Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Do Not Eat At Outback Steakhouse

This is post I decided to write after seeing the number of google searchers who have found my blog by searching for “calories + outback steakhouse + mashed potatoes” or some variation. They find my blog because it leads them to this post where I muse about the insane amount of calories that are in a blooming onion.

Eating at Outback is just like Doing Drugs

People can make choices to do unhealthy things like smoking or drinking or doing drugs. Or eating high-fat, highly saturated foods. But they should at least be cognizant of what they are doing. There was a lawsuit in DC filed against Kentucky Fried Chicken a while ago (it got thrown out) which the plaintiff really wasn’t looking for money. He just wanted KFC to either correctly label its food (which they were never going to do) or actually fulfill a promise to not cook in trans-fat oil. It produced one of my favorite quotes about creating unhealthy chicken.

"Grilled, baked, or roasted chicken is a healthy food -- and even fried chicken can be trans-fat-free," said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. "But coated in breading and fried in partially hydrogenated oil, this otherwise healthy food becomes something that can quite literally take years off your life. KFC knows this, yet it recklessly puts its customers at risk of a Kentucky Fried Coronary."
That's what got me. It's not "don't eat fried chicken." It's "don't eat KFC's because they've made it a fried heart bullet." That even people who were choosing to eat unhealthy fried chicken didn’t know how bad KFC’s chicken was for them. It would have been healthier to eat the fried chicken at a local mom-and-pop restaurant.

This isn’t about whether you, yourself are a health person or an unhealthy person. Eating Outback isn’t good for you even if you are a marathon runner. It’s like saying you can justify smoking because you’re a vegan. I’m just writing them because I think people should be aware that Outback isn’t just “bad for you” its REALLY, REALLY, REALLY bad for you.

In fact I might argue that some kinds of drugs are probably less damaging to you than a typical meal at Outback.

What About The Cheesecake Factory? Or Chili’s? Or T.G.I.Friday’s?

And this could be said of a lot of chain restaurants. I’m only focusing on Outback because it’s a typical chain. I don’t know what people are searching for when they are googling calories + outback. Maybe they just ate there, maybe they were planning on eating there, maybe they are just doing some research. But if you haven’t already decided to eat at Outback let me take a moment to try to dissuade you.

The key word is “dissuade.” We’re all autonomous adults who can put whatever they damn well like into their body. I’m merely suggesting that for the kind of fat & calories you can unknowningly eat at Outback there are tastier, healthier places to eat.

First off, let me admit that Outback Steakhouse is tasty. I don’t think you’ll get any argument from me over that. I used to live within walking distance of an Outback and a former roommate and I used to go over there to eat at the bar and drink their fresh-squeezed screwdrivers until the bartender would cut us off. Then with full bellies we’d stumble home.

And while I don’t think anyone thinks eating at Outback is health food, or anywhere close to it, I suspect that very few people have any idea exactly how unhealthy Outback really is or how large the portions are. It’s not to say that people still can’t decide to eat at Outback, even knowing it’s going to offer you lots of unhealthy food. But if it’s heroin you want to put in your body at least be aware that’s its heroin and don’t mistake it for a stiff shot of bourbon. (Sorry I was trying to come up with a one-drug-verses another drug analogy.)

A typical Outback Steak isn’t just enough meat for two meals. It’s enough meat for three or four. Their smallest steak is 9 oz. An actual portion of meat is supposed to be three ounces. So a 9 oz steak…well you can do the math for that and then their 12 oz and 16 oz steaks.

Honestly I stopped eating at Outback after watching SuperSize Me. Because there’s the one tiny moment in the movie where Morgan Spurlock points out how huge the steaks are with a side-by-side comparison.

And of course you can sit down and decide to eat more than “one portion” of meat. But studies have shown that people eat more if you give them more. If you put a 4 oz steak on a small plate their mind would think that would satisfy them. But if you put a 4 oz steak on a large plate, well it looks just tiny! If you’re given 9 oz, you might eat 6 in a setting. But if you are given 12 oz you’ll end up eating 9.

And Brian in the comments noted, even the way Outback cooks their steak “beefs up” (pun intended) the saturated fat content. It’s like frying bacon in lard. Hmmm…heart-healthy.

And that’s just the steaks. Numerous people have tried to find my blog because they were looking for nutritional information on Outback Steakhouse’s mashed potatoes.

Well guess what. It doesn’t exist. That’s right. They don’t even provide nutritional information themselves…just a sketchy informational guide that suggests how different meals can fit into your Gluten-Free, or Diabetic Diet, and so on. [Without even providing the basic calorie/fat/fiber information! And it’s provided by a weird “third-party.”]

There are some calorie guide websites that seem to provide some nutritional information, but none on their mashed potatoes. It’s probably one of those foods that if you have to ask how many calories are in it, it’s probably not something you should be eating.

(Also it’s good to remember that nutritional information is often wrong. Calculating how many calories/fat is not going to be constant depending on how its cooked, how long it was fried, how big the portion is doled out by the kitchen staff. Things like sauces, frying time and portions are quite variable.)

If you really want some honest information, the Center for Science in the Public Interest is chockful of interesting information about chain restaurants.

Here’s facts about steak houses.

Here’s one about children’s portions, which are just as huge!
CSPI said the worse offender was Outback Steakhouse, where the children's version of a cheeseburger, fries, soda, and sundae totaled 1,700 calories and 58 grams of saturated fat.
Now is it physically possible to eat something non-body-destroying at Outback. Of course it is. But ask yourself, if I was going to order something healthier to eat aren’t their better places with more options instead of trying to figure out the one thing (and how to correctly order it) that won’t kill you?

Lastly here’s a former Outback server talking about the famed Blooming Onion.


Anonymous said...

kfc is horrible! the chicken contains ghb to make it addictive!

Laura said...

You had mentioned how or why people were coming across your site... I was having a debate with my boyfriend. I was having an out of no where craving for an "Awesome Blossom" from Outback. My boyfriend said it was called a "Blooming Onion" at Outback. So I Googled "Awesome Blossom". Needless to say I lost the debate. An "Awesome blossom" is Chili's version! And thats how I saw the calories on google! Hope that craving doesn't come back for a very LONG time!!!

Anonymous said...

I'll have the Bloomin' Onion, with extra dipping sauce, salad with extra blue cheese dressing, steak and lobster tail with drawn butter, please. Oh, and a couple loaves of that yummy bread with extra butter. And a side of heroin too. I don't care what's in it or how many calories, nor do I care if they tell me. I *do* care if you tell me NOT to do that, though. I was Googling to find out if "Bloomin' Onion" is trademarked, and found this silly rant of yours.

Anonymous said...

Forgot to mention as a point of fact that their smallest steak is 6 oz., not 9 as you said; has been for many years. And it's yummy, too.