What Not to Eat: Chain Restaurant Pasta


The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has an eye-opening video demonstrating the health hazards of eating at major Italian-style restaurant chains (they focused on the Olive Garden and Romano's Macaroni Grill, the two largest such chains in the US). Remember when the CSPI called fettucini Alfredo a "heart attack on a plate" in 1994? Well, there are more heart attacks where that came from. How about the Olive Garden's innocuous-sounding Spaghetti with Meatballs...well, it's got roughly the same calories and saturated fat as three Quarter-Pounders. Macaroni Grill's dish is twice as bad -- six Quarter-Pounders. So clearly, why not just pull through your local drive-through and order the family, I dunno, a couple of dozen Quarter-Pounder and eat those instead?

From the video: "The truth is, it's virtually impossible to get a plate of pasta or virtually any other dish for less than 1,000 calories at [these restaurants]." Watch and be amazed/horrified/hungry:

Read detailed findings from the CSPI. See also: CSPI Slams Domino's New Pasta As Unhealthy 'Food Porn' including this awesome quote:

"Topping a pizza crust with an order of macaroni and cheese is probably the most discouraging mac-and-cheese innovation since The Cheesecake Factory decided to ball it up and toss it in the deep-fryer," [CSPI senior nutritionist Jayne] Hurley said. "What's next, wrapping it in a giant blueberry pancake?"

If you don't get the reference, you owe it to yourself to watch SNL's "Taco Town" ad.

For more mental_floss coverage of crazy foods, see Best of the worst foods ever, What's worse for you than fast food? Lotsa things, and The Quick 10: 10 Secret Menu Items. (There's a ton more where those came from -- just search for "food" in the box at the top of this page.)