over a New York Strip, ribeye, or sirloin; broiled, steamed, baked, or grilled seafood over fried seafood.