Five Heartbreaking Valentine's Day Foods

The Physicians Committee

Five Heartbreaking Valentine's Day Foods

A Report by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
February 2012

Millions of people will celebrate Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14 with a romantic restaurant dinner. But high-fat Valentine’s Day favorites such as steak, lobster, and cheesecake could break a loved one’s heart. Dietitians with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine say that high-fat, high-cholesterol diets increase the risk for obesity, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. They can also make you sluggish and impact sexual function and mood.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that one in every three deaths is from heart disease and stroke—that is 2,200 deaths per day. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States. In men, fatty diets can lead to artery blockages that cause impotence—a warning sign for heart disease. A JAMA study found that men with erectile dysfunction had a 45 percent increased risk of a subsequent cardiovascular event. Consuming one high-fat meal also reduces testosterone, according to a study published in Metabolism. Other studies have found that people who cut meat from their diets experience mood improvement.


To help romantics celebrating Valentine’s Day have a healthy and happy holiday, PCRM dietitians analyzed Valentine’s favorites at casual dining restaurant chains and found that many contain astonishingly high levels of saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol. Here are five shockingly unhealthful meals: 

Shocking Nutrition Facts about Valentine’s Day Foods
Food Nutrition Shocker
Blue Ribbon Brownie at Applebee’s More calories than 8 Twinkies.
Smoked Mozzarella Fonduta at Olive Garden Almost as much sodium as most people should eat in an entire day.
Maine Lobster with Stuffing at Red Lobster This one-and-a-quarter pound lobster contains nearly double the cholesterol a person should eat in an entire day.
Porterhouse Steak at Outback Steakhouse More saturated fat than 29 pieces of pan-fried bacon.
Fresh Strawberry Original Cheesecake at Cheesecake Factory One slice has more calories than five cans of Coke.


Seventy million Americans celebrated Valentine’s Day at a restaurant in 2011, according to the National Restaurant Association. Many casual dining restaurant chains are pushing diners to overindulge on steak, fondue, cheesecake, and other high-fat fare. On Valentine’s Day last year, top trending Google searches included Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Outback Steakhouse, Applebee’s, and Cheesecake Factory.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends: “Consider making a healthy meal for Valentine’s Day. Serve food lower in salt and fat content, provide more fruits and vegetables, and make less sugary sweets for an overall healthy Valentine’s Day.”

Detailed Results

1. Applebee’s Blue Ribbon Brownie
1,310 calories, 63 grams of fat, 32 grams of saturated fat, undisclosed milligrams of cholesterol, 740 milligrams of sodium
This dessert—covered with hunks of chocolate, nuts, hot fudge, and two scoops of ice cream—has more calories than eight Twinkies. It also contains 32 grams of saturated fat. That’s more saturated fat than Denny’s All-American Slam: three eggs with cheddar cheese, two pieces of bacon, and two pieces of sausage. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans say that less than 10 percent of calories should come from saturated fat—and that major sources of saturated fatty acids in the American diet include cheese, meat, and dairy-based desserts. Applebee’s brownie gets 22 percent of calories from saturated fat.

2. Olive Garden Smoked Mozzarella Fonduta
940 calories, 48 grams of fat, 28 grams of saturated fat, undisclosed milligrams of cholesterol, 1,940 milligrams of sodium
This artery-clogging fondue from the Olive Garden contains four melted cheeses: smoked mozzarella, provolone, parmesan, and Romano. It also contains more sodium than 12 small containers of McDonald’s french fries. That’s more sodium than most people should consume in an entire day, according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Hypertension affects one-third of Americans, and 25 percent of Americans have prehypertension (higher levels than normal). High blood pressure greatly increases risk of heart disease.

3. Red Lobster Live Maine Lobster (1.25 Pounds) with Stuffing
857 calories, 59 grams of fat, 31 grams of saturated fat, 535 milligrams of cholesterol, 1,510 milligrams of sodium
Red Lobster provides a recipe for this cholesterol-laden menu item on its website: a one-and-a-quarter pound lobster, half a stick of butter, half a pound of crabmeat, mayonnaise, and egg. The resulting dish has 535 milligrams of cholesterol—nearly double the amount of cholesterol the American Heart Association says a healthy person should eat in an entire day.

4. Outback Steakhouse Porterhouse Steak (20 ounces)
1,009 calories, 71 grams of fat, 31 grams of saturated fat, 325 milligrams of cholesterol, 574 milligrams of sodium
One Outback Porterhouse steak has more fat than 29 pieces of pan-fried bacon. Any steak, whether prepared at home or in a restaurant, can produce cancer-causing compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs). HCAs are produced when meats are grilled, pan-fried, or broiled. HCAs can pose a cancer risk even when consumed in small amounts, as no safe level has been identified.

5. Cheesecake Factory Fresh Strawberry Original Cheesecake
750 calories, undisclosed grams of fat, 29 grams of saturated fat, undisclosed milligrams of cholesterol, 486 milligrams of sodium
One slice of this cheesecake contains more calories than five cans of Coke. The Cheesecake Factory doesn’t divulge the cholesterol or total fat amounts in its cheesecakes. But a typical piece of cheesecake contains 44 grams of cholesterol, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Classic cheesecake recipes commonly contain cream cheese, sour cream, butter, and sugar.