Attack Of The 2,000 Calorie Appetizers

We all know that eating out can be unhealthy, but would you really imagine that your appetizer had 2,000 calories? Enough calories for a full day? According to the CSPI’s Press Release, there might be more calories in your appetizer, or your entree, than you’d probably imagine. Uh, a lot more. For example, from the CSPI:

Ruby Tuesday’s “Fresh Chicken & Broccoli Pasta.” Pity the poor diner who thinks this healthy sounding entr

e is on the light side: Thanks to its parmesan cream sauce and layer of melted cheese, the 2,060 calories and 128 grams of fat make it the equivalent of two 12-ounce sirloin steaks, two buttered baked potatoes, and two Caesar salads.

We’re sorry, that’s just gross. Or how about this appetizer from Uno Chicago Grill:

Uno Chicago Grill’s “Pizza Skins.” “We start with our famous deep dish crust, add mozzarella and red bliss mashed potatoes, and top it off with crispy bacon, cheddar, and sour cream,” says the menu. The menu doesn’t disclose that this fusion of pizza and potato skins–which is meant to precede a meal of pizza–packs 2,050 calories, 48 grams of saturated fat, and 3,140 milligrams of sodium (more than a day’s worth). “Even if you split it with two other people, it’s like eating dinner before your dinner even hits the table,” Jacobson said.

Nutritional info really should be available, don’t you think?—MEGHANN MARCO

X-treme Eating (PDF) [CSPI]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Falconfire says:

    ok thats disgusting.

    Why cant these chain resturants learn that you dont have to make something full of fat to have it taste REALLY good.

  2. jeblis says:

    Wow never would have guessed. I usually think I do a pretty good job of estimating stuff, but then again it’s been shown that even nutritionists underestimate calories in a dish. That’s why I generally cook myself or eat stuff with known nutrition info.

  3. B says:

    Aren’t appetizers supposed to be unhealthy?

  4. The Unicorn says:

    Say what you will — the pizza skins are totally worth it.

    Plus, it’s not like you *have* to eat an entire meal after the appetizers…people just need to learn portion control.

    (Mmmm…pizza skins.)

  5. This is why I order chain appetizers AS THE MEAL and only eat half of them. (Skins and tenders and wings reheat at home better than mozz sticks, just FYI.)

    It should be no surprise potato skins and other chain-restaurant appetizer favorites are calorie festivals. They’re JUST SO GOOD.

  6. FLConsumer says:

    Ruby Tuesdays, Uno, and several of the other restaurants have made McDonald’s appear like a health food restaurant now. After all, a Big Mac “only” has 540 calories. Keep in mind the #’s posted above only includes the main dish. So, add bread, fries, etc to your meal and you’re adding that on top of the 2060 cals to be consumed with the chicken dinner.

    No wonder I’m not losing weight! I think I’ll stick to McD’s. More food, less fat!

  7. VeryFancyBunny says:

    Beyond the fact that they’re conspiring to stop your heart, appetizers — along with alcohol and desserts — have a very high price markup when compared with entrees. It’s fun to do a restaurant splurge (on calories AND money) every once in a while, but by sticking mostly to ordering entrees when we go out, my husband and I find we can really stretch our eating-out budget.

    This, however, has had its occasional consequences. Once, a couple years ago, while enjoying our entrees at a nice-ish quasi-Asian restaurant, the manager came out and spoke with us, basically out of concern that we hadn’t ordered enough. Not only that, but we had a buy-one-get-one entree coupon, so we got out of there for $25 whereas most of the tables around us were surely running up bills of $100 or more.

  8. Tallanvor says:

    @Falconfire: They’re making what the general public wants. If enough people started calling for higher quality food from chain restaurants, they’d start making it. –They’ve been jumping on the diet bandwagon for a few years now, but most of them haven’t expanded beyond a few meals, probably because there’s not enough demand for more items.

    Don’t forget that a lot of local restaurants will have things that are just as bad for you on their menus as well. People just don’t pay as much attention to them (or they get rave reviews for their dishes instead!)

    Of course, as someone who needs to lose more weight, I would love to see restaurants add more good tasting options to their reduced calorie menus so that it’s easier to pass over those 2000 calorie behemoths.

  9. kad9k says:

    There is a web site called that busts a lot of these chains on NI, too. It’s a regular feature called Chew the Right Thing. One of the worst offenders according to her research is Macaroni Grill — the chicken fettucine alfredo has 1,370 calories and 97 grams of fat, and the tiramisu has 1,440 calories and 65 grams of fat. So those together would be about 2 days worth of calories. Yikes! I’m really glad Consumerist has taken up this cause.

  10. infinitysnake says:

    My husband and I found a great casual italian place (I think ti’s a chain)that has great food and a lot of healthy choices on the regular menu- whole wheat pasta, etc. At least three of their appetizers involve green vegetables (one has three), there are veggie sides, and the entrees come with real veggies as well. The place is always busy- people WILL eat good, healthy food if you offer it.

