Bit of a potpourri edition of Eating Badly this week, as a variety of bad food news has come rolling in during the last few weeks, each item worst than the last. Let’s get right to it.
Mountain Dew “Kickstart”: You may have caught TV commercials now airing for Mountain Dew’s new “breakfast energy drink,” Kickstart. It claims to contain “real fruit juice and just the right amount of kick,” which as far as we are concerned means “5 percent fruit juice” and “more caffeine than regular Mountain Dew,” which already has one of the highest caffeine levels among carbonated soft drinks on the market.
This is clearly an attempt by PepsiCo to make headway in the energy drink market, which continues to expand while traditional soft drinks like colas see loss of sales. My favorite part of the product is the promise of fruit juice that is completely handwaved with the 5 percent content. I’m not making that up, either. The drinks are 5 percent unspecified “fruit” juice, 95 percent Mountain Dew, and come in a 16 oz. can, just like your Rockstar or Monster brands. I never, EVER thought I would say this, but the orange juice/Mountain Dew house blend that Taco Bell locations offer actually sounds pretty good compared to this. At least that violently green/yellow slurry probably has more than 5 percent juice in it.
In all seriousness, though, I am more concerned than usual whenever we get more news from the world of energy drinks. Is it possible for an entire nation to become dangerously overcaffeinated? It seems that some people think a city can be—Chicago’s city council has spent part of last week debating a possible ban (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-03-05/news/chi-chicago-energy-drink-ban-much-buzz-no-action-20130305_1_energy-drinks-caffeine-toxicity-anais-fournier) on highly caffeinated energy drinks. It’s probably not going to happen, but it’s still an interesting story to keep an eye on.
Steak ‘n Shake’s Seven-Patty Burger: Despite the fact that nobody is going to pretend hamburgers and milkshakes are healthy, the Steak ‘n Shake chain hasn’t made a ton of appearances in Eating Badly. They usually keep things simple, avoiding the outrageous product roll-outs that catch my eye. Not so, this time.
As part of a brand new “AllNighter Menu” that takes advantage of the restaurant’s 24/7 hours, Steak ‘n Shake rolled out a new star attraction: The “7x7 Steakburger.” That’s seven patties, seven slices of cheese, and seven steps you’re likely to make it out of the restaurant before keeling over. Steak ‘n Shake’s menu refers to it as “the ultimate challenge,” and it weighs in at 1,330 calories, 98 grams of fat, 290 mg of cholesterol and an absolutely ungodly 4,490 mg of sodium. That’s more than twice the daily recommended amount of salt in just the burger alone, if you were counting. Even if you don’t eat a single other item that day, you’re still screwed.
That sodium number was so shocking to me that I just went and did some quick math. A McDonald’s Big Mac is 550 calories, meaning that the 7x7 Steakburger is roughly 2.4 times more caloric. You would expect the sodium numbers to go up by the same ratio, right? But no! A Big Mac has 970 mg of sodium. This means that, despite only having 2.4 times more calories, the 7x7 Steakburger has a whopping 4.6 times more sodium. It has literally twice the amount of salt packed into every single inch of its frame. Each bite is twice as salty as a Big Mac. If I wasn’t on the newspaper blog right now, this is when I would insert the .gif of the exploding head from the beginning of “Scanners.” That’s me. It’s also got 235 percent your daily value of saturated fat, but who’s counting?
There are a few other menu items on the “AllNighter Menu” that are almost as bad. The “Steakburger Slinger Skillet,” for instance, has “hash browns topped with Steak ‘n Shake’s chili, two Steakburger patties, shredded cheese and two eggs. It comes with a biscuit, because why the hell not.
The “late night menu” seems to be the new battleground for these sorts of products, which are rolled out only when the customers are too drunk and uninhibited to care. Both Denny’s and IHOP are doing similar promotions, and even McDonald’s is now testing out a late night menu of its own that combines “the best of breakfast and lunch.”
How many times have you seen me end an Eating Badly post by saying “I would try it once, just to see”? That’s not going to happen here. I’m adopting a strict methamphetamine policy toward these after reading some of those numbers: “Not even once.”
What do you think, sirs? Anybody feeling daring?