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Who Cares What Bill Clinton Eats? With AM-Clinton-Recipes

April 20, 1993

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Plenty of people want to tell Bill Clinton what to do about the budget or the military or the former Soviet Union. And then there are those who worry about the body of the head of state.

They want to tell him what to eat.

During his campaign, Clinton’s eating habits and weight fluctuations were fodder for jokes or for tsk-tsking, depending on your point of view. And now that he lives in the White House, Clinton still can be photographed in fast- food restaurants, though often he’s just ordering coffee.

So what? Who cares what the president eats, you may ask. Leave the guy alone, he’s got enough to worry about, you may say.

Perhaps. But the president sets an example.

A teen-ager in Boston’s South Station who recently brought a fast-food burger to a table was scolded by his mom, only to reply, ″It’s good enough for President Clinton.″

″I think that the actions of the president are always very symbolic,″ said Greg Drescher, a director of Oldways Preservation and Exchange Trust, a Boston-based educational organization working to preserve healthful food traditions.

″To the extent his choice are not always healthy, it underscores the difficulty a lot of Americans have in changing their diets,″ he said, adding that this country should look to other countries’ food traditions for inspiration.

Hillary Rodham Clinton has said her family eats lots of produce, including the George Bush-banned broccoli.

″I have to defend my husband,″ she told The New York Times shortly after the inauguration. ″You know, he gets an unfair rap. An occasional trip to a fast-food restaurant is not the worst of all possible sins.″

And since the Clintons have settled into their new home, they’ve been spotted at several restaurants where change back from your dollar was never a theme - though some of the fare could scarcely be mistaken for health food.

The editors of Prevention, a magazine published by Rodale Press, wanted to show Clinton that he didn’t have to sacrifice flavor to get a better nutritional deal from some of his favorite foods.

They recently created a meal that included chicken enchiladas, poppy seed dressing and sweet potato pie with just 18.5 percent of its calories from fat. The enchiladas went from a total of 1,048 calories a serving to 332 calories.

Serving low-fat foods at the White House could help show Americans how to change their diets to lower the risk of heart attacks, the editors said.

Rodale promotes preventive health care and organic farming. It issued some recommendations for the new administration on the environment, hunger and health care. Among them were some for the White House kitchen, including serving healthy meals that have no more than 30 percent of calories from fat - 30 percent being the limit set by federal health authorities in its recommendations.

In fact, the government has said repeatedly that a healthy diet, not smoking and exercising are among the most important steps a person can take toward preventing heart disease, some cancers and other ills. And the Clinton administration has said its health care proposals will emphasize prevention.

But that wasn’t always clear. ″Some of us are very worried,″ said Dr. Margo Denke, assistant professor in the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and an expert in fats in the diet.

She wrote to the president’s health care task force about the importance of prevention, particularly the connections between diet and health. ″They got lots of complaints from people like me,″ Denke said.

″I would love to see support in the White House for not only certain kinds of food choices, but also for sustainable agriculture,″ Drescher said in a telephone interview. He suggested a model organic garden to supply some food to the White House kitchen.

Some young people have ideas about Clinton’s eating habits, too.

Kids Against Junk Food, a group organized by the consumer advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest, wrote Clinton asking him to set a good example.

″When you jog to fast-food restaurants, you serve as a great role model for exercise - but not for healthy eating,″ said the letter, signed by the group’s 16-year-old president, Stephanie Marton, and 9-year-old vice president, Basil Schaheen.

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