The 9 Worst Chain Restaurant Meals

Dining Out Is In As Tax Cuts Lift Americans' Restaurant Visits
Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images
By Reem Nasr

Eating out can pack a big calorie punch, but these restaurant dishes take it to the extreme.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has chosen the winners of its annual Xtreme Eating Awards for the "worst chain restaurant meals of the year."

The results? Red Lobster, The Cheesecake Factory (CAKE) and Sonic (SONC) are the top "dishonorees," as CSPI calls them.

Red Lobster topped the list with its "Create Your Own Combination" dish. The combination of Parrot Isle Jumbo Coconut Shrimp, Walt's Favorite Shrimp, and Shrimp Linguine Alfredo, Caesar salad, French fries and one Cheddar Bay Biscuit add up to 2,710 calories and four days' worth of sodium at 6,530 milligrams.

%VIRTUAL-pullquote-This nutritional shipwreck from Red Lobster exemplifies the kind of gargantuan restaurant meal that promotes obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related diseases.%You can add another 890 calories with the Lobsterita, a 24-ounce margarita. That brings the meal's grand total to 3,600 calories.

"This nutritional shipwreck from Red Lobster exemplifies the kind of gargantuan restaurant meal that promotes obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related diseases," said Paige Einstein, CSPI registered dietitian, in the press release.

"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," she added.

In an email, Red Lobster Director of Communications Erica Ettori wrote the meal chosen for the award is "just one atypical combination" out of more than 500 possible creations "and as a result inaccurately portrays the nature of this menu item." Other calorie-laden meals to make the list include IHOP's Chorizo Fiesta Omelette, which can come with three buttermilk pancakes and syrup for a total of 1,990 calories and two days' worth of saturated fat.

Kevin Mortesen, a spokesman for IHOP, wrote in an email, "At IHOP, we're all about choice ... we offer a complete menu that includes entrees in every category that are under 600 calories, in addition to our more indulgent items. Our menus also feature tips on how our guests can control the calorie counts in their selections, if they choose."

Sonic's Pineapple Upside Down Master Blast in the large size clocks in at 2,020 calories with 61 grams of saturated fat. It also has about 29 teaspoons of added sugar.

Sonic spokeswoman Christi Woodworth told CNBC the calorie count for the drink in the report is the 32 ounce size, "which is frequently shared between friends and family" and "customers may choose from a variety of sizes." Alethea Rowe, senior director of public relations at The Cheesecake Factory, said calorie-conscious customers can choose from the chain's SkinnyLicious menu, "which is actually larger than many restaurants entire menus."

She added that "a large percentage of our guests take home leftovers for lunch the next day."

The Food and Drug Administration's rules that require calories to be listed on chain-restaurant menus should take effect in December. CSPI recommends consumers order from "light" menus at these restaurants when possible.
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