CSPI bases the choices on calories, saturated and trans fat, and sodium levels. Dietary guidelines for Americans recommend that most individuals consume approximately 2,000 calories and no more than 20 grams of saturated fat and 2,300 mg of sodium per day.
In releasing the list, CSPI noted that only one restaurant company, Darden (parent of Olive Garden, Red Lobster and other chains) is a member of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, the coalition of packaged foods makers, retailers and other groups implementing efforts to address obesity among American children and adults. (Packaged foods members recently pledged to cut more than a trillion calories from their products by 2012.)
"For all the industry's rhetoric about providing consumers with 'choice,' the choices at restaurants mostly range from bad to terrible," asserted CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. "If chain restaurants want to practice corporate responsibility, they should substitute fruits, vegetables, and whole grains for white flour, sugar, salt, and fat."
The federal health reform act in March gives the Food and Drug Administration one year to propose a regulation specifying how restaurant chains with 20 or more outlets should disclose calories on menus and menu boards. The law will also require chains to make information about saturated fat, carbohydrates, sodium and other nutrients available to diners on request.
This year's 'Xtreme Eating' menu items list includes:
Other menu items on CSPI's 2010 Xtreme Eating list can be found in the June issue of its Nutrition Action Healthletter at cspinet.org.