Diet Friendly Dining: Are Your Extreme Favorites on the 2009 List?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
The dailySpark has previously looked at The 11 Worst Foods of 2008. Now, we bring you the 2009 Xtreme Eating Awards for some of the most loaded choices in the casual dining world.

Many of us love macaroni and cheese and know that it can be a higher fat and higher calorie meal choice when eating away from home. However, if you go to the Cheesecake Factory, you could select Fried Macaroni and Cheese Balls that are even higher in fat and calories, containing 1,570 calories and 69 grams of fat. The trend of taking already high fat, high calorie choices and making them unhealthier with large portion sizes and high fat preparation methods is becoming very common in the casual dining world.

This week the Xtreme Eating 2009 Awards came out. The Fried Macaroni and Cheese balls were on the list but what else was included?

Here are five of the 2009 Xtreme Eating winners -
  • Chili's Big Mouth Bites - Appetizer burger bites that you can share before your meal or select as an entrée. The bites provide 1,580 calories, 28 grams of saturated fat and 2,930 mg of sodium. If you choose to have this as an entrée and include fries, fried onion strings and dipping sauce, the grand total for your meal would be 2,350 calories, 38 grams of saturated fat and 3,940 mg of sodium. Talk about blowing your diet!
  • Olive Garden Tour of Italy - Homemade Lasagna, Lightly Breaded Chicken Parmigiana and Creamy Fettuccine Alfredo providing 1,450 calories, 33 grams of saturated fat and 3,830 mg of sodium. If you select a breadstick for an additional 150 calories and one serving of the Garden-Fresh Salad with dressing for an additional 350 calories, you end up with a complete meal that is just less than 2,000 total calories.
  • The Cheesecake Factory Chicken and Biscuits - This favorite comfort food provides about 2,500 calories. This would be the same as about four drumsticks and four thighs of KFC Original Recipe chicken AND five Home-Style Biscuits.
  • Applebee's Quesadilla Burger - This mixture of two restaurant favorites plus a side of fries providing a meal platter of 1,820 calories, 46 grams of saturated fat and 4,410 mg of sodium.
  • The Cheesecake Factory Philly Style Flat Iron Steak - This favorite with fries provides 1,760 calories, 30 grams of saturated fat and 3,840 mg of sodium. Select it 'Philly Style' with additional cheese sauce and it becomes 2,320 calories, 47 grams of saturated fat and 5,340 mg of sodium.

Several other items made the list as well like Red Lobster's Ultimate Fondue or Uno's Mega-Sized Deep Dish Sundae. These over sized selection are more obviously intended for a group so that the 1,490 and 2,800 calories respectively are shared. However, the other selections appear to be single serving choices that without even thinking can exceed your daily recommended intake in the blink of an eye.

Stay tuned - Next week I will review the MEAL Act and how it can help reduce the Xtreme list for 2010.

What extreme entrées do you find while dining? Why do you think so many restaurants offer these types of selections?

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Thankfully I have never ordered any of those meals but I do think that the restaurants should have to have the nutritional information posted on the menu somewhere, I do try to do research before I leave home but sometimes it's a spur of the moment thing. I know some people would get upset with the nutritional information posted in the menu because they don't care about their health and just want to eat it because it's good and don't want to think how bad it is for them. Report
Oh yeah. I ate the Quesadilla Burger at Applebee's once - the funny thing is, I thought it was a wiser choice than a regular burger because a wrap is better than a bun!

Also, the 4 mini burgers would've totally fooled me, too.

I also wish that restaurants were required to post calories on the food! Report
The premist that in todays time someone didn't know the meal was that high in calories,fat's and sugar is called DENILE.
I will admit that for years I have mentioned Cheesecake Factory as my favorite place for dessert. The pumpkin cheesecake made in season is the bomb and if I ever get near one again I'm having it and will deal with the calories later,it's just that good to me and if I have one a year I can deal with it...Chef Jim Report
Yes, the portions are large, but I wonder how many actually eat those entire portions in one sitting. I always leave a restaurant with a to-go box containing most of my meal. I love leftovers and eating out. I just try to make better choices. Report
I've worked in restaurants for nearly a decade now, so none of this is terribly surprising to me. People who are dieting, or trying to live a healthier lifestyle, should definitely be aware of this kind of information. So many people claim that they "didn't know any better" and wouldn't have eaten these foods if they'd known. We live in an age that nearly any chain restaurant has its nutrition information online - if you're going to go out somewhere to eat, DO YOUR HOMEWORK and plan the rest of your day's meals accordingly! Take responsibility for what you're putting into your body! Report
I think one can assume that anything offered at a place named "Cheesecake Factory" is going to be calorie-dense. Don't you go near that cheesecake, child!

