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.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.

soundoff (122 Responses)
  1. Lincoln Brigham

    The CSPI uses the epitome of junk science to promote politically correct viewpoints. Just because something SEEMS like it would make people fat doesn't mean it is so.

    So what if one meal can put someone close to their daily intake of calories? People often eat most of their daily calories in one sitting. They've been doing that for literally millions of years. It's only in the last 30 years that there has been an obesity epidemic, but eating a bunch of calories in one sitting is nothing new. There's is no evidence that doing so is the cause of the epidemic.

    May 25, 2010 at 14:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. David Jacobson

    I agree with Lincoln. The CSPI has a history of histrionics. I take everything they say with a grain of salt. Restaurants do not need to be forced by legislation to discontinuing to offer high calorie meals. The consumer ought to be responsible to select healthier options from the menu, and if more people order healthier, more restaurants will offer healthier meals. This world is run on supply and demand. No one wants to be told by legislated laws what to eat.
    A more positive and socially palatable way to reduce obesity in this country would be through an elementary education system that includes not only how to make healthy food choices and portion sizes, but how important sustained physical activity is for a healthy lifestyle.

    May 25, 2010 at 15:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Daniel

    Lincoln and David are missing the point. The article is showing us how devious and misleading a meal on a menu can look. I would have never guesses any of those were as fattening as they were, nor as high in sodium; from the image and the ingredients. I think that we as consumers shouldn't be forced to eat healthy, yes, but I do think the nutritional facts should be posted accurately in their menu or a side menu upon request. It shouldn't be our duty to look up every meal's nutritional facts beforehand. When I choose to go to a restaurant, it's not planned, it's usually picked out of all the possible restaurants to go to since I live with a family of three others. With this information, I will now most likely not eat out, or if at all, a small salad.

    May 25, 2010 at 16:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Bernard Devascheaux

    These menu items are a health concern that need to be regulated by the Federal Government if States aren't willing to adopt the needed legislation. The Federal Government needs to regulate the eating habits of the American people.

    May 25, 2010 at 19:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ken T.

      I disagree that anyone should have to regulate how I choose to eat. If I choose to be unhealthy that day, then it is my choice. However, no one should have to step in and prevent me from eating what I want. What if I choose to splurge one day and be healthy the other 6? If they print their calorie information on the menu great, or I can simply go on their website to look. The power is in my hands and should not be in the governments.

      September 14, 2010 at 08:38 | Report abuse |
  5. David Ridge

    I disagree with with Lincoln and David's comments on eating excess calories at one sitting. If someone eats close to their daily recommended calories at one sitting they are likely taking in a lot more calories throughout the day for an excess for the day. It is not likely someone eats a huge dinner and nothing else earlier in the day. Obesity rates are rising in the U.S., so we know people are getting fat. One reason is restaurant meals that deliver excessive calories.

    As for attacking obesity through elementary schools I am all for it. I am a citizen activist on H.R. 4870 the Healthy Schools Meals Act, which is pushing for healthier food options in school. The problem is how will they eat healthy at home if the parents aren't on board with a healthy diet?

    As for the supply and demand theory, that is true. However, people need to understand the problem before they find the solution. If you don't know obesity is an epidemic or your main dish has 1,800+ calories, which is a bad thing, why would you demand healthier meals? Articles like the one we are responding to help educate the masses so people can learn about problem diets, which may lead some to change.

    May 25, 2010 at 19:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Harry(NJ)

      Actually, folks do tend to eat one large meal per day due to their workload. Most people i know, skip breakfast work through lunch and then pig out during dinner. I would like to see a study on how bad eating this way is. I for one, am notourious for missing multiple meals and "making up" in one sitting. So I have gone days where I eat nothing or very little for Breakfast and Lunch, but raid the fridge during dinner.

      June 30, 2010 at 12:47 | Report abuse |
  6. A dose of reality

    Anybody who has been to 5-guys knows that a large french fry order is meant to be shared by at least 2-3 people.

