Calories, Sugar, and Fat, Oh My!

One of my family’s favorite restaurants is The Cheesecake Factory, or what I like to call “gluttony at its finest.” For those of you familiar with the restaurant, no further explanation is needed. For those who are not, imagine portion sizes that would make a dietitian weep.

Other restaurants harbor a slew of waistline assassins as well, but The Cheesecake Factory is my guilty pleasure. The sight of a burrito the size of a log or a salad bigger than my son’s head titillates in its gustatory possibilities.

That’s How Many Calories?

But according to the Calorie Lab, that log-sized Factory Burrito Grande has 1,839 calories and a heap-load of salt. That chicken Caesar salad the size of my son’s head weighs in at 1,510 calories. Or, if you prefer some old-fashioned chicken and biscuits, it will cost you 2,262 calories and 68 grams of fat. As for desert, how about a 1,549-calorie slice of carrot cake or a 929-calorie slice of white chocolate raspberry truffle cheesecake? Ooh, that one’s sheer heaven.

By the way, the recommended caloric intake for women is 1,800-2,200 calories per day, depending on activity level, and 2,000-2,400 calories per day for males.

Oopsey daisy.

In the restaurant’s defense, they do have a terrific SkinnyLicious menu, all entries under 590 calories. I love the black-bean veggie burger. Yummy yummy in my tummy.

My kind of naughty and nice. (Image credit: thecheesecakefactory.com)

What’s a Consumer to Do?

So does that mean if we eat at The Cheesecake Factory, or any number of other restaurants, we should only choose from the lite menu? Not necessarily, but we should use common sense. If you plan to dine out, balance the rest of your meals that day—and maybe even the next—accordingly. Sharing works, too. Then you can splurge on dessert, because…well…The Cheesecake Factory without dessert? Really?

I believe in moderation. Everything in moderation. Deprivation ultimately backfires. One deserves an occasional meal in an indulgent restaurant as long as it’s balanced with meals at home most days of the week and a conscious calorie acknowledgement.

But be careful. The formula of “calories in equals calories out” is not as simple as it seems. Individual choices do not contribute to health outcomes in a vacuum. The food industry, with its knowledge of just the right combination of fat, sugar, and salt to hook us in and keep us salivating for more, is also responsible. In fact, for an eye-opening discussion of how food manufacturers manipulate these key ingredients to stimulate our appetites and lead us to eat far more than we otherwise would, check out former FDA commissioner David Kessler’s book The End of Overeating. Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite. The research impresses.

And disturbs.

For more information on dietary guidelines, see health.gov  from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Also, for another eye-opening read, see Eat This, Not That: Avoid America’s ‘Scariest’ Restaurant Meals.

All images from Microsoft Clip Art unless otherwise noted.

151 Responses to “Calories, Sugar, and Fat, Oh My!”

  1. Karen Rice

    That is crazy calories for a salad!!! I’ve never been to Cheesecake Factory either, not sure where one even is near me. I’m sure many people have no idea how many calories their food has – and how simple things like not getting mayo on a burger can save a lot of calories/fat.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      I agree–most people have no idea of the calories awaiting them. I know many people think that the listing of calories on a menu won’t make any difference, and to some people it probably won’t. But I suspect for many it will. I know I would refrain from ordering a 1500 calorie salad, or at least make some modifications to it.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
      🙂

      Like

  2. thefolia

    Calories…who’s counting? I’m more concerned with food quality, where did it come from, how was it produced…and utterly disturbed with the genetically modified experiments with our health. Don’t go out to eat much because of all this, but I have tried Rock Sugar their drinks are amazing! Same ownership as Cheesecake Factory but the portions are not as gluttonous.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      I agree about the food quality. It’s gotten to the point where, although I enjoy a meal out, I often prefer to eat at home. Not only are my meals healthier, but I know what’s in them. I haven’t heard of Rock Sugar. I’ll have to look that chain up and see if there are any near me.

