Many Olive Garden And Macaroni Grill Dishes Are Over 1,000 Calories

There’s over 1,000 calories in many of the entrees served at Italian restaurant chains Olive Garden and Macaroni Grill, reports the Center for Science in the Public Interest. They sent the food from the restaurants to an independent lab for analysis and found that a typical dinner there could hit you with about 3,000 calories, nearly a day and half’s worth of food. No wonder we’re such fatasses. Americans are addicted to calories and restaurant chains are happy to keep serving them up.

We wrote about this before, but now here’s the caloric breakdowns of the two eateries menus, inside…

macaronigrill.jpg

olivegardenstats.jpg

A 3,000-Calorie Dinner? Belly-ssimo! [CPSI via Consumer World Blog]
Italian Restaurant Food: Belly-ssimo! (PDF) [CPSI]
(Photo: Getty)

PREVIOUSLY: How Many Quarter Pounders From McDonald’s Could You Eat Instead Of That Pasta?

Comments

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  1. Pop Socket says:

    This stuff will kill you. Ruby Tuesdays tried putting nutritional info on the menu and it created a huge yawn. I try to split many Macaroni Grille items into two meals.

  2. karlrove says:

    *preemptive obligatory comment from guy who says he can do it more cheaply and nutritiously at home*

  3. baltwade says:

    You should look at UNO’s, the Chicago style pizza chain. Most, if not all, of their individual pan pizzas easily top 2,000 calories as well as their mini burgers. If you got one of their high cal appetizer, their meat lovers individual pizza, and a couple of draft beers you might be pushing a 5,000 calorie meal.

    Man, I love Uno’s

  4. zibby says:

    @karlrove: I’ll see your home cooking comment and raise you a, “If you used a Mac you wouldn’t have to worry about that” scolding.

  5. HeyThereKiller says:

    I’m just kinda amazed that out of all the awful shit on that menu, the worst thing for your is Spaghetti and Meatballs… There’s a 1000 calorie difference between getting it with tomato sauce and with meat sauce… are they making their meatballs out of Orson Welles?

    Soylent Green is fat people

  6. PinkBox says:

    I also split my meals from Olive Garden into two meals. Eat half there for lunch, save the rest for dinner later. No need to eat it all at once, especially with all of the breadsticks and salad they also give you.

  7. HeyThereKiller says:

    @HeyThereKiller: worst thing for you*

    too much Bailey’s in my hot choco this morning

  8. Falconfire says:

    My fiance saw this and was like “jesus no wonder I got so fat working there”

    She used to eat there for lunch and dinner every shift since they where not allowed to bring food in/

  9. newlywed says:

    srsly, the next step is for entrees over 1500 calories at any chain restaurant to be illegal. something that is 3K cal on one plate is a dangerous, dangerous thing. this whole food thing appears so frighteningly innocuous to the average jane/jo, no wonder we’re so freaking fat. i really would never have guessed at some of these numbers, because some of these dishes might look to the stupid and uninformed consumer (me) *somewhat* healthy. these calorie counts should NOT be allowed (and the food isn’t even that good)!

  10. gniterobot says:

    God help us all if Consumerist finally realized that eating out means big calories.

    We’re going to be bombarded with 30 headlines a day “______ Menu Packed With Items Over 1000 Calories!”

    This is not news, or interesting.

  11. ediebeale says:

    I do love how one of the “Nutrition Action Picks” at Olive Garden is 960 calories. Mmm, feel the health!

  12. Finder says:

    I, unfortunately, used to wait tables at Olive Garden some years ago. Something most people don’t realize is you may order the “lunch” portions of anything on the menu. This applies to almost every entree, aside from a handful that are only available in one size. Aside from being a smaller portion with less calories the lunch size is also easier on your wallet.

    That said, I’m regularly thankful I live in a city where my local dining options are far greater than driving to my local strip mall and hitting up the OG or its ilk.

  13. Mary says:

    I can’t remember the last time I actually finished an entree at a restaurant. I take home about half of it to eat for lunch the next day. I don’t have to cook TWICE and it’s delicious.

    If people can’t control themselves and eat the whole thing, they have no one but themselves to blame. If you tried to regulate that…good gracious, what would be next? Are they going to start raiding our homes to make sure we use lean beef or turkey for our burgers?

    Get over it. I know almost no one that actually finishes a meal like this in one sitting. And if they did it was because it was the only real meal they ate that day, having had a small snack for lunch instead of food. The calories usually balance out.

