Food police hand out "awards" for ultra high-calorie eats

(NBC) - Big appetites, big food and big waistlines. The combination can cause big problems, which is why the Center for Science in the Public Interest announced what it calls the Extreme Eating Awards.

The awards go to the chain restaurants that serve food highest in calories, fat and sodium.

"Compared to some of the meals in restaurants, now the Big Mac looks downright dainty," said Michael Jacobson, executive director of The Center for Science in the Public Interest.

On the list, P.F. Changs' Double Pan Fried Noodles, which contain a five-day supply of sodium.

The Cheesecake Factory's Pasta Carbonara with Chicken has 2,500 calories, more than most people need in an entire day.

Other award winners include items from Bob Evans and Five Guys restaurants.

In defense, the Cheesecake Factory notes that it offers healthy alternatives, several meals under 600 calories. The California Pizza Kitchen is also fighting back, saying most often its pizzas are shared.

But instead of promoting health, the consumer watchdogs claim chains are helping make Americans the most obese population on the planet.

"Restaurants aren't doing what is moderate. They're really practicing a very ill informed form of caloric extremism," Jacobson said.

The organization says with obesity a national epidemic, chains should remove extreme items from their menus, even if they taste good.

A law enacted in March will require chain restaurants to disclose nutritional data but the information won't make it to menus for another few years.

Until then, it's up to consumers to find out what's in that plate of pasta or towering truffle cake and decide on their own if it's worth it.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest is a nonprofit health advocacy group based in Washington D.C. that focuses on nutrition, food safety and pro-health alcohol practices.

The full list of the 2010 Extreme Eating Awards is published in the June issue of Nutrition Action Health letter.

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