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Local Chain Restaurants Earn Dubious Distinction

Two chains with Redondo Beach locations find themselves on the Center for Science in the Public Interest's "Xtreme Eating 2013" report.

Redondo Beach residents who are watching their waistlines may want to avoid a couple of chain restaurants with locations in the beach city, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest's "Xtreme Eating 2013" report.

Released earlier this month, the report claims that "extremism (is) running amok at America's restaurant chains." Two of the worst offenders? The Cheesecake Factory (which has a location in King Harbor) and Johnny Rockets, located in the South Bay Galleria.

"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," CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson said in a statement. "You'd think that the size of their profits depended on their increasing the size of your pants."

The Cheesecake Factory, a restaurant so known for its large portions that it suggests people either share the dishes or take them home, has two dishes on the CSPI's list—Bistro Shrimp Pasta and Crispy Chicken Costoletta.

The Bistro Shrimp Pasta, described as "crispy battered shrimp, fresh mushrooms, tomato and arugula tossed with spaghettini and a basil-garlic-lemon cream sauce," has more calories than any other item on the Cheesecake Factory menu, including the fettuccini Alfredo and the famous cheesecakes.

The Bistro Shrimp Pasta has 3,120 calories—enough for a day and a half—as well as 89 grams of saturated fat and 1,090 milligrams of sodium, according to company headquarters.

The Crispy Chicken Costoletta isn't much better, healthwise. Though the chicken breast that is "lightly breaded and sautéed to a crisp golden brown" has fewer calories—2,610—and the same amount of saturated fat, it offers 2,720 milligrams of sodium.

"Think of the Crispy Chicken Costoletta as an entire KFC 12-piece Original Recipe bucket (2,550 calories), except that the KFC has less than half the (saturated) fat," writes the CSPI.

The restaurant does offer its "SkinnyLicious Menu," which contains apparently healthier items like salads, lettuce wraps, sandwiches and more; however, the restaurant does not make nutritional information for the menu readily available on its website.

According to the CSPI, the Cheesecake Factory has made more appearances on its "Xtreme Eating" lists than any other chain, with eight appearances on four lists.

Johnny Rockets' Bacon Cheddar Double may have fewer calories than Cheesecake Factory dishes mentioned previously, but it's got more sodium. The cheeseburger, which consists of a "white-flour bun stuffed with two one-third-pound beef patties, four slices of cheddar cheese, four strips of bacon, and a 'special' sauce," has 1,770 calories, 50 grams of saturated fat and 2,380 milligrams of sodium.

Combined with the 590-calorie Sweet Potato Fries and the 1,140-calorie Big Apple Shake—which adds a slice of apple pie to a standard milkshake—it's like eating three Quarter Pounders with Cheese, a large fries, a medium McCafe Vanilla Shake and two baked apple pies from McDonalds, according to CSPI.

For reference, a typical adult on a 2,000-calorie diet should get no more than 20 grams of saturated fat and 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day.

CPSI senior nutritionist Jayne Hurley advises consumers to skip appetizers and dessert, and split an entree.

"If there is a healthy, light or diet section of the menu, order off of that," she told USA Today. "You'll get fewer calories, but there's no guarantee you'll get less sodium."

According to National Restaurant Association Director of Nutrition Joy Dubost, "Restaurants provide an array of menu options, including a growing selection of healthful menu options.

"In fact, the National Restaurant Association's 2013 Restaurant Industry Forecast shows that over 85 percent of adults say there are more healthy options at restaurants than there were two years ago."

Neither Johnny Rockets nor the Cheesecake Factory have been recognized by the Blue Zones Project, formerly known as the Vitality City initiative, with a restaurant certification. To achieve Blue Zones Certification, restaurants must make it easier for people to choose healthy options.

CLaude Todoroff January 30, 2013 at 06:16 PM
If you only go to these places on special occasions like your spouse's birthday or for Mother's Day what is the harm?

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