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3,500 Calories In One Meal? How Hoosiers Can Avoid Pitfalls of Dining Out

Posted On July 31, 2014

By Mary Kuhlman, Indiana News Service

A chicken sandwich may seem like a healthy option when dining out, but an Indiana expert says many restaurant foods contain more fat and calories than you might think.  Photo credit: M. Kuhlman.

A chicken sandwich may seem like a healthy option when dining out, but an Indiana expert says many restaurant foods contain more fat and calories than you might think.
Photo credit: M. Kuhlman.

(Indianapolis, Ind.) – A meal consisting 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 others featured in the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s Xtreme Eating Awards.

Indiana University Health Sports Performance 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 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 more weight gain.”

Fink says occasional splurges are not a big deal for your health, but dining out multiple times a week can lead to trouble.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 65 percent of adults in Indiana are considered overweight, and nearly 30 percent are obese.

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

While exercise and getting more movement is important, Fink says you can’t count on it 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.

When dining out, Fink advises Hoosiers to choose items that are more nutrient dense, such as a salad or vegetables.

To reduce the portion size, Fink adds that ordering from the lunch menu or sharing a meal are good options.

And despite what you may have been taught, you don’t always have to finish everything on your plate.