  14. protest says:

    i am just f*cking amazed at the amount of calories and sodium they can pack into something as simple as pasta with meat sauce. what ARE they putting in that sauce??? i guess that is what you get when you eat at a place that ships virtually everything they serve into the restaurant. everything is frozen and processed.

  15. @karlrove: Too true, but it probably wouldn’t taste quite so much like pure butter. :D

  16. ColdNorth says:

    @meiran: “The calories usually balance out.”

    Of course they do. That’s why we have an ongoing obesity epidemic.

    We Americans, in general, are almost as good at controlling our caloric intake as we are at controlling our spending.

    We’re basically a big, fat bunch of over-spenders who assuage our guilty consciences by triangulating between regulation and talk-show therapy.

    I think we’ve been collectively waiting for the other shoe to drop, but strangely it never seems to happen. Our lifestyle of excess is pushing fourty years now.

  17. Eilonwynn says:

    @Finder: What’s the sekrit passcode for that? My mom tries it nearly every time we go there, and they flat out refuse.

  18. matdevdug says:

    Man, I am never eating there again. Remember, olive oil is your friend, fried lard isn’t.

  19. Finder says:

    @Eilonwynn: You just ask for the lunch portion. Like I said, it depends on the entree, for instance, if I recall correctly, the pork filletino or the t-bone steak entrees are only available in the dinner size. There is also no lunch portion of something like soup and salad (yes, I remember people asking). I’m surprised they would refuse you, honestly, unless there was some sort of policy change. I haven’t worked there in years. I even remember the Micros screen had a DINNER and LUNCH button on the bottom when inputting an order to the kitchen.

    Maybe ask for a manager next time?

  20. fileunder says:

    Olive Garden really puts the “Hospital” in Hospitaliano!, doesn’t it?

  21. synergy says:

    This article is a week old. I’ve noticed you guys post articles from CPSI now and then. They have an RSS syndication feed:
    [www.cspinet.org]

  22. ancientsociety says:

    It’s not so much the calories in these dishes bu the insane amounts of sodium.

    A BOWL of Chicken “Toscana” Soup has 3,240 Mgs!

    Spaghetti & meatballs has 5,290 Mgs!

    That’s absolutely insane and just shows how processed their food is.

  23. char says:

    Youch. Something I’ve appreciated moving to NYC, the portions are generally smaller, this is the upside of everything beeing so expensive, portions are slightly more reasonable.

  24. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @karlrove: Obligatory comment expressing nothing but agreement with the person who said he could do it better and cheaper at home. Egregious and unnecessary reference to the poster’s Roman grandfather who taught her to cook.

  25. dazette says:

    My general rule of thumb is that if the Center for Science in the Public interest hates it, I’ll probably love it.

  26. SaraAB87 says:

    I went to a place called Tully’s for dinner for my birthday and ordered the chicken fingers, yes I know its bad for me but it was a holiday. It was the most insane portion of food I have ever seen at a restauraunt, I was given 8 huge chicken fingers and a pile of fries, after eating only 3 chicken fingers and being more than full and not even touching the fries, there is no way I could eat all that food in one sitting, it would make me incredibly sick. You wonder how many people get sick after going to the Olive Garden… I don’t eat out a lot, maybe once every 3 months so maybe portions at restaurants are getting even bigger for all I know, instead of charging less for an amount of food you can actually finish.

  27. spugbrap says:

    @Pop Socket: Yeah, I remember when Ruby Tuesday added that nutrition info to their menu. It was done such that it made me feel as guilty as possible, at the time, and I was really annoyed about it. I didn’t ask for that. All I wanted was the same delicious meal that I always liked to get, there.

    After the first time I saw that redesigned menu, I did not go back to Ruby Tuesday for 6-12 months. When I did eventually go back, I ignored the nutrition info, and ordered what I wanted… and it was good. It’s not like I go there often, so I refuse to feel guilty about enjoying my meal when I do go.

  28. mph says:

    damn now I’m really hungry and its only 10:45

  29. Protector says:

    Wait…people are just figuring this out?

  30. guroth says:

    And I’ll STILL go eat there!

  31. punkrawka says:

    I love Consumerist overall, but you all are really becoming a shill for CSPI lately, and there’s nothing being included to counter-balance their heavily puritanical viewpoint.

    No, I am *not* disputing the facts of this particular report, just CSPI as a general reliable source.

