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Health group serves up list of unhealthy eats at chain restaurants

Would you eat a 2,850-calorie burger from Uno Pizzera? What about Dave and Buster's 1,910-calorie sandwich?

Both of those foods are recipients of the Center for Science in the Public Interest's 2016 XTreme Eating Awards, an annual list of unhealthy food at American restaurants.

This year's winners also include The Cheesecake Factory's Fried Chicken and Waffles Benedict, with 2,580 calories, Buffalo Wild Wing's Dessert Nachos, with 2,100 calories, and Sonic's RT 44 Grape Slush with Rainbow Candy, with 970 calories.

"Americans do want to eat healthier but restaurants are not doing nearly enough to meet that demand," said Lindsay Moyer, senior nutritionist at CSPI. "At a minimum, calories need to be on restaurant menus so that people know what ends up on their plate."

Calorie counts will be mandatory on menus and menu boards at restaurants with more than 20 locations starting in May 2017 because of a 2014 Food and Drug Administration food labeling rule.

Both producers and consumers point to healthier options on the menu that some say counteract the fatty ones.

"Many of our guests come in and want to celebrate and not be concerned with calories," said Alethea Rowe, a spokeswoman for The Cheesecake Factory. "Others want to share their dish -- and we love it when guests share -- that's a great sign that our portions are generous -- and a large percentage of our guests take home leftovers for lunch the next day."

Ryan Webster works in Arlington, Virginia, and says he eats lunch out almost every day.

"I don't think the problem is eating out too much," Webster said. "I think the problem is about making better choices, eating smaller portions and eating more balanced meals."

Moyer said portion size is a big problem in the restaurant industry. 

"When you go to a restaurant, always box up half and take it home for later," she said. "Restaurant portions are just too big."

But the National Restaurant Association say CSPI's list doesn't give the full story.

"CSPI's cherry-picked examples paint an inaccurate picture of the great strides the industry has made in the area of nutrition," said Christin Fernandez, a spokeswoman for the organization. "America's one million restaurants provide numerous options to accommodate all types of tastes and diets -- diners looking for an occasional indulgence or those that are keeping things light."

A statement from Uno Pizzeria said the "Whole Hog Burger" was meant to be "an over-the-top eating experience."

"We are not surprised that the Whole Hog Burger has been recognized on the Xtreme Eating list in 2016 - it was designed for this very kind of thing," said chief marketing officer Skip Weldon.

Dave & Buster's did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 

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