    Also, I cannot remember the last time I went to a "large serving size" restaurant in which a person ate the whole meal. Typically, you'll eat half and bring home half in a doggy bag.

    Just because the food is on your plate doesn't mean you have to eat it - common sense people.

    May 25, 2010 at 20:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • wuzzup

      I 'm not one to be critical of people I've never met, but I'll make an exception with you...

      I look forward to the day when you're in your late 40s or early 50s, obese, with type II diabetes, fibromyalgia, degenerative disc disease, COPD, and glaucoma because you couldn't control your eating and you're in too much pain to walk a half a block...

      ...Then you will realize how negligent it is for any restaurant to serve a single plate at 2,000 cals.

      Your day will come my friend!

      August 9, 2010 at 00:45 | Report abuse |
  7. Susan

    Who in their right minds eats more than one meal a day at a restaurant, and occasionally at that? Of course if you eat one of these wonderful treats, you will not do it again tomorrow! The way to combat obesity is not by babying people and requiring restaurants to change their ways. It is to educate people and make them accountable to themselves. I LOVE sitting down to a fantastic meal with no holds barred, no worries about calories. How can you think of trying to take that away from me?

    Btw, I'm not fat!

    May 25, 2010 at 20:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Harry(NJ)

      Yes, it's almost like they are assuming that folks have the money to eat at these places each day. I love Five Guys Burgers but Five guys can be as expensive (if not more so) than eating a chain resturant like Ruby Tuesday or Applebee's. The samething for PF chang's the food their is super-expensive versus going to you typical "hole in the Wall" chinese joint.

      June 30, 2010 at 12:49 | Report abuse |
  8. Randy

    People have been eating this way for "literally millions of years"? Modern man has only been around for a few hundred thousand.
    Regardless, many people will eat whatever is put in front of them and if a dish has 2000 calories then people will eat 2000 calories. It's not up to the restaurant to monitor how people eat, but there are some ethical guidelines that should go into a restaurants decision on what to put on the menu.

    May 25, 2010 at 22:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. xxception

    Just another attempt to let the nanny government take care of you because you aren't capable of it. Sheesh.

    May 25, 2010 at 22:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Jeremy

    Of course if you actually attempted to consume a 5 guys Bacon Cheeseburger and large order of fries, you would need your stomach pumped. I love their fries, but you can share a large order 4 ways and still feel satisfied.

    May 25, 2010 at 23:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Jdoom

    I do not agrre with Lincoln at all. As a nutritionist and fitness coach I can tell you that eating what is considered a full days worth of calories in one sitting is a terrible idea for several reasons. Your "facts" are inaccurate to say the least. Only when humans were at there most mobil part of existance as nomads did a one or two meal system rule, and even then it was only out of necessity. People died of starvation and dehydration all the time due to this practice, but the difference lies in our total lack of exercise. Eating 1800 calories or 500 calories in one sitting has one thing in common, your going to be hungry again in 5 to 7 hours so you will in most cases eat again. the person who ingested 1800 calories only burned 3 to 4 hundred in that period on a normal day and stored the rest in unsightly places. Then they get hungry and do it again. Mix that with not eating breakfast (which is a metabolism killer) and very little exercise and you have the American recipe for heart disease.

    I very much agree with Davids thoughts on our lack of healthly living classes in public schools but the are apparently lost somewhere with the financial management courses we dont teach either.

    Just for the record Lincoln, doctors drilled holes in others brains to let evil ways escape and smoke enimas as a way to keep people from choking to death just a generation ago so having the open mind to study the real advances weve made in healthy living might just save your life. We spend so much time concentrating on making money when we should spend more time extending our happy lives.

    How much is an extra year with your grandchildren worth?
    Think about it.

    May 25, 2010 at 23:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Nate Hohman

    I concur with previous posters.

    Consider that most people do not have time for three complete meals, and a daily calorie intake of 2000 – 2500 calories depending on the person.

    With two meals, a perfectly normal person could have any of these options, with plenty of room for a second later (or earlier).

    Myself, I like a good enormo burger every now and again. These places cater to me. And my BMI is just fine.

