It's that time of year again where the Center for Science in the Public Interest -- a nutrition and health-conscious consumer advocacy group -- hands out its annual Xtreme Eating awards. No, these are not awards you'd proudly display on a shelf.
While the Xtreme Eating awards sound like an accomplishment related to swallowing 71 hot dogs in 10 minutes, they're actually given out to various fast food and chain restaurants for their astoundingly unhealthy menu items. As the CSPI explains, a typical day's worth of food should be around 2,000 calories (with variations, of course, depending on your height and lifestyle), but some of the dishes "honored" this year easily clock in at over 2,000 calories -- for a single meal.
One highlight is the Cheesecake Factory's cinnamon roll pancakes, a decadent three-tiered pancake tower that includes a cinnamon and brown sugar swirl and frosting glaze. The pancakes have 2,040 calories, 51 grams of fat, and 137 grams of sugar, according to the organization's report. It is the Cheesecake Factory's 21st dish to receive an Xtreme Eating award since the CSPI began awarding them in 2007.
Though the Cheesecake Factory is a well-known veteran to the CSPI, this year's awards also include several first time winners. One of these potentially surprising so-called honorees is Jimmy John's, the sandwich chain famous for super-fast subs. Jimmy John's Gargantuan sub is 16 inches long and contains a medley of salami, roast beef, capicola, and turkey stacked with cheese and saturated with oil and vinegar. The entire sub is 2,190 calories and gets first place for being the saltiest winner with 7,720mg of sodium.
Another first time awardee is Cracker Barrel for its Country Boy Breakfast. The platter contains three eggs, grits, a hashbrown casserole, and fried apples with the diner's choice of sirloin steak, ham, or pork chops. Biscuits, gravy, jam, and butter are all included as well, totaling 1,530 calories, 25 grams of saturated fat, and 4,730 mg of sodium.
Some of this year's winners aren't actual meals at all. Dubbed the "Disaster Shake" by the CSPI, Sonic's Oreo and peanut butter Master Shake rings in at 1,720 calories for a 32-ounce size. Eating this, according to the CSPI, would be equivalent to downing "15 Oreos blended with half a cup of lard."
Two out of three American adults and one out of three children and teens are overweight or obese, and CSPI continues to tackle these growing numbers with educational initiatives, including the Xtreme Eating awards, which poke fun at restaurant chains while highlighting the absurdity of knowingly serving drastically unhealthy foods.
“Pancakes with syrup or cheeseburgers are never a health food, but it seems like The Cheesecake Factory, Chili’s, and other chains are trying to outdo each other to make them worse,” said CSPI Senior Nutritionist Lindsay Moyer in the Xtreme Eating award's announcement. “With a third of our calories eaten away from home, restaurant meals warp our perspective of what constitutes a normal serving, and contribute to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems.”
We'd be lying if we didn't say that cinnamon roll pancakes sound completely up our alley, however.