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Entire fast-food empires have been built around the french fry. And yet, companies still continue to pursue perfection -- as in, a better-for-you fry.

The modestly named Perfect Fry company out of Calgary thinks it's nailed such a thing. At the National Restaurant Association show, which opened Saturday at McCormick Place, the company, which makes ventless, hoodless fryers, showed off its new baby: the Spin Fresh.

The 17-inch wide countertop fryer uses centrifugal force to spin off a third of the oil and calories from just-fried fries, chicken nuggets and the like, but retrieves the oil so it can be reused. The fries I tried looked and tasted noticeably lighter and less greasy than most.

fry05-22-10-kim-nra06.jpg

The technology was developed by the Spin Fresh company, one of whose investors and board members, Ed Rensi, knows a thing or two about french fries. Rensi ran a little company called McDonald's for 13 years.

Perfect Fry acquired the technology; in turn, Perfect Fry was just acquired by Elgin's Middleby Corp., maker of the Turbochef ovens used by Starbucks to heat their breakfast sandwiches and pastries.

All of this is to say, you may be seeing a spun-fresh fry at your favorite fast-food eatery sooner rather than later.

(photo by John J. Kim/Sun-Times)

A killer of a sandwich

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[540 cal, 32g fat, 1380mg sodium]
Really, KFC? Really?

photo_nutrition_BV276.jpgThat's what Men's Health magazine has dubbed this monster from Baskin Robbins -- the large Chocolate Oreo Shake. According to Men's Health, this fat bomb "has an ingredient list that reads like an [organic chemistry] final. Those 70-plus ingredients conspire to pack this shake with more sugar than 29 Fudgsicles, as much fat as a stick and a half of butter, and more calories than 48 actual Oreos. Oh, it also has three days' worth of saturated fat." That yummy shake is not looking so tasty now, is it?

Weighing in with 2,600 calories, 135 grams of fat, 263 grams of sugars and 1,700 mg of sodium, this drink has as many calories and grams of fat as more than 10 Dunkin' Donuts' Boston Kreme donuts. I love the Boston Kreme donut, but can you imagine eating 10 of them, in one sitting? This drink even has more than four times as many calories as a Big Mac and more than four times as much fat as the Big Mac. Jump here for the nutritional info.

The marathoners out there may be interested in it though, for carb loading (and when I say "loading," I mean loooaddding...), since it does have 133 grams of carbs. Just keep your cardiologist's number handy, though.

If you have to have a cold, chocolatey, Oreo-y, drink from the BR, Men's Health suggests an alternative -- the small Chocolate Chip Shake, which "only" has 540 calories and 21 grams of fat.

The junk food watchdogs (a.k.a. The Center for Science in the Public Interest) are out today with their annual Xtreme Eating Awards, calling out the worst of the worst dishes -- nutritionally speaking -- at chain restaurants.

Like a fresh loogie on the sidewalk, the "bigger is better" mantra just won't go away at the nation's fast-casual restaurants, where cheesy, saucy and fried are in heavy rotation.

At the Cheesecake Factory, the $14.95 Chicken and Biscuits entrée -- chicken breast over mashed potatoes, with biscuits, mushrooms, peas, carrots and country gravy -- clocks in at an astounding 2,500 calories. CSPI helpfully points out that's equivalent to an 8-piece bucket of KFC chicken and 5 biscuits.

Then there's the Mega-Sized Deep Dish Sundae at Uno Chicago Grill. (Hint: any menu item that begins with 'mega' can't be good). It's a chocolate chip cookie baked in a deep-dish pizza pan, topped with ice cream, whipped cream and chocolate sauce. Total: 2,800 calories and 72 grams of staurated fat.

Nutritionists suggest most of us stick to 2,000 calories, 20 grams of saturated fat and 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day.

And now consider this, from a study that appears in the June 2009 issue of the American Journal of Medicine: The percentage of adults who eat five or more fruits or veggies a day went down from 42 to 26 percent between 1988 and 2006. In that same period, those who engaged in physical activity at least 12 times a month also went down from 53 to 43 percent. Logically, the number of people with a body mass index greater than 30 rose.

Now we're depressed.

About the blog

Janet Rausa Fuller

Sun-Times Food editor Janet Rausa Fuller is always thinking about her next meal.

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