    May 25, 2010 at 23:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. R. Williams

    It's not eating a bunch of calories in one meal that's causing a lot of obesity, it's eating a bunch of calories in multiple meals a day that's causing it. Yes, people used to eat the majority of their calories in one main meal, but that's because the other meals were much smaller, if they ate much else period. They also suffered from malnutrition that has virtually vanished from First World countries. The average American doesn't skip many meals, and if they are consuming over a thousand calories per meal, that very quickly adds up, especially with the more sedentary lifestyle we have adopted. The P.F. Chang combo isn't including any extras such as rice, appetizers, soft drinks or deserts that many people add to their meals, so the actual amount eating can, and very probably will, be much higher.

    Mr. Jacobson is very correct that we need to start early in learning not to consume so much and to exercise, but it also helps to actually know what we are eating, especially when we aren't the ones making the food.

    May 25, 2010 at 23:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Harry(NJ)

      I disagree, I gained most of my weight eating one large meal a day and was always big growing up eventhough I was always active. I walked about 3 miles a day to the Ft. Totten(DC) Metro station while in high school and played basketball with my friend, yet I weighed 260 lbs in high school. The only way I really lost any weight was when I started eating breakfast, lunch and dinner, when I went to college.

      June 30, 2010 at 12:54 | Report abuse |
  14. Patrice Williams

    Politics of the CSPI aside, even if people can consume all of their caloric needs in one setting is not the point. The point is that many of these meals do not contain the daily amount of nutrients that individuals need and are also loaded with sodium and fat, both of which lead to hypertension and heart disease. We would assume the average person is capable of making an informed decision about their meals, but with children and young adults already projected to live shorter lives than their parents and current adults far past their recommended weight, I think we can all say that so far we have been incapable of making those decisions.

    We don't believe in the government or legislation regulating our decisions, but day in and day out we continue to kill ourselves with high calorie foods, cigarettes, alcohol abuse and so on. If we can regulate cigarettes and alcohol, why not food? Perhaps you would argue smoking not only harms the smoker, but everyone around them and even alcohol when mixed with driving can be dangerous. However, I would argue obesity harms us all when we have to finance a health system to care for individuals who decide to overeat. Their choices are what has promoted this whole debate in the first place. And their lack of good choices is what leads us to vote for legislation where one sitting doesn't end us in a diabetic coma.

    Obesity has not been reduced by providing nutritional info on websites (let's face the majority of Americans can't even bother to read information unless their choice is being limited), physical education programs in schools, diet fads, the acai berry craze and so forth. We need a comprehensive nationwide plan to handle this epidemic and prevent many of us from dropping dead before the age of 60.

    May 26, 2010 at 01:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Kay from WA

    I don't believe the government should restrict how many calories a dish can contain. I do believe restaurants should be required to provide nutritional info at the restaurant though (none of this "write off and receive a guide in 6-8 weeks" stuff you get at certain places). Also, stop claiming one plate of food is four (or six or ten or whatever) servings. Give the total for THE WHOLE PLATE, if people want to divide it up they will. Who ever heard of eating a quarter of a cookie as a 'serving'?

    May 26, 2010 at 01:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. yeah right

    sure, blame everyone but yourself, you know what, every fast food joint just as well as every grocery store have billions of calories in their servings, respectively foods they sell, what stops each individual to buy & eat only what fits their personal need, desire, etc. Why in the name do we need everything served on a golden plate for us, .. we are a nation of robots expecting the goverment to make all of our choices, suing everybody for our own failures and NEVER taking responsibilities, shame on us, no wonder this great nation is going down

    May 26, 2010 at 02:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. I love fresh food

    While I agree that some people only eat 1 meal a day, this probably is not the norm in the US. Most peopleeat more than 1 meal a day, and so if you're meeting your quota at meal #1, then you are obviously going to consume more calories when you have meal #2 and #3.

    Also while getting all of calories from one sitting, may not be unhealthy de facto, the meals described in the article are such high carbohydrate loads, that they make the pancreas almost explode as it tries to put up with the demand for insulin, and then comes diabetes, and then comes obesity.

