We’re missing a word in the English language. We need something that means both mouth-watering and nauseating. As someone who probably eats his weight in bacon annually, that was my initial response to a recent study on extreme eating by The Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Just look at “The Big Hook Up” from Joe’s Crab Shack. Its centerpiece is fried cream cheese and jalapeno-stuffed seafood and crab balls, WITH RANCH DIPPING SAUCE! And that’s not all. It also comes with fish and chips, coconut shrimp, crab stuffed shrimp, hush puppies and slaw. Can you guess the calorie count? Go ahead. Guess. CSPI sums it up nicely:
“The friedfoodaganza comes to 3,280 calories (your fill for today and half of tomorrow), 50 grams of saturated fat, and 7,610 milligrams of sodium (no more for you for the next five days). To burn that many calories, you’d have to play golf (without a cart or a caddie) for 11 straight hours.”
We’ve covered fast food in the past here at Credit.com. Why, you may ask, does a publication devoted to helping people understand their finances feel compelled to write about cheeseburgers? Well, as our reporter Christine DiGangi wrote recently, people spend a lot of money every year on things like fast food. Some even go into debt because of it:
“It’s not surprising that eating out is a common budget-killer (the most common, according to some financial advisers), and using a credit card when doing so means you could be spending more than if you were paying with cash. And if you tend to carry credit card debt from month to month, especially if it’s higher than 30% of your credit limit, you’re not really doing your credit standing any favors. (You can get an idea of your credit standing by checking your credit scores for free on Credit.com, where you can also get a breakdown of what’s influencing your credit, and a plan to improve it.)”
So the aforementioned extreme eating list — gathered from the menus of more than 200 chain restaurants — really represents a kind of a double-whammy for many of us. Not only are we eating stuff that is potentially really unhealthy, but we could also be endangering our finances as well. Nevertheless, I look at some of this stuff, and I want it. I want it bad. So, so bad.
With that in mind, here are some of the most gratuitous, horrible, wonderful entries in this year’s CSPI study, along with a few follow-up questions for the server from yours truly.
1. Bruléed French Toast — The Cheesecake Factory
“Our Extra Thick Slices of Rustic French Bread Baked and Grilled Golden Brown. Topped with Powdered Sugar and Served with Maple-Butter Syrup with Bacon or Grilled Ham.”
From CSPI: “2,780 calories, 93 grams of saturated fat (almost a full work week’s worth), 2,230 milligrams of sodium, and 24 teaspoons of sugar…. Would you eat 14 slices of Aunt Jemima frozen Homestyle French Toast stuffed with 2½ (8 oz.) tubs of Kraft Philadelphia Original Cream Cheese Spread? Well, you pretty much just did.”
From Mike: “Could I get both the ham and the bacon?”
2. The Monster Meal — Red Robin Gourmet Burgers
A.1. Peppercorn Burger, topped with “hardwood-smoked bacon, melted Pepper-Jack, A.1. Peppercorn Spread, tomatoes and crispy onion straws”; Bottomless Steak Fries; Monster Salted Caramel Milkshake.
From CSPI: “The entire Monster meal delivers almost two days’ worth of calories (3,540), 3½ days’ saturated fat (69 grams), and four days’ sodium (6,280 milligrams)… It’s like eating seven McDonald’s Double Cheeseburgers washed down with a quart of Coke. Want to burn off the calories? You’d need a 12-hour brisk walk.”
From Mike: “How long am I allowed to sit here and eat fries?”
3. “The Big Slab” of St. Louis-Style Spareribs — Famous Dave’s
A slab of ribs (1.5 lbs of meat), a corn muffin, famous fries and baked beans.
From CSPI: “2,770 calories (more than a day’s worth) and 54 grams of saturated fat seasoned with 4,320 milligrams of sodium and 14 teaspoons of sugar. That’s the calories and sat fat of a bowl of Dave’s Famous Chili plus two Georgia Chopped Pork Sandwiches with two sides of Dave’s Cheesy Mac & Cheese and a Down Home Banana Pudding.”
