Shake Shack, Yard House, AMC “win” their first

No one would think that seven Sausage McMuffins from McDonald’s was an especially virtuous breakfast. Yet that’s the nutritional equivalent of The Cheesecake Factory’s Breakfast Burrito—the “winner” of the 2018 Xtreme Eating Award for the Worst Way to Start the Day. It’s one of two Cheesecake Factory items among the awards issued annually by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest and published in the July/August issue of the group’s Nutrition Action Healthletter.

According to The Cheesecake Factory, the Breakfast Burrito is a “warm tortilla filled with scrambled eggs, bacon, chicken chorizo, cheese, crispy potatoes, avocado, peppers and onions, over spicy ranchero sauce” that is served with sour cream, salsa, and black beans. The envelope, please: The meal has more than a day’s worth of calories (2,730), two days’ worth of sodium (4,630 milligrams), and more than three days’ worth of saturated fat (73 grams)

“Long gone are the days when a big restaurant meal was an occasional splurge,” said CSPI senior nutritionist Lindsay Moyer. “Americans are eating out more than ever before. So when restaurant chains are serving up 2,000 calories or more on a single plate, it’s easy to see why people continue to struggle with overweight, obesity, and diet-related diseases.”

To put the 2018 dishonorees into context, a day’s worth of calories is 2,000, a day’s worth of sodium is 2,300 milligrams, a day’s worth of saturated fat is 20 grams, and a day’s worth of added sugar is 50 grams. Other 2018 Xtreme Eating Award winners include:

  • Worst Special Effects: Yard House’s Vampire Taco Combo comes with two 440-calorie tacos—each coated with crisped cheese and stuffed with pork, “bacon chorizo,” cream sauce, and guacamole—plus 610 calories’ worth of rice and beans. And some people can’t leave Yard House without the chain’s signature 32 oz. Half Yard of IPA beer. With 2,040 calories, 27 grams of saturated fat, and 3,820 mg of sodium, the grand total is the equivalent of nine Taco Bell beef tacos plus three cans of Budweiser. Lights out!

  • Worst Cinematic Snack: AMC’s Bavarian Legend Soft Pretzel weighs in at a pound and a half of mostly white flour, with tubs of nacho “cheese” and mustard for dipping. The nine-inch-wide pretzel has a day’s calories (1,920), three-quarters of a day’s saturated fat (15 grams), and more than three days’ worth of sodium (7,600 mg). That makes it saltier than any other 2018 dishonoree.

  • Least Creative Mashup: Chili’s Honey-Chipotle Crispers & Waffles—battered fried chicken on top of Belgian waffles, topped with bacon, jalapeños, and ancho-chile ranch sauce—is served with fries and honey-chipotle sauce. This chicken and waffles on steroids is like eating five Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts smothered in 30 McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets and five packets of barbecue sauce. It delivers more than a day’s calories (2,510) plus a two-day supply of saturated fat (40 grams) and sodium (4,480 mg). Added sugars, at an estimated two days’ worth (105 grams), play a “more-than-supporting” role.

The full list of “winners” for Worst Adapted Pizza, Worst Makeup, Worst Visceral Effects, and other categories is available at

This is the first year since CSPI first conferred the Xtreme Eating Awards in 2007 in which calories are mandatory on menus and menu boards at chains with 20 outlets or more. The labeling requirement was included in the Affordable Care Act of 2010, but the implementing regulations were subject to several delays over the years on the part of the Food and Drug Administration. CSPI and its lawyers at Earthjustice sued the agency over the most recent delay and negotiated an agreement with the Trump administration ensuring a May 2018 implementation date. CSPI began pushing for calories on restaurant menus in 2002.

“Fashioning a ‘pizza’ out of chicken parmesan and topping it with pasta in Alfredo sauce is what passes for innovation at chains like The Cheesecake Factory,” said Moyer, referring to the chain’s second 2018 winner, the Chicken Parmesan Pizza Style. “Perhaps now that calories are on the menu for all to see, America’s chain restaurants will compete to create healthier dishes, rather than simply mashing up two or more junk foods.”

Contact Info:  Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at] or Henry Duong (hduong[at]