March 28, 2012

Eat as she says, not as he does

By Meredith Goad
Staff Writer

Thomas Jefferson was probably one of our foodiest presidents.

Michelle Obama, Enda Kenny
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Michelle Obama, right, is known for her kitchen garden at the White House and her healthy eating initiatives. With his love of french fries, hamburgers and banana cream pie, President Obama, below, "kind of undermines the first lady's healthy agenda," says Eddie Gehman Kohan, founding editor of a blog that chronicles the food policies and preferences of the first family and the Obama administration.

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Barack Obama
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After all, when he fell in love with dishes in France and Italy, he'd have the ingredients shipped over here. That's how Americans got macaroni and cheese, which was a popular dish overseas in the late 18th century.

Michelle Obama is known for her kitchen garden at the White House and her healthy eating initiatives.

President Obama supports her efforts, of course, but when it comes to his personal eating habits, well let's just say he never met a pie he didn't like.

"He kind of undermines the first lady's healthy agenda," said Eddie Gehman Kohan, founding editor of the Obama Foodorama blog (, which documents the food policies of the Obama administration. "If you have a child and you say, 'I want you to eat like the president,' essentially you're pointing to hamburgers and french fries. He has said to the press corps, 'Don't tell Michelle,' jokingly, whenever he stops and has some fabulous treat."

Obama does keep a bowl of apples in the Oval Office, and one of his favorite vegetables is apparently broccoli. He does like fish, so cod is a good choice for the fundraising dinner in Portland on Friday.

But the president also loves sweet potatoes and banana cream pie. Presumably, his love of sports helps him work off the calories and stay trim.

Both the president and the first lady like beef so much that steak has become the go-to entree at the White House. "Really, every high-profile dinner in 2011 was beef, and then four of six state dinners were beef," Kohan said.

Lately, their take-out food has tended to be pizza with meat toppings.

Michelle Obama still counts french fries as one of her favorite foods, but always makes it clear she can't eat them every day. She also loves sweet potatoes.

The first lady has admitted going out on secret food outings to restaurants around town where she is not likely to be recognized, Kahan said.

Obama also likes to pop into restaurants unexpectedly, although it would be impossible for him to go incognito. He probably eats out more than any other president in the past, Kohan said.

"He and the first lady have really embraced the D.C. restaurant scene," she said. "Whenever he's out and about, he just has made it a habit to stop by whatever the local restaurant is just to say 'hi' and get take-out. Whether or not that take-out is consumed, no one knows. Sometimes he'll mention that he ate it after."

His most recent take-out drive-by was in Clinton, Md., where he bought two slabs of baby back ribs at a barbecue joint.

"These are never put on his schedule, these little drop-bys," Kohan said. "The Secret Service shows up and cases the joint, then the president shows up. Then it's, like, 20 minutes of hysteria."

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

Twitter: MeredithGoad

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