How Many Quarter Pounders From McDonald's Could You Eat Instead Of That Pasta?

The Center For Science in the Public Interest always comes up with the most entertaining sh*t. In this video they compare typical fast food meals to plates of pasta from Olive Garden and Macaroni Grill. It’s gross and oddly amusing.

The results:

Olive Garden:

Lasagna Classico. 1,060 calories “It’s like eating a BK Quad Stacker from Burger King, which has four beef patties, four slices of cheese, and eight strips of bacon.”

Five Cheese Ziti al Forno. 1,190 “You might as well just order two McDonald’s Quarter Pounders with Cheese or two Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pepperoni Pizzas.”

Romano’s Macaroni Grill:

Spaghetti & Meatballs with meat sauce. “The following nutrition numbers are not typos: Romano?s rendition of this classic dish provides more than an entire day’s calories (2,430) and nearly three days worth of saturated fat–an astonishing 57 grams. If you like meat, you could eat two Macaroni Grill Tuscan Rib-Eye steak dinners and inflict less damage. Or you could eat six Quarter Pounders for the same effect on your waistline.

Forgive us, we love picturing a normal everyday person trying to eat 6 Quarter Pounders at a restaurant like it wasn’t insane behavior. Picture it. It’s funny.

A 3,000-Calorie Dinner? Belly-ssimo! [CSPI]


Edit Your Comment

  1. homerjay says:

    it is what it is but will things like this change the way people eat? Not likely.

    Well, maybe it’ll help people justify that ONE big mac.

  2. phelander says:

    People should really really stop going out to eat. Making food at home, no matter what you make almost always turns out better for you as there is less processing involved. It tatstes better at home and you feel better after eating it and knowing that you did it yourself. Not to mention the MASSIVE amounts f money you save. Don’t believe me? Try it for two weeks and see how much you save and see if you don’t at least lose 4 pounds.

  3. hypnotik_jello says:

    Bart: Dude, take it easy on the fatty foods. You’re running out of leg veins to transplant into your heart.
    Homer Simpson: I’ve got arm veins, don’t I?

  4. phelander says:

    Slow cookers and rice steamers aren’t expensive and they are great for coming home to home cooked meals or to cook while you are doing other things. Just sayin’ is all.

  5. rewinditback says:


  6. nardo218 says:

    Jesus, what do they DO to stuff in restaurant kitchens? Spaghetti and meatballs at home isn’t nearly that much, it can’t be. (esp if you use ground turkey.) No wonder more places don’t put nutrition info on their menus like Ruby Tuesday’s does. The few times I’ve been there, I’ve been horrified by the fat grams in my typical chicken strips and fries out to eat meal. (Yes, I’m 10.)

  7. phelander says:

    It really blows me away when I seee Pizza Hut ads , what they consider a “Family Meal” is nothing but bread and cheese and more bread topped with bread and maybe some ranch dressing to wash down he dried bread with some sugar bread with icing on the bread for afters. I would feel like I was abusing my family if I bought them that for their supper.

  8. remusrm says:

    The other food is healthier then mcshit… and calories are good for you, they give you energy… all the other shit that is not healthy is not…


  9. Eilonwynn says:

    @phelander: I eat out once a week, with my partner and/or parents (none of whom live near me). It’s a *social* event. I’ll eat a skimpy lunch & breakfast, knowing full well that that night, I don’t care about calories as much as I do about lingering over a 3-4 course meal and actually spending quality time. I don’t eat fast food because in my family, dining out is meant to be a time for good conversation without dishdoing afterwards. Would I save money? Well, again, it depends on the restaurant – At the olive garden, I order an entree with soup, my partner orders a salad, and we both take home leftovers from both that AND the entree (usually nearly the entire entree, given their portion sizes), as well as breadsticks. So for the $10 dinner, I get the initial meal, and at least 2 meals afterwards.

    These caloric counts assume that you *are* eating the entire thing, remember.

  10. Scooter says:

    Ugh, that just makes me feel ill.

  11. faust1200 says:

    In the post apocalyptic world where all knowledge has been lost, the world will revert to the Big Mac for every unit of measure.

  12. phelander says:

    Eilonwynn, I agree with the social aspect, and you are to be commended for the attention you pay to what you are eating and how much. Sometimes people aren’t that way and those are who would benifit from my advice and suggestions.

  13. rewinditback says:

    having a good time in there, ice cream?! numa numa numa numa!

  14. phelander says:

    Oh and Olive Garden? Puh-lease. You can’t be serious. I’d rather learn the pleasure of hot ice picks in my ears then their “Unlimited Soup and Salad” pre-vomit.