  32. Hoborg says:

    This is exactly why restaurants SHOULDN’T have to put nutritional info on menus. It would get people into a hissy fit so that they’d have to make portions smaller for the same price. Instead, they should write on the plate “You don’t need to eat this entire plate you idiot”

  33. Why do I, the person who eats right and exercises have to hear about this shit? Seriously. Does the world revolve around teh fatties now? When I go out to dinner I enjoy a portion of the tasty meal that they bring me, then I take the rest home. I don’t see how it’s so hard to stop eating. If you’re eating so fast that you don’t know you’re full then I have a tip for you.

    STOP EATING WITH A FUCKING SHOVEL. Enjoy the food, take small bites, talk to the folks around you (after chewing of course…noone likes your cow imitation). Food is to be enjoyed. If you still can’t control yourself when you go out, you shouldn’t be going out. Try a salad too. If you don’t like salads, eat a vegtarian.

    /rant

  34. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @RamV10: Jesus, you’re so negative. Go find your happy place and sit in it.

  35. Instigator says:

    This food is not meant to be eaten every day, people! I don’t need to know the exact calorie count of Macaroni Grill’s Chicken Marsalla to know that it’s laden with fat. Just one bite of the stuff makes that fact obvious. But I only eat it about twice a year. Restaurant food at any establishment should not be the mainstay of anyone’s diet – no matter how the restaurants try to convince you through their commercials. The most reprehensible currently on the air is Chili’s – the one where the couple is too lazy to cook, so they opt for a meal out. Make a habit of that, and yes, you will develop serious health problems.

  36. stephdmonkey says:

    I’m a little amazed at how shocked people are to hear this. I worked at a small Italian-American restaurant for a few years in college, and we regularly served around 1000 calories of pasta to each customer, as the base layer. Then you need to add in the meats, cheeses, and sauce. But frankly, I’ve never in my life gotten even 2/3 through a plate at a restaurant like that, I can’t imagine many people do. Waitstaff will happily bring you less if you ask in the beginning, or wrap it up for you if there’s too much at the end, so what’s the fuss?

  37. mandarin says:

    Think those dishes are meant to be shared…

    with 4-5 people

  38. liquisoft says:

    I’ll never eat again.

  39. DrGirlfriend says:

    It’s a combination of rich ingredients and massive serving sizes. When I cook at home, I don’t serve myself as much food as one of these places will serve you, and am not so liberal with the butter, oil, cream, cheese, etc.

    So now that we know the exact numbers, maybe we can start being more conscientious about how much we’ll eat at one sitting when we go out. Or maybe we can decide, screw it, this will be my big meal of the day. However, as was mentioned above, this is not everyday food.

  40. uricmu says:

    What’s the big discovery here?

    That Fetuccini Alfredo or Sphagetti Meatball are high in fat?

    If you sent your grandma’s cooking to the lab I can promise you it wouldn’t be healthier, and she’ll insist on you having seconds.

    You can eat healthy in those places, just stick to standard tomato sauce with no meat and no cheese…

  41. s35flyer says:

    So What? Who put you in charge of the calorie counters police?

  42. The sodium level in those entrees is astounding. As someone on a low-sodium diet (28 and hypertensive, baby!), eating out at “chain” restaurants has become a big “no-no.”

    It’s not all about getting fat sometimes. Take a trip to your local supermarket and look at the sodium content on some of those “low fat” processed foods (especially the instant pasta meals). 47% of your U.S. RDA from one teeny weeny packet of wild mushroom ravioli? No thanks; I’ll just drive to the Italian grocery and buy it fresh!

  43. By the way, I’m 6’1″ and 160 lbs.

  44. ZekeSulastin says:

    Isn’t that pushing the bounds of underweight?

    I couldn’t bring myself to eat at a chain restaurant everyday – cooking is fun – but it IS nice to know exactly what you are eating. Problem is, you get nanny-state people like Newlywed who want to ban foods because they believe people can’t be trusted to make their own choices. As far as I know, being fat is the result of either lacking self-control or from disease/genetics/etc. Banning these foods would screw over those of us with self-control and do nothing to help the obese who are obese due to medical issues … stay out of my food.

    And, on a last note, the ‘daily values’ of nutrients on the labels are a GUIDELINE. Your own diet may be VERY different from the assumptions made, and should be talked through with someone who has some sort of medical (for instance, I had the opposite situation of Loquacious, I wasn’t eating enough sodium … apparently, having to eat 4000+ kcal to not lose weight does interesting things to the nutrient quantities you need).