    May 26, 2010 at 03:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Marsha

    Americans are obese because they just keep shoving more and more food into their faces from a younger and younger age. Fat babies make fat adults, and, apparently for America, the fatter the better! Restaurants need to moderate the fat, salt, and butter to be sure, but people need to stop ordering the bacon cheeseburger with large fries too! Exercise should also be something that people DO instead of talk about. A serious look needs to be taken at the growth hormones being injected in almost all of our meat, and the long-term permanent effects of hormone birth control and therapies. These four factors are the primary culprits for our mass problem, and it is in our power to take care of the first two. The government needs to get out of bed with the meat and pharmaceutical companies and take care of the last two! It's not a medical epidemic, it is a crisis of will power...

    May 26, 2010 at 03:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Tanya Miracle

    It's easy enough to split your restaurant meal in half when it arrives, and take half home for the next day. After taking a few years off eating at restaurants practically every day, I found there was NO WAY I could eat everything on my plate like I used to anyway.

    May 26, 2010 at 05:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Kurt

    Yes consumers SHOULD be able to make good health decisions themselves. But since over 2/3 of adult Americans are fat (yes I refuse to be politically correct on this term), they obviously are not capable of this feat. People who CHOOSE to be overweight (yes it is a choice, < 1% of people are fat because of a 'glandular disorder) should not be coddled and given special rights.

    May 26, 2010 at 05:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Tom Scholz

    I think Mr. Brigham and Mr. Jacobson must both work for these restaurants or have some other vested interest in tempting people with this junk food, because there is no way to defend eating these types of meals. I'm not saying that restaurants can't offer them - in fact, knock yourself out. Double, triple the calories in these useless food inventions. What do I care? I'm extremely disciplined, run 5 days a week, and eat ultra-healthy. For Mr. Brigham to defend these meals on the basis that we've been eating single high-calorie meals for millions of years is to deny reality: that is, nobody, save Herschel Walker, eats only one meal a day. Even if somebody did, these meals are nutritionally deficient. Can you go out at eat them once in a while? Of course. But nobody does. People in the US go out and eat this junk several times per week. But, again, what do I care? Eat yourselves into oblivion.

    May 26, 2010 at 06:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Athena

    Wow, is it even worth publishing and spreading such ignorance without noting it as such? The CSPI sounds pretty ignorant. "One of the oldest tricks in the book" ??? If you're not sharing dishes at a Chinese restaurant, you are eating it wrong and it will certainly be unhealthy because it's not supposed to be eaten that way. That's like saying pizzerias promote caloric extremism because a whole pizza contains 5000 calories. Or that lasagne promotes caloric extremism because the whole pan contains 10000 calories. Or if you go to Thanksgiving dinner and eat the entire turkey by yourself. If someone goes into a pizzeria and eats an entire large pizza by himself, it is not the problem of the pizzeria tricking anyone by saying that the pizza is supposed to serve 8 people.

    And of course people wouldn't be eating a 455 calorie serving of noodles and nothing else! 455 calories is hardly a meal. People don't eat a serving of pizza or lasagne and nothing else either, but it is the main part of the meal. Sheesh.

    May 26, 2010 at 06:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Jon

    I am forever amazed that groups like the CSPI feel necessary to tell people how to live their lives. If people insist on frequenting establishments that serve 2,000 plus calorie meals it will eventually catch up to them. In Darwinian terms, we refer to this type of activity as thinning of the the herd or improving the gene pool.

    May 26, 2010 at 07:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Working on my weight

    I would like to see restaurants offer menu items in reasonable portion sizes. Keep the high calorie food, but offer it on the correct scale. The P F Chang's item would then be 455 calories when it arrived on your plate. Which is about what a normal meal should be. I am so glad these $1 menus came out at fast food places. I can now by "small" and individual items. No longer thinking that I have to buy a soda when I don't want one because it is the same price as if I bought the fries and burger (which were only offered in medium size, small was not avalible unless you bought a kids meal which also came with the drink). If you think about it within the last year fast food places have been very reseptive to both the economy and the need for smaller portions. I would like to see restaurants follow suit.