What kills me, though, are the commercials for those gooey, crispy, cheesy treats. Ohh, me crazy in the evenings. Somehow, carrot sticks just don't satisfy when I see those ads. Report
HOLY CRAPPOLA!!! Thank God I don't eat out often! my worst thing is once every 2 weeks, we go to In & Out Burger ... and I have 1 cheeseburger and that's it! I have my own water and no fries thanx! Report
OMG, no way! I ADORE the quesadilla burger, this is terrible news! I actually googled the calorie content on this a while back and it said 500 some odd calories! I always make them leave off the fries and usually only eat half to 3/4 of the burger and take the rest home for the next day, so I thought I was staying on my plan this way. Hmmm, it's hard to believe the fries added 1000 more calories, I need to look into this. lol Report
:( I thought those lil burger bites were "not that bad". Report
The restaurants offer them because people keep buying them! There's something about "wanting to get your money's worth". So many people don't seem to care about their health.

I love to go out to eat but only if the restaurant offers a nice piece of broiled or grilled fish, rice and steamed veggies. I usually take half of it home to eat the next day. I'm getting good at eyeballing a piece of fish to see how big it is. Just last week I ordered broiled salmon and took half of it home. The next day I had enough to sprinkle some of it on top of 2 salads for hubby and me for lunch. Report
Wow, this is crazy, if you go to these places, I guess you should fast for two days prior, lol. Thank you for the info. Report
absolutely frightening.... Report
scary to say the least! Report
It is very hard to go out to eat, because no matter where you go most restaurants give you big servings of food. If your on a diet I would recommend a plain salad with light dressing on the side. Report
I never cease to be amazed at the size of restaurant portions. I avoid most restaurants in the "casual dining" designation because so much of what they make does NOT come from whole, close to the source ingredients, and after eating there, I just feel gross, even if I save 1/2 my entree for later. GROSS just barely begins to cover it. Report
As I've said for years... Restaurants want to feed you high calorie foods to get you fat, because the fatter you are, the more food you need. They're insuring future business! Friends and family have never believed me, but I stand by my suggestion. Report
Yikes! :::urp!::: Report
Your of Italy used to be my "go to" meal. Is it any wonder I had ballooned to 535 pounds!? And honestly who eats only one breadstick at olive garden? Well, I guess I do now. Report
I think its outrageous to put so much fat in one meal, the question is why??
when we order food off the menu and it sounds delicous, we then receive the meal and it is delicious but the problem is we dont know how much fat and salt is in the food. It makes you think doesnt it, the nation is getting fatter and these restaurant are not helping, flavoursome foods do not have to have so many calories. Report
I am lucky enough to live in a city filled with gourmet restaurants of all types and price-ranges. Fresh, local foods are key ingredients. I very rarely eat in one of the bigger chain restaurants, and when I do, I am always shocked. A few years ago, my husband's family invited us to go to Outback Steakhouse with them. Not only were everyone's entrees huge (I don't eat meat, and managed to get a salad and a side baked sweet potato - plenty!) but my then 13-year old sister-in-law followed her dinner with something called The Giant Fudge Mountain Cake Slide or something. Blazing Chocolate Volcano... I forget, but it was clearly the size of what I would consider half of a cake. She ate the entire thing by herself. After a steak and fries and a Bloomin' Onion, or whatever... I was flabbergasted. Report
I think there's a huge difference between someone who dines out regularly, and someone like me who *maybe* goes to a sit-down restaurant once a year. I agree that there should be healthier options, and nutrition info easily available. With fast food restaurants, especially.

But if I'm going to go out for my once a year or less dining experience, I'd order any of those items, even if I only ate part of it and brought home the leftovers. The difference for me is that a sit-down restaurant is a treat, an experience, and a big, fat laden meal once a year isn't derailing anyone's diet. If you go out for business or are dining out with family and friends on a monthly or weekly basis, I'd still have one of those items, once a year or so, and stick to their healthier options every other time. Report
Fried Macaroni and cheese balls sounds like something a vegetarian might not suffer any qualms about in consuming. The Cheesecake Factory sounds like a place a vegetarian might not have any qualms about dining at.

That's why I include meat in my diet; which is lower in calories than an equal size serving of pasta (macaroni) let alone cheese.

