3,120-calorie entree: Extreme or ‘life’s simpler pleasures’?

The Cheesecake Factory's bistro shrimp pasta comes in at 3,120 calories, 89 grams of saturated fat and 1,090 milligrams of sodium, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
(The Cheesecake Factory)

IHOP has a Country Fried Steak & Eggs combo menu item with 3,720 milligrams of sodium. Johnny Rockets’ Bacon Cheddar Double burger has 50 grams of saturated fat. The Bistro Shrimp Pasta from the Cheesecake Factory has 3,120 calories.

Each one is likely lip-smackingly delicious. But they’re also far over the doctor-recommended limits of 2,000 calories, 20 grams of saturated fat and 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day.

This week, the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest, is calling out such intense meals — and the chains that produce them — as promoters of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

In its sixth year of handing out its Xtreme Eating Awards, the outspoken watchdog group focuses on menu items such as a slice of apple pie blended into a milkshake and an 18-ounce veal porterhouse steak from Maggiano’s Little Italy that it says is the equivalent of four Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pepperoni Pizzas.


“You’d think that the size of their profits depended on their increasing the size of your pants,” CSPI Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson said in a statement.

Feeling queasy? Don’t, says the Center for Consumer Freedom, a nonprofit group that lambasts the Xtreme Eating Awards as “hyperbolic,” “scaremongering” and “over the top.”

CCF senior research analyst J. Justin Wilson called the list “just another way to chastise the American public for occasionally indulging in life’s simpler pleasures.”

“Freedom to choose includes the freedom to choose culinary pleasures over the food police’s view of optimal health, especially with a one-time splurge,” the group said in a blog post.

Each of the chains mentioned also offers calorie-conscious menus, the CCF noted.

In recent years, the restaurant industry has become increasingly vocal about its support for more health-conscious initiatives.

Calorie-labeling mandates have been in the works on the federal level since 2010 and are already in place in New York City and California. This fall, McDonald’s began posting calorie counts on menus at its more than 14,000 U.S. locations. Both the Golden Arches and rival Burger King rolled out “healthful” menus this year.

First Lady Michelle Obama has backed Darden Restaurants, owner of Olive Garden and Red Lobster, for its pledge to cut down on calories and sodium in all its outlets.


Recently, major soda producers such as Coca-Cola and PepsiCo said they would follow suit with nutritional disclosures on vending machines. New York is preparing to implement a ban on large sugary drinks.

But that hasn’t stopped the popularity of extravagances such as the Triple Bypass burger, 1½ pounds of beef and a dozen bacon slices, at Las Vegas’ Heart Attack Grill.


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