    May 26, 2010 at 07:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Phil

    The amazing thing to me is that there is no mention in this article of the customer's individual responsibility to eat sensibly. Until we accept that restaurants serve these high-calorie meals to satisfy a demand, there will be no progress on unhealthy foods. Business just supplies what comsumers ask for.

    May 26, 2010 at 07:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. bj

    a healthy meal that tastes great requires more talent than butter and salt. something lacking in all the big chains.

    May 26, 2010 at 08:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Kaelinda

    I'm sorry, but I disagree. Restaurants don't make people fat. They get that way via their own food choices. When people choose to eat foods rich in carbohydrates, as the Food Pyramid recommends, then they're bound to get fat. If you check your recent history, you'll find that the obesity/diabetes epidemic began just about the time the food pyramid changed to recommend more grains than anything else.

    May 26, 2010 at 08:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. DaveB

    Are you guys serious? Humans have been sitting down and eating this way for millions of years? Millions?

    First of all, eating your calories in one sitting is not the best thing on the planet for you. Second, if you're going to do so you might try something a little more nutritious than chinese food or a bacon cheeseburger.

    I believe people have the right to eat what they want, but I'd rather see a warning that my hamburger is injected with butter than my coffee is obviously hot.

    May 26, 2010 at 08:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Average Joe

    I think the point of the atricle was that restaurants are misleading patrons about he portion size.
    I dine out frequently, and the portion sizes have dramatically risen lately. The almost fervent obsession with large portions is not healthy.
    If restaurants started offering standard, one person portions, less people would feel the compulsion to eat the entire plate of whatever is in front of them.

    To Lincoln's point: Anyone who could eat that many calories in a single sitting is VERY unlikely to eat nothing else all day. The society that eats most of their calories in a single sitting is usually based on an active, physical lifestyle-not a drive thru society. I am confident that the vast majority of those people did not start their day with a fruit cup and ended their day with a salad.

    As the economy slips, people often look for the low cost, high volume food: Fast food, high volume portions or foods high in carbs.

    Obesity is an epidemic that affects all of us in higher medical costs(not to mention the guy next to you in the 17 inch wide airplane seat).

    The changes should happen starting at home-a trip to McDonald's or the ice cream shop should not be a reward. This association with good behavior and sugary/fatty foods becomes a learned behavior. Why do you think "comfort foods" almost always add a pound or two to your waistline?

    We should all take a few more minutes to prepare a fresh, healthy meal for us and our kids and try to avoid an eating contest to finish the family sized portions that restaurants use to intice their customers.

    May 26, 2010 at 09:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Tamara

    I agree that it's consumers that should be held accountable for their weight, and I'm an overweight/obese person. It's my own fault and no one elses. However, with that said. I would like to see something make restraunts post the calories, per item on the menu. Translating in PF Chang's Double Pan Fried Lo Mein stuff.....on the menu it would need to show that the whole dish totals 1820 calories, it would be up to them to disclose that there are 4 servings to that item when ordered. I know personally that it would make me much more aware of what I am eating, and sway me to something with fewer calories. I don't think I lot of people are aware of what they are consuming when eating out, they don't stop to think about how many calories does this have? is this healthy?...generally I think they see a menu and go mmm this sounds good....think I'll have it, and having the calories to view would be an eye opener of .....ooh this sounds good...but not that good.

    May 26, 2010 at 09:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Angel

    I just thought people eating too much and being lazy about exercise was the cause. I didn't know it was the restaurants making me go in and eat too much. Can I sue?

    May 26, 2010 at 09:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Jessica

    I think its unfair to place the blame squarely on the shoulder of restaurants. We have to be honest here and realize that we as individuals have choices and make decisions, and the fact that more often than not adults are making poor choices shouldnt be seen as the sole responsibility of restaurants that are catering to them. I routinely eat only half of ANY meal I order from a restaurant because the portions are so giant. However, I have some larger family members and I have watched them down the entire portion. If you are unaware of the portions and calories you are eating, its merely by choice and nothing else. The information is available, stop blaming everyone else for your inability to control your gut.

