Hold on to your stomachs -- the Center for Science in the Public Interest has come out with its Xtreme Eating awards, giving dubious honors to restaurant fare that maxes out on fat and calories.
Among the winners (or should that be losers?) is the pasta carbonara at Cheesecake Factory; when served with chicken this dish comes in at 2,500 calories and 85 grams of saturated fat. Also on the list is the New Zealand rack of lamb at Outback Steakhouse. The lamb alone (no sides) is 1,300 calories and 60 grams of saturated fat, plus 1,340 milligrams of sodium (recommended daily allowance of sodium is from 2,400 milligrams for a healthy adult, although some health experts think it should be far lower).
Cinnamon cream stacked and stuffed hotcakes at Bob Evans will set you back 1,380 calories, 27 grams of saturated fat, and 7 grams of trans fat. That's about the same calories and fat, said CSPI, as two country-fried steaks and four eggs. California Pizza Kitchen has a tostada pizza on its menu that, when served with steak as a topping, has 1,680 calories, 32 grams of saturated fat and -- you'd better sit down for this -- 3,300 milligrams of sodium.
"One might think that chains like Outback Steakhouse and the Cheesecake Factory might want to lighten up their meals now that calories will be required on their menus, courtesy of the health care reform law signed in March," said Michael Jacobson, CSPI's executive director, in a news release. The Washington D.C.-based organization is known for bringing the public's attention to examples of outrageously fattening restaurant foods. "But these chains don't promote moderation. They practice caloric extremism, and they're helping make modern-day Americans become the most obese people ever to walk the Earth."
Restaurant menu labeling is already in effect in several areas around the country, including California. Although Jacobson is understandably pessimistic about the effect the law will have, some restaurants have started to clean up their act or at least devise marketing campaigns to draw customers' attention to more healthful fare. Romano's Macaroni Grill has tweaked some of its tried-and-true recipes as well as put new, lighter dishes on the menu. And Applebee's and Corner Bakery have highlighted lower-calorie menu choices, making it a no-brainer for people to choose less fattening meals.
Of course, if you're in the mood for a splurge, you can indulge in Cheesecake Factory's chocolate tower truffle cake, with 1,670 calories and 48 grams of saturated fat per slice. We loved this description from CSPI: "Even half a tower leaves each person with a load of calories to store somewhere. 'Layers and Layers of Fudge Cake with Chocolate Truffle Cream and Chocolate Mousse,' says the menu. Say hello to layers and layers of you."
We'll have ours with a small Diet Coke.
-- Jeannine Stein
Photo: Cheesecake Factory got dinged by the Center for Science in the Public Interest for its high-calorie offerings. Photo credit: Ken Kwok / Los Angeles Times