If you’re on a diet, perhaps you should just look away now. Or perhaps you should read very closely.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest has unveiled its annual list of the most unhealthy restaurant meals — nine of the most calorie-laden appetizers, entrees, drinks and desserts from the country’s chains.
One designee is the Whole Hog Burger from Uno Pizzeria & Grill, which is “over a pound of meat,” including bacon, prosciutto and pepperoni. Add to that four types of cheese, garlic mayo, pickles, a side of fries and onion rings, and the total calories come to 2,850. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that moderately active adults get a maximum of 2,000 calories a day. CSPI said this meal is the equivalent of eating four McDonald’s Quarter Pounders and two medium fries, with an extra 18 packets of salt.
“Unfortunately, these extreme meals are more like the rule, not the exception,” CSPI dietitian Lindsay Moyer said.
Also among the watchdog group’s targeted meals this year is Jersey Mike’s Subs Giant Chipotle Cheese Steak, with cheese, peppers and onions, spicy chipotle mayo and 1,850 calories. That’s the equivalent of eating two Subway roast beef foot-long subs. Making the cheesesteak a combo meal with a Pepsi and chips adds more than 600 additional calories.
Or the Build Your Sampler at Applebee’s, which comes with between two and five appetizers and could reach 3,390 calories if you include Cheeseburger Egg Rolls, soft pretzels and beer cheese dip, a chicken quesadilla, Buffalo wings and spinach and artichoke dip.
The “Xtreme Eating Awards” list is intended to raise awareness of the growing size, calorie and fat content of restaurant meals in an effort to combat obesity. More than one-third of U.S. adults and about 17 percent of children are considered obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Although some restaurants already post calories on their menus, that move will become mandatory for all chains in May of next year.
Here are the watchdog group’s other “winners”:
• The Cheesecake Factory’s Fried Chicken & Waffles Benedict: A Belgian waffle topped with fried chicken strips, poached eggs and hollandaise sauce, served with maple-butter syrup. If you add a side of breakfast potatoes, the brunch dish comes to 2,580 calories.
• Dave & Buster’s Short Rib & Cheesy Mac Stack: Sandwich with beef short rib and macaroni and cheese and served with tater tots. In total, it’s 1,910 calories and 42 grams of saturated fat — about twice the daily recommended intake.
• Sonic’s RT 44 Grape Slush with Rainbow Candy: The icy slush made with “sippable candy” is 44 ounces and 970 calories, with 1 1/4 cups of sugar.
• Maggiano’s Little Italy Marco’s Meal For Two: The meal lets a couple choose any appetizer, flatbread or two side salads, two pasta dishes and one dessert. Maggiano’s also lets you choose two of its classic pasta dishes to take home.
While there are some slightly healthier choices, the CSPI uses examples like the 1,530-calorie Mozzarella Marinara appetizer, the 1,410-calorie Taylor Street Baked Ziti (with Italian sausage) and 1,560-calorie fettuccine Alfredo as pasta dishes, and the 1,150-calorie Warm Apple Crostada for dessert.
• Romano’s Macaroni Grill Cremini Pork Shank: Braised pork shank, Marsala wine sauce, caramelized onions, mushrooms and roasted Parmesan potatoes with 1,800 calories, 43 grams of saturated fat and 3,700 mg of sodium. CSPI says that’s like eating two Outback Steakhouse 10-ounce rib-eye steaks, each with a side of French fries.
• Buffalo Wild Wings Dessert Nachos: A fried flour tortilla with four scoops of ice cream, sugar, and “gooey breaded cheesecake bites” topped with chocolate and caramel sauce. The dessert has 2,100 calories and 64 grams of saturated fat. The CSPI says that’s the equivalent of eating four Taco Bell Crunchy Tacos (filled with beef and cheese) topped with a 14-ounce container of Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream and two Hershey’s milk chocolate bars.
The watchdog group recommends eating from the “light” menu when dining out, skipping appetizers, choosing chicken or veggie burgers over beef, or omitting the bun when ordering a burger. The group also recommends filling up half your plate with vegetables or fruit, or opting to take half your entree home.