    May 26, 2010 at 09:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Rick McDaniel

    That's a major understatement. The restaurant industry has destroyed the health and well being of Americans, for the sake of increased profits.

    Greed is killing people.

    May 26, 2010 at 09:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Jessi

    As an elementary educator, I am compelled to respond to the posts by David and Lincoln. I am not familiar with CSPI, but I am quite familiar with public education in my state. I would LOVE to have the resources and time to teach young children about healthy choices. However, every year in my county budget cuts eliminate these options from our schools, and federal mandates lead administrators and teachers to "teach to the test" because funding depends on scores and gains. Education begins at home. Most children do not do the grocery shopping, so in order to truly teach a healthy lifestyle, parents need to learn, too. Posting calorie counts in all restaurants is a wonderful idea. The government requires most foods sold at the grocery store to have nutritional information; why shouldn't restaurants be subjected to the same standard? And, Lincoln, the foods that humans were eating "literally millions of years ago" were drastically different than what Americans eat today. That is a ridiculous comparison.

    May 26, 2010 at 09:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Harry(NJ)

      jessi, you are assumming that Mommy and Daddy will pay any attention to what is listed on the board. The food guru that ABC had in WV had to personally sit down with some parents and explain to them what they were doing to their children by feeding junk. Even last night's nightline had an obease family that did not know how bad the food is for them. They didn't know that giving their daughter Fruit Loops was like giving her a box of pure sugar to eat. McDonald's list calorie content on their cartins and wrapping paper on their sandwitches and most folks throw them away without even looking at them. I can go on and on about the lack of attention folks pay to their eating and their health. Most people see numbers and do not understand what they really mean. Most folks seem overwhelmed about the abundence of information that always seems to contridict each other. One day there is a report that says don't eat this another day there is a report that says something different. How hard is it for anyone to start tuning everything out?

      June 30, 2010 at 13:04 | Report abuse |
  35. John Davies

    Agreed. There's nothing wrong with eating a full day's worth of calories, or even two day's worth, as long as a person moderates what they subsequently consume. (Not many people can resist eating for the next two days, especially when easy to prepare, convenient, processed, delicious foods and snacks are all around us). However, most of these meals probably get their calories substantially from fat (some or most of it saturated or hydrogenated) and refined carbohydrates; very little healthy fiber and omega 3 is incorporated. Eating a variety of whole or natural foods (vegetables, nuts, and fruits included!) that contain these nutrients ensures that you are getting a balanced amount of the correct types of nutrients that early hominids most likely ate when foraging between kills. Lest we forget, early hominids, except possibly those mentioned in the Bible, apparently did not live much past the ripe old age of thirty!

    May 26, 2010 at 10:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Lora Phillips

    Sure, if people ate these menu items three times a day, every day, that adds up to a major health concern. Ideally, people would cook at home and/or make smart choices at restaurants, and use decadent items as a very occassional treat. Consumers need to educate themselves and make smart choices for themselves and their families – this is a matter of personal responsibility and choice. I try to cook mostly whole foods, prepared healthfully, for my family on an everyday basis. But don't take my once-a-year-on-my-birthday, gigantic piece of Cheesecake Factory cheesecake away from me! 🙂

    May 26, 2010 at 10:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Marie

    As someone with a BMI of 20 who often consumes 1500-2000 calories in a single meal, I certainly agree with Lincoln's comments about the teleology of the omnivorous diet. Histrionics notwithstanding, Americans are getting fatter and fatter, and consuming 2000 calories per meal 4x/day is certainly not helping.

    May 26, 2010 at 10:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Interesting

    The issue Lincoln is they will eat that many calories three or four times a day. Then go home and watch bad TV until bed time..

