When it comes to portions, no one does it better than the Yanks.
America has always been known for giving its rotund population more bang for their buck – and increasingly so.
In the last 25 years, the average serving size in any given establishment has doubled or tripled. Bagels are now six inches wide, not three; a medium bag of popcorn is 11 cups, not five; and a soda is 20 ounces not 6.5.
But some are pushing the limits – and our belt buckles – to new frontiers.
One again, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has published its annual Xtreme Eating Awards, honoring (or shaming, depending on your viewpoint) the most calorific meals in the United States.
‘Each of these restaurant items manages to cram in close to a day’s calories, often accompanied by at least a day’s saturated fat, sodium, or added sugar,’ write Lindsay Moyer and Bonnie Liebman of CSPI in their presentation of the awards, published this week.
‘That’s not easy. After all, a typical restaurant entrée has “only” about 1,000 calories. That’s one reason why “only” two out of three adults and one out of three children or teens are overweight or obese.
‘But these dishes go the extra mile…just so more of us can start looking for extra-large-size apparel. Bravo!’
This (left) is the 2,510-calorie Honey-Chipotle Crispers & Waffles from Chili’s. To come close to matching it in calories and fat and sodium, you would have to eat five Krispy Kreme glazed donuts with 30 McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets and five packets of barbecue sauce (right)
HOW MANY CALORIES SHOULD WE BE EATING?
WOMEN who are sedentary can eat the following number of calories a day:
Age 5 – 10: Around 1,400 calories
Age 20 – 25: Around 2,000 calories
Age 25 – 50: Around 1,800 calories
Age 50 – 80: Around 1,600 calories
If they start doing moderate exercise they can eat and extra 200 calories a day on top of these values.
If they become very active they can eat an extra 400 calories a day.
MEN who are sedentary can eat the following number of calories a day:
Age 10: Around 1,400 calories
Age 20 – 40: Around 2,400 calories
Age 40 – 60: Around 2,200 calories
As with women, men who do moderate amounts of exercise can eat an extra 200 calories a day on top of these values.
And very active men can eat between 400 and 600 extra calories.
Compared to previous years, the list is not as saturated with chillingly unnatural combinations (a marshmallow steak dinner won one of the accolades in 2017).
However, each one totals around the total daily calorie limit of 2,000 – or more – including some which are deemed ‘snacks’.
Most of them also exceed the daily limit of 2,300mg of sodium, 20g of saturated fat, and 50g of added sugar.
First up, is the 2,730-calorie breakfast burrito from the Cheesecake Factory – which wins the award for ‘Worst Way To Start The Day’.
The dish, a ‘warm tortilla filled with scrambled eggs, bacon, chicken chorizo, cheese, crispy potatoes, avocado, peppers and onions, over spicy ranchero sauce, served with sour cream, salsa and black beans,’ has 73g of saturated fat (almost four times the daily limit) and 4,630mg of sodium (more than double the daily limit).
According to CSPI’s calculations, it is the equivalent of eating seven Mcdonald’s Sausage McMuffins in one go.
Next, we have the 2,040-calorie Vampire Taco Combo at Yard House.
It comes with two tacos – 440 calories each, on account of their filling of pork, ‘bacon chorizo’, cream sauce, guacamole, and grilled cheese shell. On the side, diners are served a pile of spicy rice and pinto beans that totals 610 calories.
To top it off, they are served a ‘half yard’ of IPA.
Moyer and Liebman write: ‘Now we’re measuring alcohol by the yard? And drinking beer by the quart?’
The meal is equivalent to nine Taco Bell beef tacos and three cans of Budweiser.
This (left) is the 2,040-calorie Vampire Taco Combo at Yard House. The meal is equivalent to nine Taco Bell beef tacos and three cans of Budweiser (right)
Yard House’s Taco Combo: Here is the nutritional information for the calorific meal
The 2,240-calorie Double SmokeShack (left) comes with fries, a malted peanut butter shake, and the bells and whistles of an extra special burger: two patties, cheese, smoked bacon, cherry pepper, and ‘ShackSauce’. The closest equivalent would be three McDonald’s Quarter Pounders with Cheese and three McDonald’s Vanilla Cones (right)
Then, comes the ‘snack’: a 1,920-calorie pretzel. The nine-inch-wide Bavarian Legend Soft Pretzel from cinema chain AMC falls just shy of the daily recommended amount of calories, and of the 20g saturated fat limit (with a modest 15g), but maxes out your sodium levels, with 7,600mg (more than triple the limit).