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

      Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      I never liked cheesecake before I ate there. But it’s not just cheesecake there. It’s cheesecake with layers of mousse and cake and chocolate pieces and whipped cream and you name it, it’s there!

      Like

  3. Anastasia

    Mmmmmm fooooddd. Love fooood. Best waistline assassin? There’s a Lebanese company that packages duck related foods. Fois gras, duck confit, and an AMAZING pre-made duck cassoulet in a jar that feeds two plus (code for “me” in 1.5 sittings). With a fresh baguette?! Divine.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      “code for “me” in 1.5 sittings”–ha ha! You always make me laugh. And yes, I expect anything related to fois gras will carry a hefty calorie count. And a baguette? Oh, don’t even get me started.
      🙂

      Like

  4. Arizona girl

    I like you digging out of the old public health blog! Taking care of our bodies is of course very near and dear to my heart. I’m looking forward to hearing more! Maybe you’ll even inspire me to write a little more fitness-related stuff since that is, after all, the new career path I’ve chosen for myself!

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Yes, you’ve got the hard part–you have to help people burn OFF all that extra cheesecake! And the amount of exercise it would take to burn off one slice of that decadence is exhausting to think about.

      Thanks for coming by. Glad you liked it.
      🙂

      Like

  5. butimbeautiful

    Nuts are my favourite indulgence! And chips (so much so that I never buy them). You know, cheese and onion.. I like your public health blog, Carrie, it has zing!

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Thanks! I enjoy a good nut, too. Especially when they are surrounded by M&Ms and big chocolate caramel balls like my favorite naughty trail mix.

      But a handful of nuts a day is really good for you. Minus the other treats I just pointed out.
      🙂

      Like

  6. Vladimir (@socialmediatry)

    Hi, nice article. My absolute weakness are pancakes with banana and chocolate.
    I restrain myself to about twice a month, because I could eat them all day every day.
    Kind regards to you and your boys

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      I have never tried pancakes with banana and chocolate, but now I most certainly want to. Maybe with a little whipped cream on top, too.
      🙂

      Thanks for stopping by, Vladimir!

      Like

  7. Rilla Z

    I haven’t tried the Cheesecake Factory, either, though I’ve had a couple of opportunities. When I go through a bout of eating out–like when I’m traveling–it haunts me afterward, even salads. Since I began controlling the amount of soy in my diet, I tend to detect the off-taste in fried and greasy foods, which has ruined me for a run to the fast-food place for fries or cheesy breadsticks. I enjoy the natural flavors of vegetables and fruits so much more now. I don’t ever want to go back to the old way of eating.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      I hear you. Although I believe in moderation, I, too, avoid fried and greasy foods. I don’t crave them, so they’re not hard to stay away from. An occasional french fry, maybe, and I only eat grilled meat. It’s the desserts that get me.
      🙂

      Like

  8. Kourtney Heintz

    I use the myfitnesspal app on my phone and log everything I eat. It keeps me on track and aware of how many calories, fats, carbs, etc I am taking in. It also allows me to track exercise and eat more when I exercise. So I usually swim two hours before my aunt’s bbq.😉

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      I have a Livestrong app, though I don’t use it as well as I could. They can be really helpful with tracking things though. A DQ blizzard suddenly isn’t as tempting when you see how many calories you’ve already consumed.
      🙂

      Like

  9. igj

    Well that’s a relief. I’m going on a cruise and in the brochure I read that there are no calories in their food So I’m safe. Whew!

    Like

  10. annewoodman

    I feel the same way about Maggiano’s. Our family LOVES the food. But it is definitely a gluttony-fest. We go there about once a year, if that. So I don’t think our bodies will self-destruct. ; ) And we just go wild–stuffed mushrooms, pasta dishes, dessert… Seriously. You’d think we wouldn’t eat for days afterwards. But that just isn’t true.

    Sometimes budgets and time constraints are a good thing for a long and healthy life. ; )

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Ooh, that’s a great restaurant, too. We have one, but it’s a drive so we don’t often go there. Everyone needs their yearly pasta fill.
      🙂

      Like

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