From Mike: N/A. (I never joke about ribs.)
4. 9” Signature Deep Dish Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza — BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse
Grilled garlic chicken, Applewood smoked bacon, jack and cheddar cheese, red onions, diced tomatoes and a drizzle of ranch.
From CSPI: “the pound of pizza dumps 2,160 calories, 30 grams of saturated fat, and 4,680 milligrams of sodium (three days’ worth) in your lap. Eating one BJ’s Small is like eating three Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pepperoni Pizzas. You’d have to pedal your bike, nonstop, for 5½ hours to burn the pizza off.”
From Mike: “Could I get the chicken fried instead of grilled?”
5. Chevys Super Cinco Combo — Chevys Fresh Mex
One beef enchilada, one chicken enchilada, one crispy or soft beef taco, one pork tamale and one chile relleno.
From CSPI: “1,920 calories, 36 grams of saturated fat, and 3,950 milligrams of sodium. You might as well eat 11 Taco Bell Crunchy Tacos. Planning on playing 3½ hours of singles tennis tonight? Didn’t think so.”
From Mike: “Is there a charge for extra guacamole?”
6. Farfalle with Chicken and Roasted Garlic — The Cheesecake Factory
“Bow-Tie Pasta, Chicken, Mushrooms, Tomato, Pancetta, Peas and Caramelized Onions in a Roasted Garlic-Parmesan Cream Sauce.”
From CSPI: “The pasta’s 2,410 calories and 63 grams of saturated fat (a three-day load) are what you’d get in five single-serve packages of Stouffer’s frozen Classics Chicken Fettuccini Alfredo, each topped with a pat of butter. (The Farfalle has “only” 1,370 milligrams of sodium, a little less than a day’s worth.) No problem. You were planning on taking a five-hour jog tonight, right?”
From Mike: “Could I get this without the pasta? I’m eating healthy these days… no carbs.”
7. The Big “Hook” Up — Joe’s Crab Shack
Fried cream cheese and jalapeno-stuffed seafood and crab balls, with ranch dipping sauce, fish and chips, coconut shrimp, crab-stuffed shrimp, hush puppies and coleslaw.
From CSPI: “The friedfoodaganza comes to 3,280 calories (your fill for today and half of tomorrow), 50 grams of saturated fat, and 7,610 milligrams of sodium (no more for you for the next five days)… If you ordered two of Red Lobster’s Admiral’s Feasts (fried shrimp, scallops, clam strips, and flounder), complete with French Fries and Cheddar Bay Biscuits, you’d get about the same calories…but less than half the sat fat.”
From Mike: “Are there free refills on the ranch dipping sauce?”
8. Prime New York Steak Contadina Style — Maggiano’s Little Italy
A New York strip with two Italian sausages, red potatoes, roasted peppers and mushrooms, caramelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes, steak jus and garlic butter.
From CSPI: “2,420 calories. The 1,250-calorie steak alone is like eating five McDonald’s Quarter Pounder beef patties. The 1,170-calorie Contadina-style “garnish” adds another four Quarter Pounder patties, with a Cheeseburger on the side. The “meal” delivers 66 grams of saturated fat (3+ days’ worth of damage) and 5,620 milligrams of sodium.”
From Mike: “Instead of the sausages, could I just get more steak?”
9. BONUS: Desert! Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake Cheesecake — Cheesecake Factory
From CSPI: “1,500 calories, 43 grams of saturated fat, and 21 teaspoons of (mostly) added sugar. To turn the calorie clock back to zero, you’d have to do aerobics for 4½ hours. It’s like eating an entire four-serving (17 oz.) Sara Lee frozen Classic Original Cream Cheesecake topped with a cup of Breyers Chocolate Ice Cream.”
From Mike: “Do you make this with the big Reese’s or the little ones you get when it’s Halloween? Because there’s a difference.”
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Images: Paige Einstein, CSPI.