A dietitian breaks down how your body reacts to the most calorie-packed meals at chain restaurants listed in the ‘Oscars’ of bad restaurant food.
You might start cooking more of your meals at home after scrolling through the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s 2017 Xtreme Eating Awards — the “Oscars” for the unhealthiest menu items in the United States.
The Cheesecake Factory won two spots on the list of eight foods packed with a massive amount of calories, saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars.
Since Americans spend about 43 percent of their annual food budgets on eating out, about half of the food they’re consuming is prepared by someone else.
“The reality is that you have no idea what’s in that food. I like the Xtreme Eating Awards because they shed light on the actual numbers of nutrients in the meals we eat at different restaurants,” Katie Ferraro, a registered dietitian and assistant clinical professor at the University of California San Francisco, told Healthline.
Here’s how you’ll feel after gorging on three of the most extreme meals in America.
That age-old advice to start your day with a hearty breakfast didn’t consider this IHOP concoction.
Even though this meal is high in everything from calories to added sugar, it can still be difficult to know how to make decisions when dining out.
“A lot of people get overwhelmed by the numbers. If you’re going to only focus on one thing, it should be the calories. An average adult needs about 2,000 calories a day, so obviously eating all your calories in one sitting isn’t a good idea,” Ferraro said.
Consider the calories in the cheeseburger omelet meal in the context of the whole day.
“Unless you’re not eating anything else for the rest of the day, you’re automatically eating too many calories, and you’re going to have unwanted weight gain,” Ferraro pointed out.
While many of these foods are at a price point that may make you think you’re filling up for cheap, the meals are actually filling you up with way too many calories.
And these extreme meals aren’t even keeping you full for very long, according to Ferraro.
“The reality is that since there’s a lot of refined and processed carbohydrates and not a lot of fiber in these meals, you’re actually going to get hungry faster than if you ate fruits and veggies,” she said.
You’ll likely feel super full for a few hours, then crash and eat more food — even though you already consumed your calories for the whole day.
As with the omelet, if you chow down on the cheese curd bacon burger at Buffalo Wild Wings, you’ll feel overly full, sluggish, and tired — the definition of a food coma.
You might also be thirsty in the immediate aftermath of eating the heaps of sodium and protein in this meal, according to Ferraro.
“The sodium content is certainly a concern,” she told Healthline, noting that all packaged and prepared food contains a large amount of sodium.
Sodium has been found to slightly raise blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends adults consume 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day.
This burger and fries combo has two days’ worth of sodium.
On top of that, it packs in more than two and a half days’ worth of saturated fat, which can build up in your arteries and lead to cardiovascular disease, stroke, or heart attack.
Why not order a glorified milkshake topped with liquor to go with your pasta?
Although Ferraro noted that The Cheesecake Factory has come a long way in reducing the portions and calories of their menu items, she said that it is pretty unlikely that someone can afford half of a days’ calorie budget to come from liquid.
Your body also doesn’t register calories the same when you drink them, according to Ferraro. So, sipping on this cocktail isn’t the same as eating 1,000 calories of healthful food.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sets the recommended amount of daily added sugar at 50 grams, but the American Heart Association has stricter guidelines, suggesting the daily maximum is 37 g for men and 25 g for women.
The flying gorilla cocktail probably isn’t worth the crash following an immediate sugar high, anyway.
You might want to avoid the three meals above, and the other menu items that made the list like:
Chili’s ultimate smokehouse combo (2,440 calories)
The Cheesecake Factory’s pasta napoletana (2,310 calories)
Dave & Buster’s carnivore pizza (1,970 calories)
Texas Roadhouse’s 16 ounce prime rib with a loaded sweet potato, and caesar side salad (3,820 calories)
Uno Pizzeria & Grill’s ridiculously awesome, insanely large chocolate cake (1,740 calories and 168 g added sugar)
But you don’t have to avoid eating at restaurants altogether.
“I’d encourage consumers to use nutrition information to their benefit,” Ferraro shared. “Don’t let it discourage you from ever eating at a restaurant. Almost every retail chain has something moderately healthy and tasteful that you can choose.”
Still, she suggested people reframe their mindsets about eating out. Instead of eating out half your meals, try eating out one or two times per week.
The bonus, she noted, is that if you indulge in these decadent foods less frequently, you’ll actually enjoy them more.