    May 26, 2010 at 10:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Reality

    Did the food industry pay you? We might have been eating big meals for a long time, but not this big. It is a modern American marketing gimmick to provide more food than people can eat so you can charge a little more. This is to give a perception of value. Meal sizes at restaurants are almost always larger than at home.

    The companies put calories on their websites? How convenient? The last time I checked, I don't site down at a PF Chiangs and order from their website. Most of these websites won't even work on most phones since they run Flash.

    How about these companies step up and put calories on their menus like many cities have forced them to do. Were they that concerned about customers being informed, they do so.

    "A more positive and socially palatable way to reduce obesity in this country would be through an elementary education system that includes not only how to make healthy food choices and portion sizes, but how important sustained physical activity is for a healthy lifestyle."

    That's done already. Cookie Monster even now eats vegetables. Most people in grade school aren't buying their own groceries and cooking their own meals though. We've had nutrition education for a long time and still obesity has increased.

    May 26, 2010 at 10:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Chuck McGee

    I disagree with your view only in the fact that the history you are referring to where most calories were consumed in one sitting does not include that most modern people eat more than they can use. Today most people are sedentary, in the past if you worked all day doing manual labor you may have burned 2000 or more calories and a large meal was not harmful. Today people sit all day, those huge calories counts do not get burned off. This then creates a medical crisis, the cost of health care will continue to increase and soon obesity will be the main cause of death in the US.

    Now is it the governments job to police restaurants? I think given the the obesity crisis it maybe no different than the war on terrorism.

    May 26, 2010 at 10:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. BennyBlancofromtheRock

    If you are in favor of federally funded health care you then you should be in favor of legislation on this matter because it will be the tax payers who end up paying for the choices people make.

    May 26, 2010 at 11:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Colin MacMillan

    Both of you are forwarding arguments with unsubstantiated assumptions. Why do you feel that decrying huge portions of fat-laden, calorie-loaded, preservative-carrying junk food is "politically correct"? Such empty-calorie fare has been decried by doctors, nutritionists – even your mother – for generations. You've made up a controversial charge.

    As for the argument that eating a bunch of calories in one sitting is not new, that's spurious as well. Portions have increased unbelievably since the 70s and people now accept tasteless, greasy food for multiple meals a day. Sorry guys, you're wrong.

    May 26, 2010 at 11:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Kitmao

    The problem is, Lincoln, is that people in the past didn't eat their day's worth of calories in one sitting and then eat 3-4 more good sized meals in the same day – and then not move around enough to use all that fuel.
    People have completely warped what food is. It isn't entertainment or happiness or pleasure – it is a basic requirement to life. Nothing more. We add salts, fats and sugars into our foods in alarming amounts. Basically, you're better off just not eating out period.

    May 26, 2010 at 11:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Steve

    I don't know what planet Lincoln and David live on, but here on this one no one eats just once per day – unless they live in a famine. A 1000 or 2000 calorie meal is ridiculous. And FYI, there is no way to create that many calories in a meal a human could eat in one sitting without resorting to some seriously unhealthy ingredients.

    Regardless of who delivers the message, it is true that portion sizes at restaurants have been doubling and tripling for years – they are over they top now, and clearly contribute to obesity. Next time you're shoving fat in your face a your local burger franchise, have a look at something as simple as their drink sizes. See that cup they call a small? That used to be the largest size they offered.

    It would be quite simple for most restaurants to reduce portion sizes to normal levels – and not serve people three or four servings of each dish on a single plate, along with quart glasses of heavily sweetened drinks – and be part of the solution instead of part of the problem. If people still insist on being fat pigs, they can order more food.