  11. desonos says:

    To be fair, at least for the Uno’s nearby my house (In Newton Corner, MA), they have an electronic touchscreen computer-thingy (that is a technical term) that is quite informative as to food contents. I know damn well that when I have one of those personal Pepperoni deepdish pizza’s that I’m consuming 1700 calories (I blocked out the fat content).

  12. forgeten says:

    see the problem I see with this sorta of stuff is none of this everyday food. I mean really was anyone surprised that good ice cream is bad for you? I go to hardee’s probably once every two months should I be concerned that that hamburger is really bad for me? not really it matters what you eat over the long haul. And in all honesty would people curb their eating habits if they knew the Nutritional info? when I worked at wendy’s in high school there was wall of pamphlets with it and it didn’t stop anyone. (on that note their honey mustard has insane amounts of calories (or did))

  13. RumorsDaily says:

    Full of fat DOES taste good.

    Instead of banning things (hello transfat) why not just require proper labeling? I have no problem saying that chain restaurants have to list the caloric values of their food on the menu. Good labeling makes good consumers.

  14. HawkWolf says:

    This reminds me of the Gluttony chapter of “Skipping Towards Gomorrah” by Dan Savage.

    That’s all I have to say.

    Actually, I have more. I guess things are getting bigger – I used to be able to handle a dessert at a chain restaurant after appetizer and entree, but no more. After the nachos and a steak at TGI Friday’s, no dessert. Sorry.

    Even my favoritest ‘fancy restaurant’, Kruse and Muer’s in Rochester, MI has upped their dessert portions to insane levels. I got a cream puff and it was larger than the total volume of my entree.

  15. royal72 says:

    hello fat america, get a fucking clue!… yes nutritional info should be available, but it’s your own damn responsibility to eat correctly for your body and nutritional needs. quit your yoyo diets, stop with the pills, stop with the gastric bypass (‘cept for real necessity), public policy does not equate a diet, and for god sakes quit (ass)uming that dr. idonthaveaclue knows what is healthy for you. here are a few clues to developing good everyday eating…

    -first off learn about basic nutrition. do you actually know what a “calorie” is. do it for a month and you’ll basically know the “value” of what you eat.

    -try different foods. after you eat, do you feel energized or are you ready for a nap? if it’s nap time, you probably shouldn’t eat that very often and probably in smaller portions.

    -take that “three square meal” concept and throw it out the window. eat if you’re hungry, not because the clock says so and eat larger meals earlier in the day. that two pound steak dinner with baked potato and the fixings, followed by dessert are not getting digested and used by bedtime.

    if anything just realize that food to you, is like gas for your car. you can only use so much, the rest gets stored or expelled.

  16. Ben says:

    I have a British friend that ridicules Americans for being fat. I keep trying to explain the way food is here.

    I started eating at home 90% of the time and lost 10 pounds in two months. I just wish I could reliably go out to eat at non-specialty restaurants and get something under 3000 calories. I don’t need a giant, overflowing plate of food covered in cheese, I really don’t!

  17. junkmail says:

    *meh* using so much fat in their cooking is a crutch to cover a lack of skill in using ingredients to their full potential. Find a chef that knows that, and you’ll never have a better meal in your life. Promise.

  18. NeoteriX says:

    @Ingen Angiven:

    You presume choice comes with transparency.

    Sometimes with someone as cheap and easy to use as Transfat, it is so economically advantageous that in the “race to the bottom”, a consumer might not be faced with any viable choices.

    For example, obesity is most endemic with our nation’s poorest people. It might seem ironic until you realize that the cheapest food choices often are the most unhealthy.

  19. AcidReign says:

    …..Uno’s is delicious! We don’t have one in my area, but I’ve enjoyed Chicago and Orlando locations! However, I can’t see how anyone who physically looks at their pizza or other dishes, and imagines it’s low-fat. Please! I’ve never seen a thicker, more gooey pizza in my life! Mmmmm.

  20. ghettoimp says:

    The Awsome Blossom at Chili’s has 2710 calories and 203 grams (312% of recommended) fat. It’s sickening.

    A friend once remarked, “I know why America is fat: I can’t even finish [my wife’s] leftovers from Applebees in one sitting!”

  21. drrew says:

    The cheese fries at Outback Steakhouse have 2900 calories, 182 grams of fat…..and they’re fantastic. I don’t think I could ever imagine easting an entire plate, and hell, I may go there once or twice a year, but when I do, we’re ordering cheese fries and I’m probably going to consume 3000 calories during the meal.

    That’s just the way it goes.

    I guess I’d go for those Uno potato skins if I wanted something light.

  22. Citron says:

    @forgeten: You’d think so, but a lot of people do eat fast food multiple times a week, especially in college. We have a Burger King and a Taco Bell in our cafeteria, where some of the students eat every single day.

    But I also think that they just don’t care what’s going into their bodies because it’s cheap and it’s right there, which is sad, because food like that will make you sick later on if it doesn’t do it immediately.

