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Denny's Fried Cheese Melt

Eating is Xtreme as ever at America’s fast-food chains

If this year’s winners of the Xtreme Eating Awards, as unveiled by the lobby group, Center for Science in the Public Interest, are any indication, the overfeeding of America seems likely to continue unabated at the nation’s chain restaurants. The dishonorees include burgers topped with pork belly and fried eggs, meatballs stuffed with provolone, and grilled cheese sandwiches stuffed with deep-fried mozzarella sticks.

“If Americans are feeling a little more full when lumbering out of The Cheesecake Factory, Applebee’s, Denny’s, and other chains, it’s not in their heads,” said CSPI nutrition director Bonnie Liebman. “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.”

Dietary guidelines suggest the people consume about 2 000 calories a day, and no more than 20 grams of saturated fat and 1 500 milligrams of sodium. As part of health care reform, calorie counts will soon be required on restaurant menus.

Following is a sampling of the foodservice establishments and menu items that were called out by CSPI:

  • Denny’s Fried Cheese Melt (pictured). With four fried mozzarella sticks and melted American cheese grilled between two slices of sourdough bread, the cheesy collision, with its side of French fries and marinara sauce, has 1 260 calories and 21 grams of saturated fat and 3 010 mg of sodium.
  • The Cheesecake Factory Farmhouse Cheeseburger. Topped with grilled smoked pork belly cheddar cheese, onions, lettuce, tomato, mayo and a fried egg, the burger boasts 1 530 calories and 36 grams of saturated fat topped with 3 210 milligrams of sodium. French fries add 460 calories and 1 460 mg of sodium.
  • Cold Stone Creamery PB&C Shake. The 24-ounce “Gotta Have It” size shake of peanut butter, chocolate ice cream, and milk has 2 010 calories and 68 grams of saturated fat.
  • Applebee’s Provolone-Stuffed Meatballs With Fettuccine. With a piece of garlic bread, the 4 cups of pasta, two sauces and cheese-injected meatballs deliver 1 520 calories,  43 grams of saturated fat and 3 700 mg of sodium.
  • The Cheesecake Factory Ultimate Red Velvet Cake Cheesecake. Weighing in at three-quarters of a pound, this dessert packs 1 540 calories and 59 grams of saturated fat.

Click here for a full list of award “dishonorees”.

This is likely to be the last year that these calorie counts aren’t right on the menu for all to see, according to CSPI. The FDA is finalising a set of rules implementing a calorie-labeling provision included in the health care reform legislation signed into law by President Obama in March.

“Perhaps calorie labeling will usher in a new era of common sense at America’s chain restaurants, and chains will compete with each other to come up with new, healthy menu items with more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains,” said Michael F Jacobson. “I hope at some point chains will stop stuffing, stacking, and topping with cheese and meat and white flour. Instead of setting aside a few menu items called something like ‘Lean & Fit,’ why can’t menus have a small section called ‘Fatten Up!’ and keep the rest of the menu healthy?”

Source: Center for Science in the Public Interest

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