Cheesecake Factory dinged as unhealthiest U.S. eatery

(CBS) - The Cheesecake Factory (CAKE), by one group's measure, is serving up the unhealthiest food in America.

The watchdog group Center for Science in the Public Interest has named the chain as the winner of its Xtreme Eating survey, noting that three of the country's nine most calorie-heavy dishes in its list are served at the company's restaurants.

The offenders include its Bruléed French Toast, which serves up almost 2,800 calories and 93 grams of saturated fat, or about a full work week's worth, the group said. Another dish, its Farfalle with Chicken and Roasted Garlic, includes 2,410 calories, while a slice of Reese's Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake Cheesecake has 1,500 calories. Of course, it's not clear whether the "awards" will dissuade any Cheesecake Factory customers, given its rich desserts are often what pull people toward booking a table. And the ultimate proof is in the pudding of the company's second-quarter sales, which rose 5.6 percent.

As for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, it notes that it's seen a jump in the number of calories included in America's most unhealthy restaurant dishes since 2007, when it started the awards.

"When we were screening candidates for the first Xtreme Eating awards in 2007, we were shocked to see 1,500-calorie entrées," the group said in a statement. "This year, nearly all of our 'winners' hit (or just missed) the 2,000-calorie mark. And a few doozies topped 3,000 calories. You could take half home and still overeat."

The Cheesecake Factory offers more than 200 menu items and "has always been about choices," spokeswoman Alethea Rowe said in an emailed statement. She added, "Many of our guests come in and want to celebrate and not be concerned with calories. Others want to share their dish -- and we love it when guests share -- that's a great sign that our portions are generous -- and a large percentage of our guests take home leftovers for lunch the next day."

The restaurant also offers choices with less than 590 calories, Rowe noted.

The findings about surging calorie counts come as obesity remains a stubborn problem in America. More than one-third of U.S. adults qualify for the condition. It's also an economic and public health problem, given obesity is linked to diseases such as heart disease, while the medical cost of obesity was $147 billion in 2008, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Cheesecake Factory isn't alone in offering calorie-heavy food. Red Robin Gourmet Burgers (RRGB) offers a "Monster" meal with a burger, milkshake and fries, adding up to 3,540 calories, or almost two days of calories, the CSPI said.

BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse (BJRI), which has 148 locations, serves a Signature Deep Dish Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza that includes 2,160 calories, while Famous Dave's (DAVE) has a meal of spareribs and sides that includes 2,770 calories, the group said. Other restaurant chains singled out include Joe's Crab Shack, Maggiano's Little Italy and Chevys Fresh Mex.


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