In perusing the web as I am prone to do and, in light of a couple of weeks of dodgy news, I came upon this interesting article at the website for the Centre for Science in the Public Interest. The "Xtreme Eating 2011 Big eats...big Americans" is an interesting look at what awaits the American eater when they head out to their local restaurant and strap on the ol' feed bag. The Centre for Science unveils this year's winners in their Nutrition Action Newsletter. The awards range from the lovely and fat-free grilled cheese sandwiches stuffed with deep-fried mozzarella sticks to the 1540 gram Cheesecake Factory cheesecake which contains a rather stunning 3 days' worth of saturated fat. Remember the old adage folks, apparently, if it's brown and you don't eat it at home, it doesn't contain any fat or calories!
Let's start by putting dietary things into perspective. The United States Department of Agriculture and teh Department of Health and Human Services have been so kind as to provide all of us with a few guidelines that we might give passing thought to before we cram that next pound of bacon into our cake holes. We should not ingest more than 2300 milligrams of sodium on a daily basis and those that are 51 years and older, African-American, have diabetes, hypertension etcetera should limit their intake to 1500 milligrams. We should consume less than 300 milligrams of dietary cholesterol daily and less than 10 percent of our daily caloric intake should come from those deadly saturated fats, you know, the good tasting fats. They have also been so good as to supply us with this lovely chart that tells all of us just how many calories we should be eating every day based on our age and level of activity:
Now that we know what we should be doing, let's take a look at the award winning food that is out there for the eating!
Apparently, a typical restaurant entree excluding the fun stuff like an appetizer and dessert has 1000 calories. That's not too bad if you're an active male between the ages of 19 and 30; after all, it's only one-third of your daily allowance. Unfortunately, should you happen to be a 55 year olds sedentary male, it's nearly half of your daily allowance and if you're a 55 year old female with a similar propensity to sit on the couch, it's 62.5 percent of your allowable daily caloric intake.
First on the food fun list is the Cheesecake Factory's Ultimate Red Velvet Cake Cheesecake. This beauty has two, count 'em, two layers of cheese and red velvet cake. This three-quarter of a pound wonder contains 1540 calories (a day's worth for the sedentary 50 year old female) and 59 grams of saturated fat which is actually three whole days worth of your saturated fat allotment. This specialty item has twice the caloric bang of the Cheesecake Factory's original concoction.
Next on the Centre for Science's beef list (pardon the terribly sad pun) is IHOP's Bacon 'N Beef Burger. This carnivore's delight contains the bacon blended right into the beef so there's no more problem with those slippery slabs of Porky the Pig sliding out of your sandwich. On top of the meat serving, you get the bonus of two slices of cheese. The burger itself provides you with 1250 calories and 1590 milligrams of sodium, an entire day's supply of the dreaded element in one meal! You can just feel that hypertension setting in just thinking about it. As a bonus, if you add onion rings or fries (freedom or other) to your meal, you can add either 620 or 300 calories to your tab bringing most sedentary consumers very close to their daily limit.
Up for the next award is Denny's Fried Cheese Melt. This marvel of modern science has four deep fried mozzarella sticks melted right into the gooey stickiness that is an American grilled cheese sandwich. For four bucks, you buy yourself 1260 calories (if you include the side of fries), 21 grams of saturated fat and an amazing 3010 milligrams of salt, a two day supply.
The Cheesecake Factory makes yet another appearance on the awards list with its Farmhouse Cheeseburger but since they've received an award already, I'll move along to the Cold Stone Creamery milkshake. Now, who doesn't like a milk shake. Hey, it contains milk and how often did you used to hear your mother tell you to drink that glass of milk because it was good for your teeth and bones. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your perspective), milk has changed....a lot. Cold Stone Creamery offers its PB&C Shake (peanut butter and chocolate for the uninitiated) with a 2010 calorie hit and 68 grams of fat in each 24 fluid ounce serving. That's a full day of calories for just about all of us and three and a half days of saturated fat. Cool...literally.
Back to the folks at the Department of Agriculture and their propaganda about Americans and their weight and girth. Back in the 1970s, 15 percent of adults were obese. In 2008, that rose to 34 percent. In the early 1990s, no states had an adult obesity rate of more than 25 percent. In 2008, 32 states had an adult obesity rate of more than 25 percent. Most sobering of all are the statistics for childhood obesity; in the early 1970s, 5 percent of children from 2 to 5 years of age, 4 percent of children from 6 to 11 years of age and 6 percent of adolescents from 12 to 19 years of age were obese. In 2008, those numbers rose to 10 percent for 2 to 5 year olds, 20 percent for 6 to 11 year olds and 18 percent for adolescents 12 to 19 years of age. This is a doubling or tripling of the rate of obesity in America.
I hope that you enjoyed this little journey into the culinary delights of the United States (and Canada). I'm off to get a bag of chips.