A pork belly-topped cheeseburger, a sandwich stuffed with mozzarella sticks, and a 1,540-calorie slice of cheesecake were among the dishes that a health advocacy group singled out on Tuesday for over-the-top fat and sodium content.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest unveiled the group of "honorees," including Denny's Corp, Cheesecake Factory Inc, Kahala Corp's Cold Stone Creamery, and DineEquity Inc's Applebee's and IHOP.
According to the group, the typical person should limit calorie intake to 2,000 a day, as well as keep saturated fat below 20 grams (0.7 ounce) and sodium below 1,500 milligrams.
Each serving of the award-winning menu items nearly reaches, or even surpasses, these restrictions.
The dishes are mostly twists on the usual suspects of burgers, dessert and all things fried. Denny's "Fried Cheese Melt," for instance, is a grilled cheese sandwich with four fried mozzarella sticks inside. The entree amounts to 1,260 calories and 21 grams of saturated fat, not to mention 3,010 milligrams of sodium.
Applebee's "Provolone Stuffed Meatballs with Fettuccine" adds up to 1,520 calories and 43 grams of saturated fat.
The Cheesecake Factory's "Ultimate Red Velvet Cheesecake" goes beyond the usual by alternating two pieces of red velvet cake with two pieces of cheesecake, racking up to 1,540 calories and 59 grams of saturated fat. And Cold Stone Creamery's "PB&C Shake" (peanut butter & chocolate) has 2,010 calories and 68 grams of saturated fat.
Two out of three Americans are overweight, and such dishes increase their risk of obesity, diabetes, heart attacks and cancer, according to Bonnie Liebman, the center's director of nutrition.
Denny's and Applebee's both said they offered a wide variety of choices. Denny's pointed to its "Fit Fare" menu, and Applebee's to its "Unbelievably Great Tasting and Under 550 Calories" options.
Other restaurants did not respond to requests for a comment.
People often see dining out as an indulgence and a time when they do not pay much attention to their diets.
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The U.S. government is trying to push restaurants to disclose nutritional information on their menus. The Food and Drug Administration plans to issue rules requiring restaurants to list nutritional and caloric information by the end of 2011.