For years now, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has presented its annual Xtreme Eating Awards. Unlike the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest champion, winners of this extreme food award shouldn’t be proud—the list is intended to highlight the nine worst chain restaurant meals of the year based not on taste but on calories and nutritional value. “Our winners have what it takes,” CSPI boasts, “a total disregard for the obesity epidemic and the coming diabetes tsunami.”
This year’s selections include meals from Steak ‘N Shake, The Cheesecake Factory (twice!), IHOP, Sonic, Uno Pizzeria & Grill, Outback Steakhouse, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit and Red Lobster.
For some of the winners, the lack of being considered a healthy choice seems pretty obvious. Take for example Steak ‘N Shake’s meal: a 7x7 Steakburger ‘N Fries served with a Chocolate Fudge Brownie Milkshake. If you’re going to order a seven-patty burger layered with seven slices of cheese and wash it down with a shake, you shouldn’t be surprised that you just indulged in 2,530 calories. Actually, the fact that the burger portion of that meal is only 1,330 calories almost seems like a miracle of modern science.
Other entries on the list, however, are a bit sneakier. For instance, The Cheesecake Factory’s Louisiana Chicken Pasta sounds innocent enough until you see the numbers: 2,370 calories, 80 grams of saturated fat and 2,370 milligrams of sodium. “For those numbers, you could have had two Fettuccine Alfredos plus two breadsticks at Olive Garden,” says CSPI. Is that a challenge?
You can take a peek at the entire list for yourself, but the moral remains the same: Not all restaurant menu items are created equal, and it can be tough to spot which dishes may be less healthy than others. Make sure to know what you’re getting yourself into, and remember: There’s no shame in taking home a doggie bag.