  15. joemono says:

    The line “and that’s why so many of us are taking on the shape of a meatball” made me laugh for some reason.

  16. scarletvirtue says:

    @nardo218: Sometimes I prefer the “Kid’s Meal” to the massive amounts of food offered on the menu.

    And if I wanted Italian food, I’d either make it myself, or go to an independent restaurant – none of that chain restaurant dreck, thanks.

  17. savvy9999 says:

    The CSPI obviously has an anti-Italian-American bias.

    Did she really call me a meatball, with That’s Amore as background music?

    Keep it up and you’ll be swimmin’ wit’ da fishes, lady!

  18. jeffjohnvol says:

    Who gives a crap. It tastes great. If you are health conscious, don’t eat italian, mexican or chinese and stick to the cardboard.

    My favorite is the Penne Rustica. I have the exact recipe, and it has lots of heavy cream and paremesean cheese, but it is awesome. I told the manager that I had the recipe and he didn’t believe me. When I rattled off the ingredients, marsala wine, grey poupon, cream, parmesean cheese, shallots etc, he got pretty mad. I don’t know why, I’d rather buy it than make it.

  19. @faust1200: I am from ze future, and ze Mactric System works perfectly! Alas, no toilet paper anymore. Future :(.

  20. anonymouscoworker says:


    I think the fact that one of those meatballs comprises an entire meal’s worth of protein is just the beginning of the problem. There’s probably 4-6 servings of pasta on that plate too.

  21. Anitra says:

    @phelander: Slow cookers are great in theory, but I have yet to find a recipe for anything I can cook in mine that won’t still end up overcooked after 11-12 hours on “low” or leave lots of unappealing leftovers. Slow-cookers just don’t work for standard working DINKs (Dual Income No Kids), in my opinion.

    Rice cookers/steamers, on the other hand, are awesome :)

  22. ianmac47 says:

    I’m not sure what’s worse; Center For Science in the Public interest’s attack on Italian Americans, or calling food served from Olive Garden and Macaroni Grill Italian Food.

  23. jmackowi says:

    This is all about the size of the portions at restaurants. I can put down some food when I’m inclined, and I can’t come anywhere near finishing the pasta dishes when I eat out. They give you enough food to feed three adults (of course they skimp on the meat). Take at least half of these home for leftovers, and while you still have a large meal, it’s not obscene.

  24. phelander says:

    Anitrasmith…embarassingly realized that “yet to find a recipe for anything I can cook in mine that won’t still end up overcooked after 11-12 hours on “low” or leave lots of unappealing leftovers” is 100% true. Oh you should see some of my most horrid concoctions. Though some have turned out well, most have been horrid.

  25. AD8BC says:

    I don’t know why the damn media is so intent on reminding America that we are fat. Nobody is listening anymore. Perhaps it is because we are fat and we are sick and tired of being called fat by the media.

    So stop calling us fat and spend that research money on something more important.

    Like finding a trans-fat substitute that actually tastes like trans-fat.

    I’m just saying…

  26. Myron says:

    As Kevin Nealon said, “I wouldn’t take a dump in the Olive Garden”


  27. Hoborg says:

    Practically the whole *point* of going out to eat at an italian pasta restaurant is that you get a gigantic plate of food that you couldn’t possibly hope to finish in one sitting. If you were to go to a non-chain Italian-American restaurant you could probably expect a 4000-calorie pasta dish that’s as big as your torso. It dosen’t mean you have to eat it in one sitting.

  28. AD8BC says:

    My wife and I use our slow-cooker about once a week, it makes a great beef or pork roast and is never overcooked…

    And the leftovers are very appetizing.

  29. bohemian says:

    @Phelander, There are certain things that turn out well in a crock pot and some that just don’t. I can do Beef Burgundy in the crock pot and it turns out great, but you do have to still do a considerable portion on the stove to get the browning right. But you can do the hours in the oven part in the crock pot and not worry about having to be home to watch the stove.

    We bought a breadmaker, crockpot and rice steamer, they actually get used.

    If I tried to eat the entire plate of pasta at either of those restaurants I wouldn’t be able to walk out.

  30. gniterobot says:

    Did you know If you eat me it’s the equivalent of 500 big macs!

  31. smitty1123 says:

    This is why I don’t eat out. Plus, I don’t have to wear pants…

  32. mgyqmb says:

    How would this compare to the penne and basic tomato sauce that I just whipped together for lunch?

    /I can’t seem to justify paying $10 for pasta.

