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Here's More Bad News for the Cinnamon Roll and Pastry Set

Nutrition: Those spoilsports at the Center for Science in the Public Interest warn of extremely high calorie and fat content in America's favorite goodies.

June 06, 1996|D'JAMILA SALEM-FITZGERALD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Before you indulge your sweet tooth and bite into that cinnamon roll or scone, you might want to add another hour or two to your morning exercise routine and check your cholesterol levels, according to the latest nutritional report released by a consumer group on Wednesday.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, the nonprofit group that has taken much of the fun out of eating many of America's favorite foods, warns that many of the pastries and desserts served by prominent chains such as Starbucks, Au Bon Pain, the Cheesecake Factory and Mrs. Fields, contain as much fat as an entire meal.

"We didn't expect to find the nutritional equivalent of Brussels sprouts," said Jayne Hurley, a nutritionist for the center on Wednesday. "But we didn't expect an Au Bon Pain pecan roll to have 800 calories and more artery-clogging fat than an entire breakfast of two eggs, two strips of bacon, two sausage links and two pancakes with margarine."

According to the consumer group, a Cinnabon cinnabon (cinnamon roll) contains as much fat as a McDonald's Big Mac and a hot fudge sundae. Eating a Mrs. Fields double fudge brownie, which has 420 calories and 25 grams of fat, is equivalent to eating two slices of Domino's extra cheese and pepperoni pizza with two pats of butter on top. A Starbucks cinnamon scone has 530 calories and 26 grams of fat.

The least healthy item analyzed was the Cheesecake Factory original cheesecake, which contains 28 grams of saturated fat, almost 1 1/2 times the daily recommended allowance. The cheesecake contains 710 calories and has as much fat as a Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pepperoni Pizza and two Dairy Queen banana splits.

The consumer group hopes to pressure restaurants into providing nutritional information for their products similar to those supplied on packaged food labels.

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Michael F. Jacobson, the group's executive director, said that "when eating out was a rare treat, it hardly mattered whether or not restaurant meals were healthful. But now foods eaten outside the home account for nearly half of all food expenditures and a third of all calories. Restaurant foods, for better or worse, have a great impact on the public's health."

A 1996 study by Louis Harris and Associates found that 74% of Americans over age 25 are overweight, up from 71% a year ago and 59% in 1986.

In 1990, Congress required packaged food, but not restaurants, to provide complete nutritional information.

A representative of Starbucks said the company "offers a wide variety of pastries . . . including low-fat and low-cholesterol options."

Customers may request specific nutritional information at any store, said Cheri Libby, but the company has no plans to print this information on its menu. "If we had a lot of customers asking for it, it's something we'd consider," she said.

An Au Bon Pain spokeswoman said that the company has provided complete nutritional information for all its products for the last six years. "Most of our customers know what they are eating. They are very nutritionally educated. Low-fat baked goods account for 40% of our sales. Three years ago, we didn't even carry low-fat goods," said Ellen Carno, director of public affairs.

In singling out the pecan roll, she said the consumer group is "dealing with a product that is a very small part of our mix. Our typical customer eats at our restaurant three times a week. Periodically they are choosing to indulge. And if you do indulge, you couldn't do better than a pecan roll," said Carno.

For people watching their waistline, the consumer group recommends choosing a low-fat sweet, selecting smaller portions and, when you need to splurge, be aware of the exact caloric and fat content of what you are eating.

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