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3,500 calories in one meal? The pitfalls of dining out

John Michaelson, Public News Service • Sep 3, 2014 at 7:00 PM

NASHVILLE – A meal of a burger, French fries and a milkshake tops a list of the most calorie-laden meals served at restaurant chains nationwide. 

With 3,500 calories, the meal at Red Robin is among those featured in the Xtreme Eating Awards from the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Dietitian Heather Fink says there are a lot of nutritional pitfalls when dining out, including portions that are too large and high amounts of fat, calories and sodium. 

“With some of the restaurants, it’s like a contest, you know, to see who can eat the biggest thing,” she explains. “Whatever the reason is they’re creating these bigger items, it’s leading to more consumption and therefore weight gain.”

Fink says occasional splurges are OK, but dining out multiple times a week can lead to trouble. 

Meals from The Cheesecake Factory, Famous Dave’s and Joe’s Crab Shack were also on the list.

Fink says choosing healthier foods and reducing portion size are important, since you can’t count on just exercise to counter whatever bad food you’ve just eaten.

“When we’ve got a meal that’s 3,500 calories, well, that would take a lot of physical activity in order to burn that off,” she explains. “And so aiming to do that to really make up, if you will, for eating out a lot is probably not going to happen for most people.”

Fink points out many people unknowingly consume high-calorie foods while dining out, because what may appear to be a healthier menu item may not be because of the way it is prepared.

“It maybe doesn’t look like a lot of food but is very calorically dense, is where more people get deceived because you can’t quite tell what’s in the product, and especially if it’s not labeled they don’t really know,” she says.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of U.S. adults are obese. 

For children and adolescents, obesity now affects more than one-in-six, triple the rate from one generation ago.

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