The Xtreme Eating Awards: Population control on a plate

If we truly are what we eat, then please, please, don’t let me be the Cheesecake Factory's bistro shrimp pasta dish.

Nor, for that matter, IHOP's country-fried steak and eggs combo, Johnny Rockets' bacon cheddar double burger, Uno Chicago Grill's deep-dish macaroni and three-cheese dish, Smoothie King's Peanut Power Plus Grape Smoothie or Maggiano's Little Italy's chocolate zuccotto cake.

Why? Well, start with this: The Cheesecake Factory dish, which you wouldn’t think would be too unhealthful -- crispy battered shrimp, mushrooms, tomato, arugula and basil-garlic-lemon cream sauce -- comes in at a whopping 3,120 calories and 89 grams of saturated fat.

Wanna wash it down with that Smoothie King smoothie? That’ll cost you 1,460 calories and 22 teaspoons of added sugar in a 40-ounce size.

Like the chocolate zuccotto cake for dessert? Tack on 1,820 calories, 62 grams of saturated fat and 26 teaspoons of added sugar.

Fun! Let's everyone meet at the ER to watch the EKG!

On Wednesday, the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest “honored” these and a few other dishes as "winners" of its Xtreme Eating Awards. And just how bad are they?

Well, as The Times’ Betty Hallock writes:

The CSPI notes that a typical adult should consume about 2,000 calories and a maximum of 20 grams of saturated fat and 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day; in addition, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar for women and 9 teaspoons for men. 

Which means, I guess, that you could go ahead and have that shrimp pasta -- and then just not eat for a day or two.

Now, far be it from me to tell you how to eat. I’m not a food Nazi (nor do I play one on TV), and I’ve eaten my share (or my share and my wife’s share and maybe your share) of stuff that I knew wasn’t good for me. When I was young, it didn’t matter. I was one of those people who couldn’t put on weight. (It's true: All the good stuff is wasted on the young!)

Sadly, as most of us find out, that’s no longer the case. Still, I’m apparently blessed with good genes because my blood pressure and cholesterol are fine despite my being in the, ahem, “overweight” category on the body mass index.

But the examples above are one of the reasons I applaud moves to put calorie counts on menus. Who would think, for instance, that the Cheesecake Factory pasta would be that unhealthful? 

Like most Americans, I still don’t eat right all the time. In-N-Out? You bet. Pizza? Guilty. But not as often. And I check those calorie counts when they’re available.

You might think it smacks of a nanny state.

But to paraphrase a slogan from my youth: Better less fed than dead.


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