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Shrimp may sound healthy, but how can a shrimp-based meal pack on more calories than eating a whole bucket of fried chicken, plus four servings of mashed potatoes and gravy and four servings of lavishly buttered corn too?
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When it’s fried up and heavily salted, the Center for Science in the Public Interest says. The group’s taken on Red Lobster, the Cheesecake Factory and IHOP in its annual “Xtreme Eating” awards, which expose outrageously fattening restaurant foods.
“Red Lobster's ‘Create Your Own Combination’ delivers 2,710 calories, and four days' worth of sodium (6,530 milligrams), if you choose the Parrot Isle Jumbo Coconut Shrimp, Walt's Favorite Shrimp, and Shrimp Linguine Alfredo to go with the Caesar salad, French fries, and one Cheddar Bay Biscuit,” CSPI says in its statement.
“But wait, there's more!” it adds.
“Wash down that combo with the Lobsterita—the chain’s trademarked 890-calorie, 24-ounce margarita—and the meal reaches 3,600 calories, enough calories for today and most of tomorrow.”
No one who orders the meals pilloried by CSPI expects a low-calorie, healthy option. But the group says the meals featured in its Xtreme Eating awards go above and beyond in helping add to the more than 67 percent of Americans who are overweight or obese.
These meals are not only off the charts in terms of calories and fat, but they are also laden with salt, which can make people’s blood pressure shoot up.
"This nutritional shipwreck from Red Lobster exemplifies the kind of gargantuan restaurant meal that promotes obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related diseases," CSPI registered dietitian Paige Einstein said in a statement.
"If this meal were unusual, that would be one thing, but America's chain restaurants are serving up 2,000-calorie breakfasts, 2,000-calorie lunches, 2,000-calorie dinners, and 2,000-calorie desserts left and right. Abnormal is the new normal."
Red Lobster says CSPI is being misleading.
“CSPI’s Xtreme Eating Awards home in on just one atypical combination and as a result inaccurately portrays the nature of this menu item,” red Lobster’s spokeswoman Erica Ettori said in a statement.
“CSPI was dishonest when they neglected to reference other possible combinations, guest choice and the lighter options available. Guests can create a combination that has significantly lower nutritionals.”
Her examples: “Create Your Own Combination withSteamed Snow Crab Legs, Seafood Stuffed Flounder, and 7 oz. Peppercorn Grilled Sirloin with a Garden Salad and a side of steamed broccoli. This meal has 620 calories, 6 g saturated fat and 2,370 mg sodium.”
An option with salmon, shrimp and broccoli has 720 calories, but, like the first choice, also has more than a day’s worth of sodium. The American Heart Association recommends getting 1,500 mg a day and federal government recommendations say people should stop at 2,300 mg.
CSPI also “outs” IHOP's Chorizo Fiesta Omelette. “On its own, the omelette, ‘loaded with spicy chorizo sausage, roasted peppers, onions & pepper jack cheese, then topped with a citrus chili sauce & sour cream and served with a fresh grilled serrano pepper,’ has 1,300 calories,” CSPI says.
“But it comes with three buttermilk pancakes (or hash browns, toast, or fruit). With pancakes and four tablespoons of syrup, this breakfast has a day's worth of calories (1,990) and two days' worth of saturated fat (42 grams).”
The Cheesecake Factory is a favorite target of CSPI and this year is no different. “Louisiana Chicken Pasta from The Cheesecake Factory is ‘parmesan crusted chicken served over pasta with mushrooms, peppers, and onions in a spicy New Orleans sauce.’ At 1½ pounds, this plate from the Xtreme Eating mainstay has 2,370 calories (more than a day's worth), 80 grams of saturated fat (a four-day supply), and 2,370 mg of sodium,” the group says.
“It's the equivalent of two orders of Fettuccine Alfredo plus two breadsticks at Olive Garden.”