Is it any wonder that 40 percent of American adults are obese?
The United States has a weight problem.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average American man is 15 pounds heavier than he was in 1994, the average woman is 17 pounds heavier. (The average man is now 5’ 9.25" tall and weighs 196 pounds; the average woman is 5’ 3.75" and weighs 169 pounds.)
As of 2016, 40 percent of US adults and 19 percent of youth were obese – a fact accompanied by increasing rates of associated chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome. Obesity-related diseases are obviously bad for the people suffering from them, but they are also incredibly expensive; as well, all of that care carries a heavy sustainability load.
While nobody is forcing anyone to eat fattening food, the food industry is a powerful and manipulative machine that thrives on feeding us cheap and crappy food, and it uses an arsenal of tools to appeal to our appetites. It takes a lot to resist the flood of temptations; mountains of crisp fried things and cheese-stuffed monstrosities, extreme mash-ups and towering gooey desserts. They lace the food with the salt, fat and sugar we are hardwired to crave, and they make it cheap.
And nowhere is this more apparent than at restaurants appealing to our giant junky food cravings. Vox notes that more than half of our food dollars are now being spent on restaurants and convenient on-the-go meals. “In 2015, for the first time, Americans spent more money eating away from home than they did on groceries.”
Meanwhile, researchers have found that we generally consume 20 to 40 percent more calories in restaurants than we do at home. Which is perhaps why the country’s worst breakfast can be found in a chain restaurant near you!
Every year the Center for Science in the Public Interest doles out its doleful accolades for America’s worst chain restaurant meals. Called the Xtreme Eating Awards, they highlight foods rife with fat, sugar, salt, and calories for a who’s who of what not to eat.
This year’s awards were granted to eight winners – but the award for “Worst Way to Start the Day” is so, I don’t know, breathtaking, that is gets a write-up all its own.
Introducing the Cheesecake Factory’s Breakfast Burrito.
Now usually a breakfast burrito can be a rather subtle affair. A nice tortilla wrapped around some scrambled eggs and avocado – not much harm done there. The Cheesecaks Factory version does not look like that. As described on the company’s website, it is:
"A Warm Tortilla Filled with Scrambled Eggs, Bacon, Chicken Chorizo, Cheese, Crispy Potatoes, Avocado, Peppers and Onions, Over Spicy Ranchero Sauce. Served with Sour Cream, Salsa and Black Beans."
And from the images I have seen, it looks to be about the size of a large person’s arm.
So what does that mean in terms of nutrition details?
• 2730 calories: More than a day’s worth
• 4,630 milligrams of sodium: Two days’ worth
• 73 grams of saturated fat: More than three days’ worth
And all before lunch! Look at it this way, this one plate of food is the nutritional equivalent of seven Sausage McMuffins from McDonald’s.
“Long gone are the days when a big restaurant meal was an occasional splurge,” says CSPI senior nutritionist Lindsay Moyer. “Americans are eating out more than ever before. So when restaurant chains are serving up 2,000 calories or more on a single plate, it’s easy to see why people continue to struggle with overweight, obesity, and diet-related diseases.”
According to the CDC, the average restaurant meal today is more than four times the size of a typical meal in the 1950s. So maybe the breakfast burrito is actually okay … if you split it with three friends ... and skip the 1500-calorie slice of Ultimate Red Velvet Cake Cheesecake afterwards.
You can see the bodacious burrito in the video below (complete with a robot narrating the story, because times are strange).