The Cheesecake Factory’s Crispy Chicken Costoletta sounds like a reasonable dinner option: a lightly breaded and sauteed chicken breast served with mashed potatoes (no french fries) and asparagus. But according to the Center For Science in The Public Interest, this innocuous-sounding dish is anything but:
“The meal packs 2,610 calories (more than a day’s worth), 89 grams of saturated fat (enough for almost a full work week), and 2,720 milligrams of sodium (your limit for today and most of tomorrow). In fact, the dish has more calories than any steak, chop, or burger meal on The Cheesecake Factory’s menu.
How do they do it? It’s partly the lemon (read: butter) sauce, the chicken’s oil-soaked breading, and the butter and cream in the three-quarter-pound serving of mashed potatoes. And it’s partly the sheer quantity of chicken (each of the three pieces could serve as an entrée at most other restaurants).
Think of the Crispy Chicken Costoletta as an entire KFC 12-piece Original Recipe bucket (2,550 calories), except that the KFC has less than half the sat fat.”
Dr. Atul Gawande, one of the most respected and artful writers on health policy around, recently wrote a widely-cited article in The New Yorker suggesting that the U.S. health care system might be wise to model itself, in some aspects, after The Cheesecake Factory chain of restaurants.
Gawande might want to reconsider his proposition in light of the Crispy Chicken Costoletta.
But the Costoletta is only one over-the-top dish cited by CSPI as part of its Xtreme Eating Awards 2013. The top offenders include “a milkshake with a slice of apple pie blended right in. A 3,000-calorie plate of pasta. A breakfast that includes deep-fried steak and pancakes (and hash browns and eggs and gravy and syrup,” according to a news release. (Read the full list here.)
Other outrageously extreme meals cited by CSPI include:
–Johnny Rockets’ Bacon Cheddar Double burger has 1,770 calories, 50 grams of saturated fat, and 2,380 milligrams of sodium. An order of the chain’s Sweet Potato Fries adds another 590 calories and 800 mg of sodium. The chain’s Big Apple Shake—a milkshake that actually contains a slice of apple pie—has 1,140 calories, 37 grams of saturated fat, and about 13 teaspoons of added sugar. That meal delivers a total of 3,500 calories (nearly two days’ worth), 88 grams of saturated fat (four-and-a-half days’ worth) and 3,720 mg of sodium (two-and-a-half days’ worth. It’s like eating 3 McDonald’s Quarter Pounders with Cheese, a large Fries, a medium McCafé Vanilla Shake, and 2 Baked Apple Pies.
–The Deep Dish Macaroni & 3-Cheese at Uno Chicago Grill has four cups of pasta; Cheddar, Parmesan, and Romano cheeses; an Alfredo sauce made from heavy cream, cheese, rendered chicken fat, and butter; and a crushed Ritz Cracker topping. With a day’s worth of calories (1,980), three-and-a-half days’ worth of saturated fat (71 grams), and two days’ worth of sodium (3,110 mg), eating this entrée is like eating a whole Family Size box of Stouffer’s Macaroni & Cheese—with half a stick of butter melted on top.
–One might think that the Bistro Shrimp Pasta from The Cheesecake Factory is one of the less fattening things on the menu, what with its shrimp, mushrooms, tomato, and arugula. It actually has more calories than any other entrée (at 3,120), along with 89 grams of saturated fat (enough to keep your arteries busy from Monday morning to noon on Friday, says CSPI). It’s the nutritional equivalent of three orders of Olive Garden’s Lasagna Classico plus an order of Tiramisu.
–Smoothie King combines peanut butter, banana, sugar, and grape juice in its Peanut Power Plus Grape Smoothie. Some may think that sounds healthy, but a 40-oz. large size has 1,460 calories and three and a half days’ worth of added sugar (22 teaspoons). Make that six and a half days’ worth, since the 17 teaspoons of naturally occurring sugar in the grape juice aren’t any healthier than added sugar. There’s an additional 12 teaspoons of sugar coming from the banana and nonfat milk.
–Few would consider eating an entire, eight-serving Entenmann’s Chocolate Fudge Cake. Yet a slice of the Chocolate Zuccotto Cake at Maggiano’s Little Italy is roughly equivalent, with almost a day’s worth of calories (1,820), three days’ worth of saturated fat (62 grams), and four days’ worth of added sugar (26 teaspoons).
CSPI notes that under the Affordable Care Act, calorie counts will soon be required on chain restaurant menus, but notes:
“Draft regulations that implement the calorie-labeling provisions have been released by the Food and Drug Administration, though final regulations have been stalled for months…”