'Food porn' making our nation grow -- and grow


Headline writing is considered an art in this business. There are those who can pen something so crafty or witty that it just begs the reader to read what’s underneath because it captured the mind’s eye so effectively.
Coastal Point •  Submitted

My personal tendency is to ramble on and on in my writing with very little rhyme or reason, so the confines of a finite space for a headline often reduces me to uncreative, uninspired lead-ins for our stories. So when you do see a headline in our paper that grabs you as being creative or clever, chances are it came from the head of our news editor, M. Patricia Titus.

And though I do admittedly come up short when trying to pen headlines, I do have a keen appreciation for ones that stand out. Like many of you, I scan the Internet news sites fairly regularly, and often only click on a story when the headline invites me to do just that. With that in mind, I offer the following headline I read on reuters.com the other morning: “Cheesecake Factory pasta on annual list of caloric ‘food porn’”.

How would I not click on this story? It has everything I’ve ever wanted in a teaser. The phrase “food porn” alone was enough to make me want to read more, and the fact that there is an annual list of said “food porn” forced my finger into an instant reaction upon my mouse.

According to the story, the restaurant’s bistro shrimp pasta, made with a butter and cream sauce and topped with battered, fried shrimp, contains 3,120 calories — more than a day and a half of the recommended caloric intake for an average adult. It also contains 89 grams of saturated fat and 1,090 milligrams of sodium, which I’m going to guess are also very bad things.

The “food porn” list — and I don’t see me tiring of that phrase any time soon — is put together by The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a consumer-focused non profit group that promotes healthier eating. As my regular eating habits fall somewhere in between Fred Flintstone’s and a rabid wildebeast, this is not a group that has been on my radar over the years, so this study is new to me. And I just can’t get enough of it.

Apparently, those numbers associated with the Cheeseacake Factory’s pasta meal are alarming. For comparison’s sake, the CSPI said that, “It’s like eating three orders of Olive Garden’s Lasagna Classico plus an order of tiramisu for dinner.”

They say that like it’s a bad thing.

But, of course, it is a bad thing. For all the attention paid over recent years to eating better and understanding our physiology better, we still have an affinity for eating foods that do nothing but stretch out our pants and make editors look like Baby Huey when they put on those sweaters that had been hiding in the closet since last winter.

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, and cited in the Reuters story, more than one-third of Americans are obese, and about 10 percent of the nation’s healthcare bill is tied to obesity-related diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes. While the numbers are certainly interesting, it really shouldn’t be a surprise. We’re fatter than ever, even if we do know more about what makes us fat than ever before.

Of course, the Cheesecake Factory’s pasta dish is not the only item on the “food porn” list — otherwise, well, it wouldn’t be called a “list,” would it? That restaurant also has its Crispy Chicken Costoletta, which features 1,770 calories, about the same as an entire 12-piece bucket of KFC Original Recipe chicken, with more than twice the saturated fat.

Johnny Rockets has some amazing burgers, trust me on that. But their Bacon Cheddar Double Hamburger comes with a price — a cost of 1,770 calories, to be precise. That’s more than three Quarter Pounders with Cheese from McDonald’s. A Chocolate Zuccotto Cake from Maggiano’s Little Italy is a delight, for sure, but packs 1,820 calories — roughly the equivalent of 15 Hostess Ho Hos.

Is it really surprising that we have weight issues in this nation? The Center for Disease Control recently stated that 17 percent of kids and adolescents in this country have obesity issues. That’s triple the rate of just one generation ago. I’m sure that has as much to do with the sedentary lifestyles of playing video games and watching television as much as the rich foods we eat, but make no mistake about it — we are eating ourselves to the point of destruction.

Forget putting armed guards in our schools and start considering the idea of putting armed cafeteria workers in their place. Not with guns, mind you. Maybe celery sticks would do the trick.

Maybe it’s time we put away the food porn. It’s easy. Stop ordering it, and restaurants will stop making it — even if it is delicious. It comes back to supply and demand, and we have to stop demanding to be fat.