    6’2″, 176 lbs, and now on a somewhat more normal 3250-3500 kcal diet …

  45. baltwade says:

    @loquaciousmusic: HOLY CRAP!!!
    You need a couple more 3,000 calorie meals. I’m 5’8″ and 160 lbs and 8% body fat. I can’t imagine how skinny you must be.

  46. TheSeeker says:

    I just ate a 12ounce bag of Peanut Butter M&Ms

  47. valthun says:

    hmm, pasta, oils, heavy cream, and cheese dishes, who would have thought they would be high in calories? Oh yeah, I don’t eat there daily so I don’t really care. Well I refuse to eat at the Olive Garden, I think their food is disgusting, but Macaroni Grill isn’t too bad. Of coarse the Italian restaurants I prefer are probably just as bad. But again, I don’t care, I don’t eat at those places on a daily basis. The more this country keeps freaking out about calorie counts the less fun they are going to have enjoying a meal. Just don’t eat 7 plates of Macaroni Grill a day and you should be fine.

  48. Consumerist Moderator - ACAMBRAS says:

    @karlrove:

    @zibby:

    I’ll see your home cooking and Mac posts and raise you a:

    Two words: Credit Union.

  49. Consumerist Moderator - ACAMBRAS says:

    @gniterobot:

    @punkrawka:

    Please feel free to direct content feedback/suggestions to the author of the post (in this case, ben@consumerist.com)

  50. The point, since people keep saying they can’t see it, isn’t that it’s bad for you. The point is how bad it is for you. These meals make up 50% – 300% the amount of calories, 50% – 500% of the amount of sodium, and up to 3 times more saturated fat then you should have in one day.

    So it’s not meant to be eaten every day. You don’t have to eat it every day for it to be harmful, not with numbers like these.

  51. ahwannabe says:

    *obligatory post from foodie who wouldn’t DREAM of patronizing one of those faux-Italian chain restaurants and only goes to REAL Italian restaurants run by real Italians*

  52. Buran says:

    @Consumerist Moderator – ACAMBRAS: Two more:

    Fuck That.

    :p

  53. Buran says:

    @ahwannabe: Obligatory post from “I’m really getting sick of idiots who sit around screaming that anything not made by some microscopic hole in the wall is total junk and can’t possibly be liked by anyone even though these places are obviously making food that people like, so shove the prejudicial and judgmental attitude” type.

  54. Buran says:

    @valthun: That’s what I say. I eat pizza and fettucine alfredo, but am I getting any fatter for it? No, I’m not. I don’t eat those things every day. The pizza, once a week or so, the alfredo every so often.

    I’m sick and tired of this “if it’s not tasteless bland health food crap you should never eat it” bullshit.

  55. Chairman-Meow says:

    @ColdNorth: Gee Coldnorth , thank-you so very much for painting all of us Americans with that overly broad brush of yours. Must be tough to be you huh ? Any other manufactured hysteria you need to spew out today ?

    As for the rest of the commentors, next thing you are going to tell me is that other places like TGIF Fridays is bad for me too!

    /sarcasm

  56. Auntie M. says:

    @Finder:
    I was under the impression that you could only order the lunch portion until 3:00 or something like that. In fact, I think I’ve been told I couldn’t order it because it was after 3:00 or 4:00. If I’m refused the lunch portion after a certain time, is there a company policy I can cite that says it’s OK for them to give it to me?

  57. BlondeGrlz says:

    @spugbrap: Amen.

  58. Mary says:

    @ColdNorth: “Of course they do. That’s why we have an ongoing obesity epidemic.”

    Right, because nothing about that is panicky media making an overblown disaster out of something that isn’t as backed up by medical science as people think…BMIs aren’t rising because they were “readjusted” or anything.

    We might be getting fatter, but if so you can’t blame it on Macaroni Grill or Olive Garden. People choose to eat that food and it’s their right and privilege to do so. End of story, that’s all there is to it.

    If people didn’t want it, then those stores would change and serve lower fat portions.

    Why is the “obesity epidemic” crap hitting Consumerist every other day right now anyway? I don’t need them to tell me pasta is fattening. I don’t need them to tell me about portion control. I want them to tell me about companies who are trying to fleece the public, about scams I should avoid, privacy concerns, etc.

    And don’t tell me that obesity is costing people money so it’s a consumer issue. If that’s the only reason people have, then it’s a poor one.

  59. vanilla-fro says:

    @ZekeSulastin: you both sound a little underweight to me. 5’8 160 and I can see most of my abs (the bottom ones are harder to see).
    The fact is that any time you go out to eat, you’ll probably eat something that is not only fattening or deadly with the sodium, but they will give you too much of it.