  33. majortom1981 says:

    Actually those macaroni dishes arent that bad in calories. Macaroni and that kind of stuff is very high in calories. Look at the calorie information next time you cook the stuff at home.

  34. AD8BC says:

    I learned an easy way to brown a large beef or pork roast from Alton Brown: Rub it down with oil (after rubbing in some seasonings) and then use a large electric griddle on all sides. A large set of tongs will help you hold it and brown the ends. Works like a charm, I can get it done before church on Sunday and get the roast in the crockpot and by 5 or 6PM have Sunday dinner ready.

  35. babaki says:

    wtf is spaghetti and meatballs that equals 4 big macs?? holy crap.

  36. darkclawsofchaos says:

    it makes sense, because it is rich in carbohydrates such as starches, and they use a ton of butter, compare to BK or Mcdonalds were the fries, chicken and bacon are the only thing fried, and the meat is heated on a heating tray

  37. kimsama says:

    @mgyqmb: Thanks, I was just going to say that — why pay like a billion dollars more for pasta at some crappy restaurant when it’s the easiest thing in the world to make? Plus, if you do it at home, you can throw all sorts of veggies in the sauce and not even realize how much fiber and veggie servings you’re getting, all while having it be delicious. It’s totally win-win.

    Ohh, now I’m fantasizing about eggplant and okra pasta…yum.

  38. sixninezero says:

    It is all about portion size here folks. Three giant meatballs plus a pound of pasta! For some reason restaurants feel they need to enlarge the portion size to imply value. Simply put quantity vs quality is the rule here.
    Italian restaurants are usually the target for these revelations because they often serve family style, yet everyone orders an entree each. The consumer’s mentality needs to be shifted for that kind of dining.
    The other culprit is the restaurants themselves. If Italian food isn’t made with absolutely the freshest and locally produced ingredients it won’t have that great Italian flavor, so the restaurants compensate with added fat and salt. The Chinese food industry did this with MSG and everyone got angry about it. You can’t produce simple food well without fresh ingredients.

  39. cnc1019 says:

    I guess i’m the only one that saw this but couldn’t remember anything after the mention of the burger king burger. mmmm…bacon

  40. rptrcub says:

    @sixninezero: I think that is the problem: learning to say “I need to stop.”

    That has been the biggest help to me in my weight loss (down to 256 from 319 over 4 months), in addition to just making better choices and exercise. I hate to eat out now and feel goaded by friends to join them, but I join them and just calm myself down by thinking: “I can control this. I can eat part of this and take the rest home or give it away.”

    Or, if it wasn’t that great in the first place, just let the waiter dump it in the trash. Yeah, yeah, I know I’m wasteful. When sit-down restaurants let a grown man order off of the kid’s menu without getting pissy, I’ll reconsider about the “no waste” thing.

  41. sixninezero says:

    @rptrcub: First off congratulations on the weight loss.
    I agree, it should be up to the individual diner to say “I have had enough”. People tend to eat too quickly, consuming more than they need. But some of the responsibility needs to fall on the restaurant as far as over serving patrons. Their focus should be on great food not great big amounts of food.

  42. nakmario says:

    haha, seriously.
    It’s not enough now to use numbers, gotta use the McDs system of measures.

  43. rptrcub says:

    @sixninezero: I agree–you can’t just blame one person–everyone, consumers and the restaurants, need to take responsibility.

    And one helpful way would be to stop serving mounds of high-density foods.

  44. Ahhhh no wonder it tastes so good!!

  45. TangDrinker says:

    @rptrcub: Wow! Way to go on the weight loss.
    As for ordering off the kid’s menu – we’ve just started noticing these menus since we have a toddler – and most places do let you order off that menu for a dollar or two more if you’re over 12. We were in Bob Evan’s this weekend on a road trip home and they offer sliced roasted turkey breast, mashed taters and steamed carrots or broccoli for about $3 for a toddler – when it came out- it was actually closer to the size of what adults should eat. I think I’m going to end up ordering off that menu the next time we stop.

  46. workingonyourinvoice says:

    I ate a meal at a seafood place the other night with my fiancee, and a fried catfish basket (with fries) was $18. It had 4 full size filets of catfish. I could barely eat 1.5 filets and some fries. I would have gladly paid half the price in exchange for half the portion. This really is the problem with eating out these days. You end up paying for twice as much food as you need, and so many people feel the need to finish what is on the plate.

    Off topic question:

    does anybody else have a cabinet full of nice ramikens from restaurants that don’t give you a disposable ramikens to transport your dipping sauce home with your leftovers? I think I’ve got all the variations that come from chili’s, and a few from some other places.

