9 Worst Calorie Bombs at Chain Restaurants
A health advocacy and consumer watchdog group reveals their picks for the fattiest feasts you'll find on chain restaurant menus.
For an average adult, the FDA recommends a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, with 20 to 35% of those calories coming from fat (that's between 44 and 78 grams) and no more 7% coming from saturated fat (about 16 grams). You should also limit yourself to no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium and 25 grams of added sugar.
Tell that to The Cheesecake Factory.
The restaurant chain just had three of its dishes earn "Xtreme Eating Awards," handed out annually by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a nonprofit watchdog group that advocates for healthier foods for consumers. The awards, first handed out in 2007, (dis)honor chain restaurant menu items shockingly high in calories, saturated fat, sugar, and sodium.
RELATED: 7 Ways to Eat Less at Restaurants
"All the winners this year make the 1,500-calorie winners in our previous reports look like diet foods," says Paige Einstein, a registered dietitian with the CSPI. "You could bring home half your meal and still be overeating."
Einstein surveyed nearly 200 chain restaurant menus. The nine "winners" all provide a day's worth of calories (or very close to it), and a few of the picks contain more saturated fat or sugar than you should consume in an entire week.
So how did The Cheesecake Factory wind up on this list three times? "The menu is a minefield of calories and fat," Einstein says. "It's a challenge to walk about of there without having used a day's worth of calories and a couple days' worth of saturated fat. You could throw a dart at their menu and get something that's very, very high in calories."
Check out the stats for the winners:
The Cheesecake Factory: Bruléed French Toast
You'd probably never guess that these two smallish slices of French toast pack in 5 times more saturated fat than you should consume in an entire day. The secret ingredient? Custard—the bread's soaked with it before being pan-fried.
Saturated fat: 93 grams
Sodium: 2,230 milligrams
Sugar: 96 grams
How to burn it off: Swim laps for 7 hours
Red Robin: A.1. Peppercorn Monster Burger Meal
The standard version of this burger clocks in at a belly-busting 1,390 calories. But at Red Robin, you can "Make it a Monster" by adding a second 6-ounce beef patty to your sandwich. Order a combo with a Monster Salted Caramel Milkshake (1,496 calories) and a side of Steak Fries (371 calories), and you've racked up enough calories for two days. And let's not forget the unbelievable 205 grams of sugar—that's the equivalent of 50 teaspoons.
Fat: 181 grams
Saturated fat: 69 grams
Sodium: 6,280 milligrams
Sugar: 205 grams
How to burn it off: Walk briskly for 12 hours
Famous Dave's: The Big Slab
This slab of St. Louis-style spare ribs clocks in at 1 1/2 pounds. The meal also comes with a choice of two sides and a cornbread muffin. Opting for the Famous fries and Wilbur beans shoots the fat content of this meal to 141.5 grams—more than double the amount you should consume in a day if you're following a 2,000-calorie diet.
Saturated fat: 54 grams
Sodium: 4,320 milligrams
Sugar: 56 grams
How to burn it off: Mow your lawn for 7 1/2 hours
Chevy's: Super Cinco Combo
This combo platter comes with two enchiladas (one beef, one chicken), a beef taco (your choice of crispy or soft), a pork tamale, a chile relleno, rice, sweet corn tomalito, and your choice of two types of beans. At nearly 2,000 calories, it's the equivalent of 11 crunchy tacos from Taco Bell. And that doesn't even include the chips and salsa that come with every meal at Chevy's.
Fat: 100 grams
Saturated fat: 36 grams
Sodium: 3,950 milligrams
Sugar: 20 grams
How to burn it off: Play tennis for 3 1/2 hours
BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse: Signature Deep Dish Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza (small)
This 9-inch deep-dish pizza features a super-thick crust and is topped with two types of cheese, chicken, bacon, and creamy ranch dressing. All that adds up to a day's worth of calories and two times the sodium.
Fat: 102 grams
Saturated fat: 36 grams
Sodium: 4,500 milligrams
How to burn it off: Pedal your bike nonstop for 5 hours
The Cheesecake Factory: Farfalle with Chicken and Roasted Garlic
At first glance, this Cheesecake Factory entrée doesn't seem that bad: Bow-tie pasta is tossed with chicken, mushrooms, tomatoes, pancetta, peas, and caramelized onions. But the portion is huge, and the creamy garlic and Parmesan sauce turns what could have been a lighter option into a total fat bomb.
Saturated fat: 63 grams
Sodium: 1,370 milligrams
How to burn it off: Jog for 5 hours
Joe's Crab Shack: The Big "Hook" Up Platter
Fish and chips. Coconut shrimp. Crab-stuffed shrimp. Any of those items would make a fattening meal on their own, but Joe's Crab Shack takes gluttony to another level by serving them together on one platter. The dish is also served with hush puppies and creamy coleslaw.
Fat: 114 grams
Saturated fat: 35 grams
Sodium: 5,850 milligrams
Sugar: 45 grams
How to burn it off: Play golf without a cart or caddie for nearly 11 hours straight
The Cheesecake Factory: Reese's Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake Cheesecake
Who doesn't enjoy ending a meal with a sweet treat? Even if you split this dessert with a friend, you'll still consume 750 calories (that's a big meal on its own!) and over 20 grams of saturated fat.
Saturated fat: 43 grams
Sugar: 172 grams
How to burn it off: Do aerobics for 4 1/2 hours
Maggiano's Little Italy: Prime New York Steak Contadina Style
Maggiano's offers the option to order your massive 16-ounce steak "Contadina Style"—topped with two Italian sausages, crispy red potatoes, mushrooms, onions, sun-dried tomatoes, steak jus, and garlic butter. This meal could easily feed a family of four for dinner.
Fat: 194 grams
Saturated fat: 71 grams
Sodium: 5,800 milligrams
Sugar: 20 grams
How to burn it off: Hit the rowing machine for 7 1/2 hours
All nutrition information provided by restaurant websites, except for The Cheesecake Factory, which was furnished by the CSPI.