What is the absolute worst-for-you restaurant meal? Gosh, there are so many possibilities. A giant plate of nachos? Fried chicken and waffles? A bacon avocado cheeseburger and fries?
Nope. According to the nonprofit nutrition-advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest, the honor goes to ... Long John Silver's "Big Catch" fish platter! The everything-deep-fried, everything-beige platter includes fried haddock (about 60 percent fish, 40 percent batter and grease), cornmeal hush puppies and onion rings.
(Hmmm. Sounds kinda good.)
The winning stats: calories, 1,320; trans fat, 33 grams; saturated fat, 19 grams; sodium, 3,700 milligrams.
"It's easy to find fast-food meals with more calories -- the Big Catch has 'only' 1,320 -- but when it comes to clogging arteries, the Big Catch is by far the Worst Restaurant Meal in America," the group said in a press release. All of the trans fat comes from "industrially produced partially hydrogenated frying oil," the Center says.
In awarding the meal the distinction, the Center said the artery-clogging trans fat tally alone is "astonishing." The American Heart Assn.'s recommended limit is less than 2 grams daily -- the LJS meal contains more than two weeks' worth. Trans fat has been banned by some cities and states (including California, since 2008) and abandoned by many U.S. food manufacturers.
The Center said it planned to pursue legal action if Long John Silver's continues to use the unhealthy cooking oil.
"It's outrageous that Long John Silver's foods are still loaded with artificial trans fat and that the FDA still permits it in foods," Walter Willett, chair of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health, said in a statement.
Louisville, Ky.-based Long John Silver's "Big Catch" meal also has 19 grams of saturated fat (20 grams is the daily recommended amount) and a sodium content over twice the AHA's daily recommended amount of 1,500 milligrams. All of this fat and salt can lead to high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes, the Center said. The meal contains more than half of the Food and Drug Administration's recommended 2,000 calories a day for a healthy adult.
"Long John Silver's Big Catch meal deserves to be buried 20,000 leagues under the sea," said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. "This company is taking perfectly healthy fish--and entombing it in a thick crust of batter and partially hydrogenated oil. The result? A heart attack on a hook. Instead of the Big Catch, I'd call it America's Deadliest Catch." Cute.
Trans fat is considered to be the most unhealthy dietary fat because it increases "bad" LDL cholesterol and reduces "good" HDL cholesterol.
The FDA in 2006 began requiring food makers to list trans fat on their product labels. Since then, packaged food makers have largely eliminated their use of trans fat, and many chains, such as McDonald's and KFC, have switched to trans fat-free oils.
Long John Silver's restaurants in California use canola oil in their deep-fryers, and not the partially hydrogenated soybean oil used in much of the rest of the country.
So if you really want to experience the Worst Restaurant Meal in America, you know what that means. Road trip!