People like to say that bigger is better, but when it comes to the foods we eat, that old adage is anything but true.
We know that eating less means smaller waistlines – we hear it on the news almost every night - but we live in a world where one chef decided that a turkey wasn’t enough, so they created the turducken (a chicken stuffed into a duck stuffed into a turkey), while another “thoughtful” chef took that overkill to desserts and dreamed up the cronut, an unnecessarily-decadent dessert that takes the butter-laden croissant, tosses it into the deep fat fryer and douses it with powdered sugar.
With the holidays just around the corner, most of us begin worrying about the few extra pounds we’ll gain before we start making those New Year’s resolutions, but the dietary dangers aren’t really lurking behind the holiday turkey and glazed pork.
The real culprits are ones that are hiding in plain sight, not in grandma’s famous mincemeat pie or Aunt Sally’s chestnut stuffing, but on the menu of your friendly neighborhood restaurant. Yes, the same places where you order meals that sound absolutely benign like grilled chicken and avocado sandwiches, only to find that something in that sandwich packs as many calories as the burger you skipped in an effort to try be healthy.
Not only that, restaurants worldwide are taking indulgence to the extreme, serving up portion sizes that are growing about as fast as our waistlines. Since experts say the obesity crisis has now surpassed hunger as a global concern, these culinary sins are all the more disgraceful.
Of course, some of us have yet to get the memo, and don’t recognize dining out to be the trek through a warzone of dietary landmines that it actually is. We see a food item advertised on television or on billboards, and no matter how sordid the descriptions, we fall for it, ignoring the dangers and diving right in.
According to researchers, we tend to underestimate the calories we consume in restaurant meals by as much as 600 or so, meaning that as those pounds sneakily creep up, we plead ignorance about where they came from, perhaps blaming poor Aunt Sally and her stuffing when we should be looking in the mirror to see who’s actually to blame.
Our diets are the main reason for elevated obesity, heart disease, cancer and stroke, making it high time we reconsider ordering the nutritional nightmares that are found on our menus. So we thought about introducing the Nutritional Darwin Awards.
The following are some of the worst offenders:
Bistro Shrimp Pasta, The Cheesecake Factory, USA
While this restaurant chain has likely gotten a boost in clientele thanks to its prominent placement on “The Big Bang Theory,” that doesn’t absolve the restaurant of a menu that still offers calorie bombs such as the bistro shrimp pasta. While it sounds healthy, it offers the most calories of any menu item at the Cheesecake Factory, clocking in at 3,120 calories and 89 grams of fat, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
The Cheesecake Factory is also responsible for a grilled chicken and avocado sandwich that has more calories than the McDonald’s Big Mac, so tread carefully at this restaurant, and consider ordering from the light options that are now offered on the menu, likely because it has landed on the CSPI’s list one too many times.
Chocolate Thunder from Down Under, Outback Steakhouse, Australia
With 1,554 calories and 105 grams of fat, this behemoth of an ice cream sundae should be shared between at least a table for four.
But like the oversized Road Train Burger and fries at Australia’s Nindigully Pub, most likely you’ll try to take it on yourself, and if you’ve already eaten an actual meal, you probably won’t be able to eat again for another day or so.
The sundae features a brick-sized brownie topped with scoops of vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and a river of chocolate sauce, along with 1,554 calories and 105 grams of fat.
You’d practically have to walk half a marathon to wear off those calories, so you might want to think twice, even if you plan to share it with a friend or two.
Pretty Much Anything at the Heart Attack Grill, Las Vegas, USA
Even if you’re feeling lucky, it’s a real gamble to choose the Heart Attack Grill for any meal while visiting Sin City.
The restaurant has the dubious honor of holding the Guinness World Record for the burger with the most calories, and three different owners have dropped dead while at the restaurant’s helm, suggesting that there’s nothing healthy going on at the back of the house.
The theme restaurant features a simple menu of burgers and fries, but it’s the size of the burgers, including the ‘quadruple bypass burger’ – four hamburger patties topped with cheese between sesame-seed buns that comes with a free wheelchair ride – and ‘flatliner fries’, that’s the real problem.
English breakfast, Mario’s Café, Westhoughton, Bolton, UK
There are restaurants across the globe that promise a free meal if you’re able to finish gigantic servings in a short amount of time, but this morning meal might take the cake.
The record holder for the largest English breakfast according to Guinness World Records, it includes 10 sausages, 10 eggs, 10 rashers of bacon and five black puddings, served alongside piles of beans, mushrooms and tomatoes as well as 10 slices of toast.
The platter comes in at 5,000 calories – twice the daily limit for the average man – and has a string of customers who’ve tried and failed to finish the platter.
Double Down Burger, KFC
Introduced in Australia as a perfect sandwich for bonding with between blokes, this beast of a burger thankfully skips the actual beef, but that doesn’t make it any more heart healthy.
In addition to bacon, cheese and KFC’s “special sauce,” the burger also skips the bun, and replaces the bread with two pieces of deep-fried fried chicken.
Called “horrifying” by nutritionist Dr. Rosemary Stanton, the gargantuan burger features 2,515 calories and 35 grams of fat, meaning you could eat 10 standard McDonald’s hamburgers (252 calories each) instead.
Stonner kebab, Ruby Chip, Glasgow, UK
This sausage on a stick comes with a warning – it’s so bad for your health that the owner Saei Sangag only allows customers to eat one a week, a notice he posts in his window, presumably to not only draw attention to his gut-buster of an offering, but also as a way to protect customers from themselves and the temptations of multiple deep-fried meats.
The kebab starts with pork sausage, then is wrapped in shaved doner (also known as shawarma), dipped into batter and tossed into a deep fat fryer. Despite a calorie count double that of a McDonald’s Big Mac and 46 grams of fat, the shop’s owner sells about 100 a week, and has no shame about it.
“They are flying out of the fryers,” he said in an online interview. “Everyone loves going to the chippy and I was trying to think of something new.”
Of course, nutritionists like Michael Lean, a professor of human nutrition at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, are appalled
“This type of thing leads to poor health,” Lean said. “It doesn't take a lot of common sense to see that it is a stupid thing to be producing.”
Deep-Fried Mars Bars, the Carron Fish Bar, Scotland
While this deep-fried decadence has been around for 20 years, it has led to a flood of other deep-fried nightmares, so the Carron Fish Bar has to hold a place of dubious honor for kicking off the deep-fried sweets bandwagon.
From a single guilty pleasure – so decadent that the Mars company has written to the bar’s owners warning them that the fatty outcome is not the image their candy bar company wants to project – the craze has grown, leading to a wide range of food items that didn’t need to be deep-fried to be nutritionally deficit. That includes such county fair fare as deep-fried Twinkies, deep-fried Oreos and believe it or not even deep-fried butter – a grease and calorie bomb that features a slab of butter on a stick, rolled in sweet batter and plunged into hot oil.
So while you’re sitting down for dinner with your family and loved ones these holidays, enjoy your food and be merry because there’s a good chance (hopefully) that you won’t be eating anything from the list above!