Warning: The following article and the facts contained therein may cause you to run from your next fried, cheese-smothered, potato-stuffed meat platter in a frenzy of fear and self-loathing.
Menus at chain restaurants across the country are filled with meals possessing enough calories and fat to surpass or come alarmingly close to the daily intake recommended (about 2,000 cal) by the USDA’s official Dietary Guidelines. We’ve uncovered ten of the most fattening dishes. These dishes either had the highest calorie count on the restaurant's menu, or in the case of one or two selections, were in second or third place with a sensational sounding name or contained a particularly epic combination of unhealthy components. Calorie and fat counts testify that sometimes, extra ranch dressing is too much of a good thing.
It may come as no surprise that a bacon-wrapped burger topped with deep-fried strips of onion possesses a day’s worth of calories and triple the recommended intake of sodium. However, the appearances of some dishes can be deceiving. Ruby Tuesday’s Chicken and Broccoli Pasta possesses one of the highest calorie counts on its menu despite its seemingly healthy ingredients. And it is not uncommon to find salads with more than 1,000 calories.
This confusion may change soon. The FDA is beginning to require chains to post calorie counts on their menus. Some cities, like New York, have already implemented such laws, even though some research shows that public nutrition information may not influence customer choice.
Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition at New York University and author of "What to Eat," agrees that the proposed law “does [have the potential to change consumer choice], but needs time to settle in before deciding how well it works.” Many chains have already gone public with this information on their web sites, but others like T.G.I. Friday’s or The Cheesecake Factory continue to mask their menus in dietary secrecy.
So the next time you slide into your local restaurant’s vinyl booth and consider ordering that platter of chicken tenders topped with sirloin, remember this list of dishes to veer away from. We’ve also provided you with healthier alternatives on each menu so that you still have room for breakfast the next day. Then again, maybe you're looking to make weight and you need to pack on a few pounds. Who needs breakfast anyway?
This article was originally published on April 24, 2011.