    May 26, 2010 at 11:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Sara

    Actually, they are NOT completely out there. My daughter is type one diabetic. She let her blood sugar get out of control for a while now that she is a teen, and wanted to be more independent and ended up in the hospital. When she came home, we had to re-train her on measuring out food, and making sure she got the correct amount of insulin for the food. You and I make insulin, and our body automatically corrects for the food you eat -until you eat too much and basically overtax your system -which is what type 2 diabetes is – your body can't keep up with the demand for insulin because your eating way too much. It's tired now, and wants to rest. -overeating is what is causing the huge jump in diabetes cases -type 2. When my daughter went to measure -you'd be shocked at how many foods you buy for home that actually contain 2 or more servings and you've been eating them as though they were made for one person. One meal should be 300-400 calories – men eat more, but with snacks, and Starbucks etc – most people are easily over their optimum daily intake. If you're eating 1300-2300 calories in just ONE meal – that's 3-4 meals worth of calories. Then add Starbucks, snacks, non-diet sodas – and that is why people are huge, and men over 30 start to look pregnant. That's a crazy amount of food. My daughter was shocked when she opened a baggy of instant potatoes and made it – she considered it ONE serving – there was actually 4! A small totinos pizza you feed your kids has TWO servings, and the package says 360 calories per serving – lots of people give the whole pizza to their kid. They just gave a child 720 calories in ONE meal. Empty calories at that. ONE slice of Little Ceasars Pizza is 300 calories! (a meal for a smaller person, 2/3 of a meal for a man) – and 30 gms of carb – that means my daughter would need 6 units of insulin for ONE slice (that's a lot) – people actually sit and eat 4-5 slices! 4 slices of pizza is 1200 calories. For people on a reasonable diet – that's your whole day.

    May 26, 2010 at 11:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Kyle

    Actually, since the passage of the health care bill (to which I am vehemently opposed) government mandated nutrition restrictions seem a perfectly natural consequence. Because the goverment is picking up the tab for medical problems, they have a vested interest to ensure that the cost is minimized through social controls. I certainly don't feel a responsibility to pay for some other person's health issues because he cannot make good choices–he should be given the liberty to do what he wants and willing to accept all the repercussions. We're supposed to be adults; capable of making our own decisions!

    May 26, 2010 at 11:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. SharkMan2

    @Lincoln Brigham: Do you have any sources to back up your claim that people typically eat most of their daily caloric intake in one meal and have been doing so for "millions of years?" The only people I've ever seen who do this are morbidly obese. The fact is, the size of restaurant portions has been steadily increasing. For example, look at the size of a "large" soda and fries at your typical fast food place compared to just 15 years ago. A large soda now might as well just be served in a bucket, it's ridiculous. Many restaurants even make a point of emphasizing their "generous portions" in their advertisements. At the same time, what people really need to learn is restraint. Instead of walking out of the restaurant stuffed, learn to ask for the doggy bag.

    May 26, 2010 at 11:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Jay

    It's safe to say most people don't know how much sodium, fat and calories they are consuming in a single restaurant meal. The entrees the article refers to look like reasonable portions, but they contain way more sodium and calories than one would expect. I don't think restaurants should be forced to change their offerings, as Lincoln and David fear, but I do think they should have to provide calorie, sodium and fat content next to menu items. To address David's point, this is the only way that people will be able to make informed decisions and order the healthier meals which in turn changes demand. Let the public have a REAL and INFORMED choice up front and at the time of purchase.

    May 26, 2010 at 12:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. GH

    This isn't simply about supply and demand. The health and nutrition market is 6 billion dollars or more? And the only answer to that "demand" is mostly unhealthy options when eating out. Or at best, misinformation about calorie and fat count since there are wide ranges in reporting those counts. I have never heard of eating 2000 calories in one sitting and not anything else for the rest of a 24 hour period. The new "Eat it now and wait a day before eating again" diet? we all know that doesn't happen.

    We're a fat country – fat is the new normal for some. Besides, who else can you blame and subsequently sue when you are overweight and have heart disease? It's not my fault I'm fat – it's those restaurants that made me do it.

    Now where's my milk shake and pack of cigarettes......

    May 26, 2010 at 12:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Rick Eichenlaub

    How many of you saying that the Federal Government should regulate what restaurants serve spent most of the day sitting behind a desk? Did you exercise today? There is nothing wrong with the occassional 2,500 calorie meal. Your complaint should be that there is not enough physical education taught in schools.

    May 26, 2010 at 12:44 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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