What the Cheesecake Factory doesn't want you to know

The Cheesecake Factory is one of the country's most famous restaurants, and for good reason. At a time when many restaurants are trying to keep their menus small, this one went in the complete opposite direction with 250 regular menu items and at least 50 different types of cheesecake. It's a little on the pricey side, though, the sort of place most people probably only go for a special occasion or a well-deserved treat.

Maybe they're just doing us regular folk a favor by setting the prices a little high. It's actually a good idea to save it for a once-in-a-blue-moon sort of thing, for your waistline and your wallet. Like any restaurant, there are some things they'd prefer you just didn't know about.

Breakfast will start your day off on the wrong foot

The Cheesecake Factory probably doesn't want you taking too close a look at the nutritional content of their food because they're well aware of just how bad for you it is. They don't even disclose nutritional information on their website. (They only publish it in paper format at restaurant locations in states that have made laws about disclosing nutritional information, for goodness' sake!) In 2014, the Center for Science in the Public Interest assigned the Cheesecake Factory a special XXXtreme Eating award when they found that three of the nine worst restaurant dishes (in terms of calorie count) came from the chain. They also noted that, as in years past, they easily could have filled the board with dishes from the Cheesecake Factory.

What was that, you say? You're not a health nut? You don't go to the Cheesecake Factory to count your calories? That's all well and fine, and you deserve a guilt-free, dessert-filled night out every so often, but hopefully you want to be walking away from that meal rather than being wheeled out on a stretcher. Let's start with the beginning of your day: breakfast. If you think it might be a good idea to start your day with something like their bruleed French toast, you might want to reconsider. The bacon is the healthiest thing on the plate, which should say something. It might be very tasty French toast, but it also has nearly 3,000 calories, 24 teaspoons of sugar, and 93 grams of saturated fat. That's almost a week's worth of fat.

"I'm going to the gym later, so I can burn it off," you foolishly rationalize. Okay, let's try it! Get in the pool. Start swimming laps. Keep swimming for the next seven hours. Even if you're not counting calories and keeping track of everything you're eating, there's a reason you'll feel terrible after a Cheesecake Factory breakfast.

How bad is the lunch menu?

As noted above, it wasn't until state legislation regarding the complete disclosure of nutritional information that the Cheesecake Factory finally released some of the numbers regarding what their customers were eating. It's no wonder they didn't want anyone to know: if you thought that breakfast was terrifying, check out the rest of the menu. CalorieLab even suggests that one way to compensate for your trip to the Cheesecake Factory is to skip a few meals before in preparation and a few meals after in penance for your binge.

Feel like ordering the fettuccine Alfredo during a workday lunch with colleagues? Plan on that being your only meal for the day, because you're getting more than 1,800 calories and around 82 grams of saturated fat. That's one of the worst offenders, for sure, but scanning through the nutritional information for even the healthy options is enough to make anyone feel like they need to go for a run just reading it. Fish is usually a pretty healthy bet, but even their miso salmon packs quite the punch with more than 1,200 calories and 31 grams of saturated fat.

The moral of the story? Going out to the Cheesecake Factory for a nice, sit-down lunch with your coworkers might leave you snoozing at your desk and generally feeling non-functional for the rest of the afternoon.

Do you even want to know about the dinner menu?

Want a healthier option than the Cheesecake Factory dinner menu? Head over to McDonald's and order the guiltiest pleasure on the menu, and then order another round to go. The Cheesecake Factory regularly makes headlines for being one of the unhealthiest places to eat, but hearing about it and actually seeing the numbers are two entirely different things. If you're starting to wonder why a notorious fast food chain like McDonald's is more transparent with their information, that's the first hint that there's something they just don't want you to know.

Remember how there are 250 menu items to choose from? According to the Healthy Eating Guide, 166 of them contain more than 1,000 calories. Any way you slice it, that's more than half of your food for the whole day. And what happens if you've already had breakfast and lunch, and head there for dinner?

Want that same fettuccine Alfredo in a dinner-sized portion with some lean chicken? The chicken is lean, but the rest of it isn't. You're looking at 2,590 calories and 104 grams of saturated fat. Feeling your arteries clogging yet? How about a light salad? The Cobb salad is a whopping 1,570 calories and 26 grams of fat. Pasta carbonara? Crispy chicken costoletta? Louisiana chicken pasta? Each of those dishes has more than 2,500 calories and more than 85 grams of saturated fat. Considering almost no one goes out for dinner and only orders an entree, tack on a couple drinks and an appetizer and you've eaten enough fat and calories for, in the best case, several days. Worst case? You've eaten enough fat for a week and a half.

And desserts?

Sorry, we aren't done yet. Even if you're heading to the Cheesecake Factory for a post-movie dessert and coffee, choosing something that will leave you feeling good about your choice is impossible.

