NOTHING EXCEEDS LIKE EXCESS

Food is a form of fuel, so I suppose you could argue that meeting all of one’s daily caloric needs with an appetizer of “pizza skins” is the ultimate in energy efficiency.

Pizza skins, an invention of the restaurant chain Uno Chicago Grill, are a perfect example of American culinary ingenuity/insanity, “a cross between a pizza and stuffed potato skins, with a deep-dish pizza crust crammed with mozzarella and cheddar cheese, mashed potatoes, bacon and sour cream,” according to Reuters.

People have the right to pig out and restaurants have a right to profit from our desire to do so. But the Center for Science in the Public Interest thinks that consumers aren’t being given sufficient information to make informed choices when we eat out.

How many people would still order the pizza skins knowing they contain 2,060 calories, 134 grams of fat, of which 48 grams is saturated fat, and 3,140 milligrams of sodium?

The average person only needs about 2,000 to 2,500 calories a day, and the USDA tells us we should consume, at most, 83 grams of fat daily, and of that, no more than 19 grams of it saturated.

Diners who try to offset such an indulgent appetizer by selecting a healthy sounding entrée, something like, say, Uno Chicago Grill’s “Fresh Chicken and Broccoli Pasta,” will consume another 2,060 calories, with 128 grams of fat, much of it saturated, too.

If you were actually trying to heed the USDA’s dietary guidelines, which evidently no one does, a meal of pizza skins and the chicken and broccoli pasta would require you to fast for several days in order to comply with your Recommended Dietary Allowances.

The National Restaurant Association takes issue with the CSPI’s criticism of the restaurant chains:

"Pointing to a select few menu items at a select few restaurants as being high in calories, and generalizing that to all restaurant fare is misleading, inaccurate and does the public a grave disservice," the association said in a statement.

Of course, you could argue that routinely serving huge portions of insanely fatty food does the public a grave disservice, too, although it may be a service to gravediggers.

New York City’s Board of Health tried to address the problem by passing a regulation back in December, along with the infamous trans-fat ban, that would require restaurants to post their menu’s nutritional content where consumers could see it, whether on the menu or a menu board.

The restaurant industry has been battling to overturn the rule ever since. They’d rather we didn’t see that information, and most of us don’t really want to know, either. We already know the pizza skins are bad for us, so spare us the gory details.

A diner confronted with the actual caloric and fat content of a side of pizza skins may think twice about actually ordering them, or so the CSPI hopes. Which is why the restaurant industry desperately wants to keep us from knowing. If we do the math, it adds up to problems for them.