The nonprofit Center for the Science in the Public Interest has released its annual Xtreme Eating Awards. The "winners," which appear in the group's "Nutrition Action Healthletter," include offerings from the Cheesecake Factory, IHOP and Johnny Rockets.

"It's as if IHOP, The Cheesecake Factory, Maggiano's Little Italy, and other major restaurant chains are scientifically engineering these extreme meals with the express purpose of promoting obesity, diabetes, and heart disease," said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. "You'd think that the size of their profits depended on their increasing the size of your pants."

The group objects to the cramming of calories into single meals. "Most people wouldn't sit down to eat a 12-piece bucket of Original Recipe KFC all by themselves," says CSPI. Yet The Cheesecake Factory somehow crams about that many calories into a single serving of its Crispy Chicken Costoletta."

See: Calories in restaurant menu items

The relatively benign sounding Bistro Shrimp Pasta from The Cheesecake Factory has more calories than any other entree (at 3,120), along with 89 grams of saturated fat, the nutritional equivalent, CSPI says, of three orders of Olive Garden's Lasagna Classico plus an order of Tiramisu.

The Country Fried Steak & Eggs at IHOP, a breakfast consisting of deep-fried steak with gravy, two fried eggs, deep-fried potatoes, and two buttermilk pancakes, has 1,760 calories, 23 grams of saturated fat, 3,720 mg of sodium, and 11 teaspoons of added sugar, according to the newsletter.

Area restaurants aim to make healthy eating easier

Johnny Rockets' Bacon Cheddar Double burger has 1,770 calories, 50 grams of saturated fat, and 2,380 milligrams of sodium.  An order of the chain's Sweet Potato Fries adds another 590 calories and 800 mg of sodium. The chain's Big Apple Shake—a milkshake that actually contains a slice of apple pie—has 1,140 calories, 37 grams of saturated fat, and about 13 teaspoons of added sugar. 

The full list of winners is available here.

Calorie counts will soon be required on chain restaurant menus, but the final regulations have been stalled for months, according to CSPI.

Not everyone appreciates CSPI's take on the matter. The nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom, a nonprofit organization "devoted to promoting personal responsibility and protecting consumer choices," said the Xtreme Eating Awards "is just another way to chastise the American public for occasionally indulging in life's simpler pleasures. The notorious self-proclaimed "food cops" appear to fundamentally disagree with the notion of personal responsibility in choosing what we eat."

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