May 25th, 2010
02:39 PM ET

Restaurants take calories to the extreme, report says

By Sabriya Rice
CNN Medical Producer

An estimated 67 percent of U.S. adults over age 20 are overweight or obese - and a new report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest says some popular restaurant chains are contributing to the problem.

The report awards the Extreme Eating 2010 Award  to a total of nine dishes from seven companies.  

“These chains don't promote moderation. They practice caloric extremism, and they're helping make modern-day Americans become the most obese people ever to walk the Earth," stated CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson in a press release.

The report highlights for example that a Five Guys bacon cheeseburger with a large order of fries adds up to 2,380 calories, and that P.F. Chang’s double pan-fried noodle combo, which includes beef, pork and chicken, comes to about 1,820 calories.  One meal can put a person close to – or well over – the 2000 -2500 calories  per day the USDA recommends for the average person to maintain a healthy weight.

A spokesperson from P.F. Chang’s says the nutritional information for the double pan-fried noodles combo is inaccurate. The company notes that according to the website, the dish contains only 455 calories per serving, and the serving size is for four people. However the CSPI says, that wording can often be misleading.

“One of the oldest tricks in the book is to say that a given plate of food serves X number of people,” says the CSPI. “While people do often share at Chinese restaurants it's hard to imagine four people sharing this and nothing else!”

CNN received responses from two of the other restaurant chains mentioned in the report. California Pizza Kitchen – which was cited for two dishes, including a pesto cream penne pasta that amounted to 1,350 calories before any meat was added – says it offers a wide variety of menu choices and that, most often, its pizzas are shared. “We welcome our guests to modify any of our menu items to meet their dietary needs," a company spokesman says.  Similarly, Outback Steakhouse said its chefs can customize meals, desserts and drinks to satisfy customers’ specific preferences and dietary needs. Outback says the company was among the first  to offer an online nutritional tool that “ provides [consumers] with all of the information needed to make an informed decision when placing an order.”

In fact, many of the companies in the report currently list their nutritional information right on their websites: Bob Evans; California Pizza Kitchen; Five Guys; P.F. Chang's; Outback Steakhouse; Chevys. Nutritionists say it is a good rule of thumb to check out nutrition information before heading to a restaurant. Also, the USDA and the American Heart Association  offer other useful tips for ways you can eat healthfully when dining out on their websites.

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