Dining out? Arm yourself with nutrition information before you order

Remember the uproar when KFC unveiled its Double Down sandwich: two pieces of bacon, two slices of cheese and "Colonel's Sauce," with two thick fillets of fried chicken functioning as the bun?

Compared with some chain restaurants' offerings, the 540-calorie Double Down is almost health food.

Below is a list of dishes that in just one sitting provide close to, or more than, the 2,000 calories recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for an entire day's sustenance. They also mostly stomp all over the recommended daily intakes for sodium (no more than 2,400 milligrams), fat (65 grams) and saturated fat (20 grams) for someone on a 2,000-calorie diet.

"Restaurants are not in the business of making people healthy," says Washington dietitian Rebecca Scritchfield. "They're trying to make money, and salt and fat are cheap ways to make food taste better."

We asked Scritchfield to give us her take on these caloric heavyweights.

All of the nutritional information below comes from the restaurants' websites, except for the Cheesecake Factory's, which is courtesy of the Center for Science in the Public Interest's Xtreme Eating awards. (The chain does not publish its nutritional information online.)

Quiznos large tuna melt sub sandwich

The numbers: 1,520 calories, 101 grams of fat, 21 grams of saturated fat, 2,020 milligrams of sodium.

Equivalent of eating: More than a stick of butter's worth of fat.

Expert evaluation: "If someone hears 'tuna' and they think they should be eating more fish, they might think that's a good choice, but the portion is way too big," Scritchfield says.

Chipotle's chicken burrito, filled with rice, pinto beans, corn salsa, cheese, sour cream and guacamole, accompanied by a side of chips

The numbers: 1,750 calories, 79.5 grams of fat, 23 grams of saturated fat, 2,750 milligrams of sodium.

Equivalent of eating: The calories in more than nine chicken soft tacos at Taco Bell.

Expert evaluation: "My top recommendation is not to get cheese and sour cream but instead get guacamole because that has the heart-healthy fat and gives you the creaminess you're going for," Scritchfield says. Forgo the chips and save 570 calories.

Applebee's New England fish and chips

The numbers: 1,910 calories, 137 grams of fat, 24 grams of saturated fat, 3,150 milligrams of sodium.

Equivalent of eating: The fat in almost a pound of cheddar cheese.

Expert evaluation: "If you really wanted this, I'd say split it and add some veggies," Scritchfield says.

Chili's Big Mouth Bites, four mini burgers topped with jalapeno ranch dressing

The numbers: 1,930 calories, 31 grams of saturated fat, 4,400 milligrams of sodium.

Equivalent of eating: The calories of around 25 eggs.

Expert evaluation: "These are interesting because they're sold as 'mini' burgers, but it's still a high-calorie, high-fat and high-salt meal because of what's on them," Scritchfield says.

Outback Steakhouse's full rack of baby back ribs served with Aussie fries

The numbers: 1,936 calories, 133 grams of fat, 56 grams of saturated fat, 2,741 milligrams of sodium.

Equivalent of eating: The fat grams in 20 tablespoons of salad dressing.

Expert evaluation: "Vegetables should be half of your dinner plate, and they're absent," Scritchfield says. Substitute steamed green beans or seasonal veggies for the fries and slash about 200 calories and 15 grams of fat.

P.F. Chang's China Bistro's double pan-fried noodles with a combination of meats

Although this is one entree, the company counts it as four servings since it totals 36 ounces.

The numbers: 1,820 calories, 84 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 7,692 milligrams of sodium.

Equivalent of eating: The sodium in 70 tablespoons of blue cheese dressing.

Expert evaluation: "If four people shared this (as their entire meal), not only would the waiter be like, 'What are you doing?' but we'd leave dissatisfied," Scritchfield says. "They're breaking it down so their numbers look good."

Uno Chicago Grill's Chicago Classic deep-dish individual pizza, which is topped with sausage, tomato sauce and cheese

The numbers: 2,310 calories, 165 grams of fat, 54 grams of saturated fat, 4,920 milligrams of sodium.

Equivalent of eating: The fat in 45 strips of bacon.

Expert evaluation: Although Uno counts this smaller pizza as having three servings in its online nutritional information, Scritchfield says that when someone orders an "individual" pizza, they are likely to see it as a meal for one.

Dining out? Arm yourself with nutrition information before you order 10/22/10 [Last modified: Friday, October 22, 2010 5:30am]

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