    And, @NeoteriX: Freakanomics blog, I think, was talking about how in the poorest neighborhoods there are the fewest grocery stores and the most fast food restaurants, which I can anecdotally confirm, since I live in North Philadelphia (by Temple University, which is conveniently located in the middle of the ghetto.) It’s dirty and violent here and there’s only one grocery store.

    So not only are unhealthy foods cheap, healthy foods just plain aren’t available.

  23. tz says:

    This is actually something I find useful, especially when some Restaurants (Damons, Unos) have periods where they have “appetizers” half off. My favorite place has six mini-cheeseburgers (Probably 1/3 pound of beef or more) for $3.75, though I usually get them as doubles, and a similar price for “chicken strips” which is either a large breast or 1.5 normal ones cut into strips. That and 1/2 off beer and I’ve had dinner for well under $10 with tip! They have better and bigger things too, but I have to want to take part home.

  24. infinitysnake says:

    @AcidReign: Ironically, when we had an Uno’s here, you could get an all veggie, cheeseless pizza that was actually very tasty. (I swear)

  25. joe bananas says:

    royal 72 gets one gold star for contradictory opening gambit of the day.

    you write: “yes nutritional info should be available, but it’s your own damn responsibility to eat correctly for your body and nutritional needs.”

    how is a consumer supposed to keep track of their caloric intake if that information isn’t in front of them? a hunch? guessing how many calories are in a dish? i’m incredibly health and diet conscious – this past weekend i went to macaroni grill and got rigatoni w/ chicken, onions and mushrooms; knowing chains are notoriously awful healthwise, i ballparked the dish at around 25-30 grams of fat and 500-600 cals. imagine my horror when i later discovered that dish contained 87 grams of fat and 1900 calories. for rigatoni, grilled chicken, mushrooms and onions.

    i’m not a fan of banning much of anything, but if i had seen that nuritional information on the menu, perhaps i would have gone with a salad.

  26. Trai_Dep says:

    It’s not that fat is good. It’s that the corporate chefs here are useless. I’ve dined across Asia and in Paris and London (!! Brits get a bad rap for food). Fresh, seasonal food, well displayed, balanced across the food groups, the “baddies” in moderation. Good stuff here, too, but need to avoid the chains…

  27. I havent read all the comments but I have to say that both of those appetizers make my mouth water. MMM mmm. I’m down with the 2000 calorie appetizers. Of course, I’m a pig and I have a high metabolism but I just cant resist packing away 5000 calories per meal.

    If I had better healthier choices that were just as convenient I would probably stuff my face with a little bit less.

  28. hello fat america, get a fucking clue!… yes nutritional info should be available, but it’s your own damn responsibility to eat correctly for your body and nutritional needs.

    Should “fat america” just assume that any and all foods contain 2,000+ calories?

  29. AcidReign says:

    @infinitysnake: Believe it or not, my favorite pizza items are bell pepper, red onions and mushrooms. CiCi’s used to make a fairly light pizza like with those toppings that was pretty good. Unfortunately, I like pepperoni and cheese, too.

    …..Uno’s pizza actually has real tomato bits you can see in it, too. Amazing! It’s not the usual “industrial can of generic tomato paste” sauce!

  30. etinterrapax says:

    Qdoba’s taco salad has something like 1200 calories in it, if you eat the shell. I was appalled when I looked it up after eating there once. But I’m relieved that at least I was stuffed after. I’d hate to think I could ingest that many calories in a sitting and still want more.

    I agree that if we’re to be responsible for what we eat, we need to know what we’re getting when we order. A lot of people eat out too much, unquestionably, but denying them information isn’t going to get them to change that behavior. And I also don’t think that most people will eat at home regularly unless there is someone there–themselves or spouse or whomever–to cook. That’s a much bigger problem, and it’s been exacerbated by canceling home ec in schools.

  31. SOhp101 says:

    Basic Eating Out 101 tells you that you should NEVER order anything from the appetizer menu besides a soup or salad. Avoid creamy soups and ALWAYS get dressing on the side and dip your fork, not the salad, in the dressing.

    Nearly everything on an appetizer menu in an ‘average’ restaurant is fried. If it’s topped with Cheese or it’s Fried, avoid.

  32. stenk says:

    Pizza Skins!, man only Americans would think to add potatoes to Pizza dough!

    Wow I must say does sound yummy!

  33. suckonthat says:

    @stenk: They are amazing. Totally worth having to fast the next day to compensate for all those calories.

  34. Her Grace says:

    Order the kid’s size, if you can. Most places will let you (even if the menu has an age limit); atleast, I’ve never run into an issue and am nearly 22 (most limits are 10-12, that I’ve seen). The portions are much more reasonable (though some are still more than I can eat), and the prices easier on the wallet. If I’m going to eat out at a chain restaurant in the US, it’s rare I’ll NOT order off the kid’s menu, and then only for something not available on it (and usually only eat half of an adult meal). My experience with Australian food so far has been mostly group serves where everyone eats off a common plate, so I can eat what feels right rather than what is a “serving.”