A look at the cheesecake menu initially makes everyone want to try a piece or two or nine, but each one of those pieces has the calorie and fat content of one of their entrees. While their original cheesecake clocks in at a relatively slim and responsible 800 calories and 34 grams of saturated fat, order one of the specialty cheesecakes and you're really in for it. Toasted marshmallow s'mores cheesecake? Nearly 1,500 calories and 60 grams of saturated fat. The red velvet cheesecake? More than 1,500 calories and 57 grams of saturated fat. Most of the others fall somewhere in the middle, and there are only a few options that have a calorie content of less than 1,000. You might be the biggest dessert-lover in the world, but justifying that? It's tough to justify more than a bite or two.

How skinny is the Skinnylicious menu?

This shouldn't be a huge surprise at this point, but it's not very skinny. With all the heavy meals and the headlines that happened once the Cheesecake Factory released their nutritional information, the development of a Skinnylicious menu seems like a step in the right direction.

They do publish the relatively modest calorie counts for their Skinnylicious menu, but what they don't want you to know is that while you're not getting the same calories, you're eating your weight in carbs and sodium. Take, for example, the Skinnylicious Asian chicken salad. Seems like it would be a winner for anyone who's a little health-conscious, and tasty, to boot. Healthy, maybe, except for the 2,944 milligrams of sodium and the 57 grams of carbs. The Skinnylicious turkey and avocado sandwich still has 10 grams of saturated fat, and it also comes with more than 1,600 milligrams of sodium and 37 grams of carbs. There are some better options if you're watching your sodium and carbs, like the grilled steak medallions, but then you're back up to 19 grams of saturated fat. It's like the entire menu can't be decently healthy even when it's trying, and that's a sad thing. Going out to a nice restaurant is great and all, but you don't want to spend the rest of the night feeling terrible.

The drink menu

Aside from the desserts, the drink menu might be your favorite thing about the Cheesecake Factory. There's no reason to be ashamed of that, but one thing that might make you think twice about tasting all your favorites is the price. A night out there is already expensive. While most of the drinks aren't as unhealthy as the rest of their menu, give the milkshakes a miss. An Oreo milkshake has more than 1,500 calories and 41 grams of fat by itself.

Another thing they don't want you to know is how simple many of these drinks are. Not only are a lot of your favorite signature drinks incredibly easy to make at home, but it'll only cost you a fraction of the price. (And, you won't be tempted by cheesecake.) Their J.W. pink lemonade, for example, is the perfect drink to add to a meal during the hot summer months. It's refreshing, it's light, it goes down easy, and it has only a few ingredients. Mix up some pink lemonade, then add some Chambord raspberry liquor, and some Absolut citron vodka in a glass with a rim dusted with sugar, and you're good to go. Even a signature favorite like the Georgia peach has a relatively easy recipe, and all you need is some vodka, peach liqueur, fresh mint and some fresh (or frozen) peaches and raspberries.

What about something like their Asian pear martini? It's only slightly more complicated, with sake, Absolut's pear vodka, Licor 43, pear nectar and some Torani passion fruit syrup. Whip any of these up at home to skip paying an arm and a leg in the restaurant.

The original cheesecake recipe

The Cheesecake Factory is obviously best known for the incredible selection of delectable cheesecake. There's one single cheesecake that started it all, and chances are good that every time you've gone to the Cheesecake Factory, it's started with wanting a piece or two of that singular dessert. Now that you know how bad the food really is, you might be wanting to know just how you can get some of your favorite parts of the restaurant without setting your health back quite so drastically.

There are a few things that make the Cheesecake Factory's most famous dessert a little better than what you're used to picking up at your local grocery store bakery. The graham cracker crust is a must, and according to Todd Wilbur's knock-off recipe, it's knowing the secrets behind the baking process that makes this one a complete winner. Baking your cheesecake in a water bath will help keep it moist and give it just the right amount of springy, jiggly goodness that you expect to be served when you go out to eat. Cheesecake can be one of those desserts that's incredibly difficult to get right, and in this case, the method is just as important as the ingredients. Add in some non-traditional ingredients (like cinnamon), and you'll be serving up your own award-winning cheesecake in no time. Once you've perfected this recipe, you'll have the ideal base to start experimenting and creating your own variations.

The honey wheat brown bread recipe

The success of any restaurant hinges on getting you in the door, and when you sit down to order several courses and a few rounds of drinks, that's what keeps their lights on. Sit down at the Cheesecake Factory and you're going to be started off with some of that amazing honey wheat brown bread, and chances are good that you're in love with it. It's the perfect addition to any meal, and you can't go wrong with that ever-so-slightly-sweet and non-traditional bread. It goes without saying that they don't want you to know how to make it.

Fortunately, Kitchen Trials did all the experimentation for you and came up with this knock-off recipe. Whether you want to make the little mini-loaves like at the restaurant or if you're looking for something that's a little more standard size, this recipe's a complete win. Their signature bread might be whole wheat, but that shouldn't dissuade you. There's a bit of cocoa powder in there, too, a touch of coffee or espresso, and some molasses as well as honey. Tuck this recipe away for those days when this is the only reason you want to head out of the house.

Recommended