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.
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.
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.
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.