  47. ludwigk says:

    Wait, why wasn’t I told about this BK quad stacker? I know what I’m getting for lunch from now on!!

    On another unrelated note: I used to marvel at the McDonald’s “Double the Meat for $.79” option they used to have. I wanted to walk up to them and order a Big Mac, with 3 doublings, and see if they bring me a Big Mac with the appropriate 16 patties of meat on it. Of course, I haven’t been able to stomach McDonalds for quite some time so I couldn’t try it.

  48. camille_javal says:

    It’s shit like this that makes me favor putting caloric contents on the menus of national chain restaurants. There’s a big difference between knowing what you’re eating is bad for you, and knowing that that spaghetti and meatballs is more than 2400 calories. Think of it this way – if a person tries to be good, divides it in half, taking half home – there’s still 1200 calories on the plate. I don’t think a lot of people realize how fucking evil some of these restaurants are when it comes to shoveling food out – I only know because I did the research (and I only did the research becase I spent almost five years deep in an eating disorder).

    I don’t like Friday’s, and haven’t been to one since I did a “secret shopper” stint a few years ago, but I had to give them credit when they came out with a menu touting “reasonable portion size.” These restaurants could serve smaller portions and charge the same prices – isn’t that a good thing for *them*? I don’t even think people would notice half the time; in these noisy crap chains, one ends up eating mechanically – it’s the kind of sensory overload you get at a goddamned casino. (Fucking Macaroni Grill – an ex and his family took me there once – I remember loud, I remember singing, I remember insane amounts of food, and I remember throwing up in their bathroom for twenty minutes. Good times.)

  49. BigNutty says:

    And again, someone or something else is always to blame. Have humans lost the ability to choose what is right for themselves?

  50. consumer_999 says:

    Now people can use that as an excuse to go to McD’s, completely missing the point.

  51. fileunder says:

    @Eilonwynn: i was hoping someone would make this point…that’s what i do if/when i find myself at Olive Garden. bring on the breadsticks and pack up the rest, please.
    (oh, and hi, i’m new to Consumerist, but not Gawker/Wonkette – is cursing not allowed on Consumerist? ‘sh*t’, ‘effin’ etc.)

  52. Dervish says:

    @camille_javal: Yes, this. Caloric content on the menu is an excellent solution – maybe someday, in an ideal world, it will make restaurants emphasize healthy cooking or face lost business.

    That said, I can’t remember the last time I’ve finished my portion at a restaurant. I should start asking the server to bring me a to-go box when I order.

    And there are good slow cooker recipes out there, you just need to look. Some models also have timers so you can start the cooker, say, 6 hours before you get home. I’m one-half of a DINK and I use mine all the time.

  53. Techguy1138 says:

    I agree that people have the right to choose. THe video seems to be merely educational. Basically they are reminding people that pasta is HIGH in calories and meat sauces are tasty due to high amounts of fat.

    Fettuccine Alfredo is made of cream with some cheese thrown in. Pesto is comprised of olive oil and a tiny bit of leaves.

    Most traditional recipes are that way. I have an old kitchen banner that says food is to be made with lots of lard and lots of love.

    Cooking at home isn’t automatically better, it’s a challenge to make healthy food that tastes good. That’s why people eat out.

  54. Techguy1138 says:

    @fileunder: No the consumerist isn’t a ‘real’ gawker blog. Swearing, sexual references and violence do not go over well here.

    Nationalism, racism(against those from other countries), criticism of the president don’t get you in much trouble here.

  55. Meg Marco says:

    @fileunder: It’s allowed. We just try to be classier than those other fucking blogs.

  56. Televiper says:

    *sigh*.. I guess I have start taking it easy on my favorite pasta meals.

  57. MikeB says:

    @rptrcub: Congrats on the loss. I too am relearning how to eat properly after 36 years of piss poor eating. I was borderline diabetic and reached a max of 273. I started changing my eating habits late August and as of today I am down to 247. I wouldn’t call what I am doing to lose the weight dieting as it is more of a life change than anything.

    Less Fat (73g or less for me), more chicken, extremely limited amounts of fried food and more exercise and the pounds come off. I still eat stuff I want but I make much better choices.

  58. MrEvil says:

    I think the biggest problem with Pasta is the processed flour that goes into it. whole grain pasta is good for you, but bleached flour pasta is not.

    Hopefully white winter wheat will put an end to enriched flour. My dad and I planted 300 acres this season. The flour white wheat makes tastes the same as bleached flour, but has all the nutrition of whole wheat flour.

  59. Consumerist Moderator - ACAMBRAS says:

    I was just about to answer fileunder’s question when I saw your response. I am laughing my damn head off.