As CSPI points out, it’s equivalent to six Auntie Anne’s Original Soft Pretzels.
No Xtreme Eating Awards list would be complete without a pizza, and The Cheesecake Factory does not disappoint with its 1,870-calorie Chicken Parmesan Pizza Style.
The cheesy pizza is covered in breadcrumbs, chicken breast, marinara sauce, more cheese, angel hair pasta, and Alfredo cream sauce.
It has 55g of saturated fat (almost triple the daily limit) and 3,080mg of sodium (just over the daily limit).
Four pieces of fried chicken and four biscuits from Popeye’s would be about the same.
The Cheesecake Factory appears twice on the list: first with its 1,870-calorie Chicken Parmesan Pizza Style (left), second with its 2,730-calorie breakfast burrito (right)
The next on the list is the 2,510-calorie Honey-Chipotle Crispers & Waffles from Chili’s.
Crispers (battered fried chicken) are served atop Belgian waffles, with bacon jalapenos, ancho-chile ranch dressing, fries, and honey-chipotle sauce.
It overspends your saturated fat allowance significantly with 40g of it, plus 4,480mg of sodium (almost double the limit). This is the only savory category that also earns an added sugar listing, with 105g of added sugar (more than double the limit).
To come close to matching it in calories and fat and sodium elsewhere, you would have to eat five Krispy Kreme glazed donuts with 30 McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets and five packets of barbecue sauce.
For this year’s dessert, BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse takes the top spot, with its 1,580-calorie Peanut Butter S’mores Pizookie
Uno Pizzeria & Grill presents diners with a trough of Deep Dish Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese, totaling 2,320 calories, 59g of saturated fat, and 4,530mg of sodium
For this year’s dessert, BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse takes the top spot, with its 1,580-calorie Peanut Butter S’mores Pizookie.
It’s a pizza-sized triple chocolate cookie, topped with peanut butter, marshmallow fluffy, marshmallows, and vanilla ice cream.
That contains 31g of saturated fat and 135g of added sugar.
It’s not even equivalent to a 14oz tub of Haagen-Dazs Chocolate Ice Cream – you’d have to add two cups of marshmallow fluff.
Next, there is a pasta dish that is equivalent to three servings of Olive Garden’s Cheese Ravioli, which is hardly known for its slimming qualities.
Uno Pizzeria & Grill presents diners with a trough of Deep Dish Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese, totaling 2,320 calories, 59g of saturated fat, and 4,530mg of sodium.
It contains penne with three types of cheese – ‘aged cheddar’, parmesan and romano – plus buffalo chicken, all baked together.
‘You can’t beat deep dish for building deep belly fat,’ Moyer and Liebman conclude.
This year’s ‘snack’ is a 1,920-calorie pretzel. The nine-inch-wide Bavarian Legend Soft Pretzel from cinema chain AMC falls just shy of the daily recommended amount of calories
Lastly, there’s the ‘Worst Revival Award’. This goes to Shake Shack’s take on a ‘classic’.
The 2,240-calorie Double SmokeShack comes with fries, a malted peanut butter shake, and the bells and whistles of an extra special burger: two patties, cheese, smoked bacon, cherry pepper, and ‘ShackSauce’.
The fries are 420 calories, the burger 930, and the shake a whopping 890.
As Liebman and Moyer point out, it contains many of the things chastised for exacerbating America’s obesity epidemic: white bread, red meat and sugar.
Beyond the calories, it contains 55g of saturated fat, 3,170mg of sodium, and 42g of added sugar.
The closest equivalent would be three McDonald’s Quarter Pounders with Cheese and three McDonald’s Vanilla Cones.