You're not going to lose weight by becoming a vegetarian--ever seen a skinny cow or slim elephant? They are both vegetarians (herbivores). Report
Wow that is crazy, my favorite at Chili's is the Quesadilla Explosion Salad which I am sure isn't the best choice but its a rare occasion. And well the rest I don't eat because we don't have them here in Okinawa or at least I haven't found them yet! But we have something I am sure is right up there, a place called Coco's, it has Chicken Cutlet Curry over white rice and well its best when you add cheese, delicious!! So I avoid except when I feel I can really splurge! (which is not often). Report
I've eaten a few of these things. Tonight we went to Chili's and I had a few chips with salsa (not a lot because it tastes like their salsa comes straight out of a jar and is too sugary), a cup of baked potato soup, and I ordered the Cajun Chicken Pasta. I ended up taking home 2/3 of the entree so all and all I didn't do too bad for the evening. When I am planning on going out to eat at night and know that I may go someplace like that I make sure to do really good all day and really think about what I'm going to order before I do. And I always make sure to get a to go box and put atleast half my food in it from the get go! Report
My answer on 'Why do you think so many restaurants offer these ‘extreme’ types of selections?' comes from a restaurants perspective.

My parents owned a restaurant as long as they lived and had only one simple motivation: to make customers happy and doing what they loved most; cooking and serving people. Like every entrepreneur they were filling a need.

Restaurants are not out there to make people sick or obese. People do that to themselves. I remember that most customers would ask for extra gravy or bigger portions. So my mother would adjust her recipe and menu and serve more gravy. She would make the meals fattier (more gravy/mayo), saltier (adding bacon), or sweeter (free soda), anything to please the customers. When my parents passed away, my brothers and I didn’t continue with the business. Why? We could never become that customer oriented, dedicated to service and patient as they, both, have always been. They provided a service of convenience for people who wanted to celebrate special occasions or just wanted to give themselves a day off cooking and cleaning the kitchen. There was no bad intention in creating new menus. To them these were just adjustments to meet the needs of customers. My parents listened and observed carefully and took the feedback of their customers seriously.

Since the customer has the power to change the menus into x-large servings, the customer also has the power to change it back to smaller portions by asking for less, by asking to leave the gravy or extra cheese out for example. If every consumer would do this, instead of just blaming the restaurants or avoiding dining out, the restaurants will change their menu.

I agree that information of nutrition/calories on the menu is becoming just as useful and important as mentioning the price or a meal. As a consumer we need to know if we can or are willing to afford to pay for it (with our money or waist).

If KFC is willing to no longer cling to the fried chicken - that made them famous- I am sure that other restaurants will follow. I noticed that many restaurants, already, do show the calories. Restaurants just want to fill needs and make customers happy. My dad genuinely cared and always used to say to every customer: 'you ask and we deliver'.
Never tried any of these. Thanks for the info. Report
Wow, that is just nasty. We went to Olive Garden for lunch today and I had the all-you-can-eat soup, salad, and breadsticks. I had half a bowl of minestrone and a bunch of salad with no dressing and no croutons. And of course I skipped the 150 calorie breadstick because you can't eat just one. It's possible to eat healthy when you go out but you really have to plan ahead. It would be nice if they posted calorie information on the menu! Report
I love the OIive Garden's Tour of Italy. I've been ordering it for the last 2 birthdays of mine. Good thing I am down 30 pounds(and know better) because this year I asked everybody for Gift Cards for Old Navy. Report
O.O Things like this make me SO glad I've been veggie for 10 years and vegan for 6. I can't even imagine eating that many calories in one meal! And so much meat slathered in cheese. Eek. Report
OMG!!!! Big Mouth Bites are my favorite, and I even order 2 extra Jalepeno Ranch dressing. I guess it's back to the chicken pita. :( Report
We eat out every Thursday.... do you know how many quesadilla burgers I have eaten.. good grief I should of known anything that tasted so good... couldn't be good for me. good riddance to you... my quesadilla burgers Report
so true 2009getinline - I try to eat most meals at home. On the rare occasions I go out, then its meant to indulge. That's a lot of calories and fat--WOW!!! Report
I went to an obesity class...believe it or not; on a daily basis... we DO NOT eat enough throughout the day, most of us eat less than 1500 calories. Mid week we feast because we are nutrictionally hungry and then we eat out on the weekend with family and friends. Not to mention eating snacks of chips and unknowingly high fat deserts in the evening. Dinning out has the highest fat/sugar calorie there is. Remember the basic food is batch cooked. ( 1 1/2 cup of oil per 3 servings)
This is why it tastes so good? Stay home and eat..good resturants have cookbooks for sale...try some of them at home. Report
It is really disturbing that restaurant food can carry THAT many calories. No wonder people have so many problems with eating out! It makes you never want to eat anything that has not been prepared in your own kitchen. But perhaps that's a good thing :) Report
Who eats these foods? Watch it I'm from Philly! (haha). If you WATCH how these foods were made you'd never eat again. Report
Sometimes I think most people think ignorance is bliss....but not when it comes to artery clogging foods!!! I would sure love to know that my one meal is packed with two days calories in it BEFORE I eat it! Report
I used to love Quesdilla burgers, had no idea they were that bad! I made a healthy version at home with Boca burgers, totally loved it, and it was under 400 calories. Report
My boyfriend often gets the Tour of Italy at Olive Garden, with soup and multiple breadsticks. Now he's learning to stay away from choices like that, but he still has problems with portion control. I think the best thing to do with restaurant meals like this is to have a part of it while you're out dining and then take the rest home and have it later. Then you aren't getting all those calories at once, you're splitting them up over multiple days. Report
My university switched about five years ago to all you can eat buffet-style dining for EVERY meal. Because students are required to buy a meal plan and at $9/meal, many students try to eat their money's worth. Unfortunately, instead of going for the true high ticket items (like the year round watermelon and non seasonal salad bar menu) they go after the "everything else".

