Heaviest meals on the menu

According to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) this week the accuracy of caloric counts from restaurants is unknown. On the same day, the Center for Science in the Public Interest released its annual ‘Xtreme Eating Awards’ to eight menu items on the restaurant menus.

Susan Roberts of Tufts University and her co-authors studied 269 food items and 242 unique foods from 42 restaurants. The foods and restaurants were randomly selected from quick-serve and sit-down restaurants in Massachusetts, Arkansas and Indiana between January and June 2010.

The team noted that stated energy contents of restaurant foods were accurate overall, there was “substantial inaccuracy” for some individual foods, with understated energy contents for those with lower energy contents. About 40 percent of the foods had more calories than what was listed on menus. Of the 269 food items, 50 (19 percent) contained measured energy contents of at least 100 calories or more than the stated menu contents.

Jayne Hurley, senior nutritionist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said restaurants are taking “over-the-top” to a new level. “These are yet more examples of how restaurants are making bad food even worse,” she said. Hurley said she is seeing more of the “stacked, stuffed, and topped” phenomenon – taking food and layering more salt and fat already into high-calorie foods. She added, “We're hoping that if everything goes as planned in the healthcare legislation, these restaurants would be forced to put calories on the menu. If diners want it, it's there. If they don't, they can just ignore it.”

Judith Stern, professor of nutrition at UC Davis, also said she hopes caloric information about foods becomes more immediately available. “If you want to have something extreme, you can make that decision…But it's really hard if you do it in a vacuum because then you overeat.” Stern said

The eight Xtreme Eating Awards were given to

  • Cold Stone Creamery: PB&C (peanut butter, chocolate, and milk) Shake with 2,010 calories and 68gm saturated fat.
  • The Cheesecake Factory: Ultimate Red Velvet Cake Cheesecake with 1,540 calories and 59gm saturated fats
  • The Cheesecake Factory: Farmhouse Cheeseburger with 1,540 calories, 36gm saturated fats and 3,210mg sodium
  • Applebee's: Provolone-Stuffed Meatballs With Fettuccine and garlic bread with 1,520 calories, 43gm saturated fats and 37,000mg sodium
  • Ribeye Steaks plus a side of Garlic Mashed Potatoes & the Great Steak: Extra-Large King Fries with 1,500 calories, 33gm saturated fats and 4,980mg sodium.
  • Morton's: 24 Oz. Porterhouse Steak with 1,390 calories, 36gm saturated fats and 1,200mg sodium.
  • Denny's: Fried Cheese Melt with 1,260 calories, 21gm saturated fats and 3,010mg sodium.
  • IHOP: Monster Bacon 'N Beef Cheeseburger with 1,250 calories, 42gm saturated fats and 1,590mg sodium.
“It’s as if the restaurants were targeting the remaining one out of three Americans who are still normal weight in order to boost their risk of obesity, diabetes, heart attacks, and cancer,” said CSPI nutrition director Bonnie Liebman. To put these statistics in perspective, the typical eater should limit themselves to about 2,000 calories, 20 grams of saturated fat and 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day.
Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


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