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Food Porn: Just in Time For Valentine's Day

Cassie.Rowe's picture

Cassie Rowe, MS, RD, LD/N

Yep! I said it. Food PORN. What is it? Well, it’s a term defined by The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) as “menu items with eye-popping levels of calories, saturated fat, sugar and/or sodium”, and it exemplifies the Xtreme Eating list put out by the same group which identifies the most unhealthy dishes at restaurant chains in the nation. Curious about the winners this year?

What restaurant has a huge variety of food choices and an even bigger selection of cheesecake? The Cheesecake Factory, of course! This restaurant chain makes the food porn list annually, but this year it took up two of the top spots for these fabulous (though high calorie, fat, and sodium) menu items: Bistro Shrimp Pasta (leading the roster with 3,120 Calories, 89 grams of saturated fat and 1,090 milligrams of sodium) and Crispy Chicken Costoletta (2,610 Calories, 89 grams of saturated fat and 2,720 milligrams of sodium). Don’t fret if you’ve already got Valentine’s Day reservations at your closest Cheesecake Factory, we’ve got lots of great picks if you need special diet accommodations here!

So who else made the list? Well, Maggiano’s Little Italy has a Chocolate Zuccotto Cake to die for. I know this because it’s my favorite item on the entire menu. Each piece weighs almost a pound and has 1,820 Calories, 62 grams of saturated fat, and 26 teaspoons of added sugar! (It’s okay—we’ve got menu picks for you here too.) And what about smoothies? Well, it depends on the type you get, but if you frequent Smoothie King often, their large Peanut Power Plus Grape Smoothie has a whopping 1,460 Calories, 22 teaspoons of added sugar plus 29 teaspoons of natural sugar. That might be the only sweetheart you need on Valentine’s Day.

Did I just wow you with some big numbers? Good. My real point for touching on this story is not the shock factor (well, it is a little… I need your readership), it is to point out the context in which these food porn stars are used. First thing is first. Now, be honest: when is the last time you went to The Cheesecake Factory and could finish the entire portion of food on your plate? Come on now, those numbers I’ve listed above might seem big and scary, but the portions of pasta at that restaurant are the size of Jupiter! Even if you could down one third of the meal, you’ve deflated those numbers to 1,040 Calories, 30 grams saturated fat, and 363 milligrams of sodium. While this still might not be considered all that “healthy”, it’s certainly not going to kill ya either AND it’s certainly less offensive than a McDonald’s Big Mac Value Meal (with a large fry and a Diet Coke): 1,050 Calories, 48.5 grams saturated fat, and 1,340 milligrams of sodium. The same goes for just about all the examples I listed above. I would bet good money that even if you did eat that entire portion of pasta (or cake, or chicken, or whatever you choose), you wouldn’t feel hungry again for quite some time. You can thank your body for that—it knows when you’ve eaten a boat-load of Calories, and if you pay attention to the feelings of hunger and fullness, it’s a fail-safe way to ensure you eat just the right amount.

So what’s the key to navigating the menus on Valentine’s Day? First, eat what you love and enjoy every bite. Second, stop when you feel full and save your leftovers for another meal. Third, continue to make food choices for good nutrition in mind, but don’t let it take away your pleasure. Anyway, that’s what food porn was invented for, and you’re entitled to that any day of the year. Happy Valentine's Day!

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