Last year the dining halls changed again to one serving per trip in the line. It's supposed to decrease waste, but it does nothing for waist. The serving sizes are way too large, they don't post the nutritional info on their food, and if a student is so inclined, they just go through the line again. The dining halls are touted as healthy alternatives to what the students would otherwise eat, but there's no way some of their options would ever find their way into my kitchen. It sounds cruel, but it's almost like they're calorie-poisoning the students on purpose. Report
Maybe this should be the headline on the evening news! How can people not know the guidelines and how horrible the choices out there really are?! YIKES! Report
There are a lot of things I would not eat when going out but a lot of other people do. Mostly it has to do what their parents served them and what they ate when growing up and going out to eat. I lot of foods I've never even heard of. Report
Sadly, I know people who blame their obesity on the restaurant business and this kind of extreme food and lack of good choices and lack of info, etc., etc., etc., but the truth is out there. Pretty much everyone who can read, listen, use the internet, etc., knows the consequences of eating like this and IMO almost NO ONE would think fried macaroni balls wouldn't be an obesity producing meal (maybe ONE fried macaroni ball would be ok to taste in a lifetime but after that why would anyone eat that? :) ).

If people want this kind of food, the restaurants are going to be motivated to keep producing it and it appears people DO want this kind of food. Report
I used to to eat whatever I wanted on a menu - and my body paid for it! Now that I have been eating healthy for a while my stomach can't take fried foods or foods covered in oil or cheese. It sucks but is a good thing because it helps me make healthier choices when eating out (no more Chinese!!). But desserts are a whole nother story - I can never get enough - hello Sparkpeople :) Report
@PERKYLABGIRL816 - I agree with you! It sounds like in Oregon they are making some chain restaurants post nutrition info, but not all. I think there is some type of caveat that you only have to do this if you have x-number of chains/franchises. BUMMER!

I wish ALL restaurants had to post nutrition info...even the fancy places! Right there on the menu! I bet people would stop eating the really bad stuff and order more healthy alternatives...which would make the restaurants offer more healthy options...eventually phasing out some of that garbage.

Seriously. 1500-2000 calorie meal is ridiculous! Totally unnecessary! Report
Tanya, I get the newsletter and when I saw the extremes the restaurants go to make these dishes, you begin to wonder why? Except that Dr. David Kessler's book The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite explains why...the American desire as he puts it, for "Sugar on fat on salt on sugar on fat on salt. When will the madness stop? Report
who eats this stuff! that's just too much fat, grease, and just the thought of what it would to the body and the toxins, yuck! Report
I am much more conscious of my restaurant choices now that I know how high in calorie many meals are. Back in my "eating" days, I wouldn't think twice about eating HALF a Bloomin Onion (Awesome Blossom). Keeping in mind, that's 2,200 calories for an entire Bloomin Onion and I'd eat half as an appetizer, plus bread sticks.

Then... I'd have dinner and maybe a dessert. of course, if I ate the Bloomin Onion, I rarely ate desert. One slice of Cheesecake Factory cheesecake is at least 1,000+ per slice.

So, I figure I used to eat at least 2, 500 calories at one meal if I ate at Chilis, Outback, the Cheesecake Factory.

Who knew ? If calorie counts were listed, I would have thought twice about my choices.

Today, I don't clean my plate. If the meal is large, I take home a doggie bag. I make better choices. If I want dessert, I split one with a friend.

Still, it really is insane at how high in calorie some meals are. Report
One word GROSE !!! I have a hard enough time to lose weight as it is !!! Report
During those phases of my life where I wasn't eating healthy, I often chose restaurant items that seemed to have a bit of everything - I thought I could really get my money's worth that way and have a real treat for the tastebuds too. Now that I know better, I rarely eat at restaurants, but when I do I like to share dishes or order a simple salad. Report
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