Xtreme Fast Food

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has released their annual Xtreme Eating Awards, and the results are predictably ugly.Red Robin, home of the Monster Burger

   Red Robin is the winner. A combination of their Monster burger, bottomless steak fries and salted caramel milkshake has 3,540 calories, 69 grams of saturated fat and 6280 mg sodium. It would take 12 hours of brisk walking to work it off. Cheesecake Factory is close behind, with three dishes that contain from 1,500 to 2,780 calories.

   It’s not exactly news that fast food isn’t good for you. If you’re a serial and unrepentant fast food customer, though, you’re probably unaware of dietary guidelines. Depending on age, build and amount of exercise, most males should be consuming 2000-2500 calories per day, with the range for women between 1600-2000. The FDA recommends no more than 2300 mg of sodium, and 1500 mg for those at risk for hypertension.

   The Red Robin and Cheesecake Factory figures make McDonald’s seem like a health food joint. A Big Mac, fries and soda come in at 930 calories and 1120 mg of sodium. Shake Shack, one of the hottest chains on the planet at the moment, is far worse. A single hamburger, an order of fries and a vanilla shake adds 1470 calories and 1620 mg of sodium, or nearly the equivalent of an entire day’s worth of food. Nor is Chipotle much better: grab a steak burrito with cheese, add some chips and fresh tomato salsa, and you’ve consumed 1180 calories and 2120 mg of sodium before indulging in a soda.

   Of course, it’s easy to pick on fast food. Many of our most glamorous dining establishments are just as bad, but we’re blissfully ignorant of the nutrition values contained in those pricey meals. Remember the exclusive luncheon served at the U.S. Capitol following the 2013 Presidential Inauguration? That meal boasted over 3,000 calories, 145 grams of fat and nearly 10,000 mg of sodium, not including the wines served with each course.

   In 2014, we seem far more concerned with the salaries of fast food workers than how many calories they’re dishing out to us. Perhaps all the protests for the $15 minimum wage are missing the point. Maybe we should pay America’s fast food employees not by the hour, but by the calorie. If we did that, they would make us look like paupers.


Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History (Lyons Press, 2012); his second book, Moonshine Nation, has just been released by Lyons Press. For more information, go to amazon.com

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