    Don’t go out to eat everyday or night and when you do…slow down and enjoy the food. you may find that you won’t eat the entire portion if you don’t cram it in so fast.

  60. SaraAB87 says:

    I think if the media should spend as much time TRYING TO DO something about the obesity epidemic as they spend sensationalizing it. This stuff is coming up 3x a day in the news now here, spouting facts such as 1 in every 5 children are obese by the time they reach 6th grade and yada yada yada.. Stop spouting facts that you cannot back up and instead actually try to do something about it, such as REMOVING processed food from school lunches and encorporating a daily excercise regimen as part of classes in grade school and up. I see little being actually done around me to help children eat healthier and excercise more however the media keeps sensationalizing that our children are fat and sensationalizing that we are lazy and that we are killing ourselves yet nothing is being actually done on a large scale about these things, and its clearly a large scale problem due to the media’s reporting on it.

  61. Finder says:

    @Auntie M.: No, it should be any time of day. Like I said in my last two posts, however, the policy could have changed, but I doubt it.

  62. notallcompaniesarebad says:

    Wow. I kind of figured many of the pasta dishes would clock in over 4 figures, but the bruschetta? What does their’s look like? Is it actually this thing?:
    [images.google.com]

  63. consumer_999 says:

    This is no shocker — the few times I’ve been to olive garden, I leave dizzy.

  64. csdiego says:

    This is why I stay away from restaurant meals. I have a bad case of Clean Plate Syndrome and I find it easier to stay away from restaurants entirely than to stop eating halfway through the meal, especially when I’m with someone who’s going to be eating for another 15-20 minutes after I stop. It’s not fun for me to sit and do mental battle with the tasty food staring up at me from the plate. And I hate taking food home.

    And no, I don’t want to just get the salad. I like a lot of vegetables, but I gag on the white, crunchy kind of lettuce that is the mainstay of most restaurant salads. I’d rather order nothing at all than a big dish of lettuce.

    Basically I’d be happy if restaurant entrees were 1/2 or 1/3 the size, even if the price were nearly the same. If I can trade higher quality for some of the quantity that’s even better. Until the average chain makes some changes, I’ll stick to eating at home.

  65. @baltwade: My husband’s 6’4″ and 160. :)

    And no, not underweight (though definitely a stick!). He has light bones and his muscle doesn’t “bulk” at all, it’s always rangy and ropey. Some people are just “denser” than others, which is why two people can be exactly the same height and weight and look very, very different.

  66. artki says:

    Considering that on my post-heart-attack diet I’m limited to 17 grams of sat-fat a DAY it’s easy to see why I don’t eat out very much.

  67. scarletvirtue says:

    @csdiego: I have the Clean Plate Syndrome, too. Probably due to those “There are starving children in China/Africa/Russia…” guilt trips I got when I was a kid.

    And I agree, I like salads well enough – but 95% of the time, they’re made with the absolutely tasteless iceberg lettuce, which is just dreadful.

  68. csdiego says:

    @Buran: Why do you hate America???!!?!???

  69. 12monkeys says:

    What a post!!! WOW I wonder how much thought went into this.

  70. swalve says:

    In other news, a big pile of dough will make you fat!

    Jesus.

  71. HooFoot says:

    Who cares? Nobody who orders an entree drowning in cheese and cream expects it to be healthy.

  72. Ola says:

    While I am moderately impressed by the amount of calories involved, I don’t eat at Olive Garden on a regular basis. Which means, I don’t care a whole lot. I never thought it was healthy!

    I wish people would stop griping about the large portion sizes. If the portion sizes went down and the prices came down too, I wouldn’t mind so much, but why should I pay the same price for half the amount of food? If it’s too much, I can halve it myself and ask for a doggie bag. I’m HAPPY when it’s too much for me! Who doesn’t want restaruant food for lunch the next day?

  73. csdiego says:

    @Ola: “Who doesn’t want restaruant food for lunch the next day?”

    Well, I don’t, for a bunch of reasons. If I want big heaps of cheap food, I’ll go to Costco (and I do). To me dinner in a restaurant is a chance to relax over a nice meal, especially one with a bunch of tiny courses that would be a pain to make at home, not a chance to get a head start on tomorrow’s lunch. Judging from the huge portions in restaurants out there, I’m probably in the minority. All I’m saying is that as long as restaurants aren’t meeting my needs, I’m going to stay away from them.