    Nobody flag Meghann, OK? We can’t ban the editors. :-)

  60. fileunder says:

    @Techguy1138: @meghannmarco:
    ok, thanks. i’ll sit and wait for the talking cock.

  61. timmus says:

    Meghann rules!

  62. DanPVD says:

    Why would people think that all of this Italian food is really healthy? I mean, all of my Italian relatives would smother every food item in lard, especially those nice fried meatballs, mmmm.

  63. glater says:

    Did anyone else enjoy the first words of this video as much as I did? “Nothing’s more American than Italian dishes such as…”

    Do words mean anything, anymore? To anyone?

  64. ElizabethD says:

    The thing about those Italian chain restaurants is that most of them give you WAY too much food on your plate. It’s obscene. Cut your portion in half before you start eating, and take the uneaten half home for tomorrow’s dinner.

  65. duffbeer703 says:

    The funniest part of this is that people associate the Olive Garden and Macaroni Grill with Italian food.

    The Olive Garden is literally a thaw and serve restaurant. As a New Yorker, I always get a chuckle when some rube family is on a plane talking about the amazing, authentic Italian meal from the Olive Garden.

  66. joemono says:

    @GLATER: I thought the same. When I think of “American” food, I think of hot dogs and cheeseburgers.

  67. theblackdog says:

    Watching that plate of spaghetti and meatballs I could only think that I could do it so much better at home, and make just enough for me and me only.

  68. STrRedWolf says:

    Next up on ESPN2/Food Network: The competitive eating sports federataion arrives at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor for the Macaroni Grill/Olive Garden ALL PASTA EAT-OUT! Will Joey Chestnut add one more notch on his belt after winning the Hotdog and Hamburger competitions? FIND OUT! :)

  69. kc2idf says:

    99 times out of 100, when we go out to eat, we bring back at least half, and eat that over the next couple of days. In the case of pasta places, as much as 2/3 might come back for later.

    In one extreme case, I ordered some tortellini from a local mom and pop Italian eatery, and I got that night’s dinner plus a full week’s worth of lunches out of it.

    If you do this, you can actually come out ahead of the game, but you have to be willing to eat leftovers.

  70. rptrcub says:

    @kc2idf: True true. Leftovers do eventually get boring and/or moldy. I just wish there was local authentic Italian where I live (Georgia).

    And thanks, everyone, for the kudos on the great drop.

  71. gingerCE says:

    Okay, I kinda disagree about downsizing portions. I like large portions–the more bang for my buck the better. The reason? I know going in I am going to have leftovers so I portion or I will split a meal with a friend and save money. Yesterday, I bought a burrito at Chipotle. It’s huge. I cut it up into three meals–lunch, dinner, and still have some left over today. When I get a personal pan pizza, I always cut it in half so I get more a slice for the next day for lunch. Faijitas? It lasts me two more meals beyond the original dinner. It’s hard to do for some foods like salads (so I order dressing on side to keep the other side from getting soggy) but overall I like big portions cause I know I won’t have to cook later that day or the next. I do cook at home which is cheaper and healthier but when I eat out I want to be able to stock up for the price of one meal.

  72. Saboth says:


    Errr not sure who cooks at your house, but eating out ALWAYS tastes better…

  73. ung says:

    What it comes down to is that the cost of the ingredients that the restaurants use is small compared to the other costs involved (rent, utilities, employee pay) so it makes financial sense for the places to raise prices and then make the portions huge to justify the prices. It has no effect on the fixed costs to put twice as much food on the plate, but doubling the price makes it much more likely to turn a profit. On top of that the employees are trained to make you feel guilty if you want to split one of their giant meals.

  74. aduzik says:

    @BigNutty: I think the problem is a lot of people really don’t realize how many calories are in the foods they eat. Most people probably eat a plate of spaghetti and meatballs thinking it has 700-800 calories when it really has 2400 or more. I agree, people are responsible for their own health, but they need to know what they’re really eating to make good choices.

  75. aduzik says:

    @MrEvil: You just totally blew my mind. There’s such a thing as whole wheat flour with the same taste as bleached white flour? That. Is. Amazing. Is there any place a person can buy such flour? I live in the midwest, so the baking goods aisle contains thirty brands and varieties of bleached flour with one token brand of whole wheat flour.

  76. hexychick says:

    If you go to Macaroni Grill’s website, click the menu tab, and then click the nutritional information link under the map of the US, the fat count listed in the spaghetti with meat sauce actually has 128 grams of fat. Most of that list is rather shocking.