Connections: What He Eats

President Trump is an avowed lover of junk food

The funniest thing about Donald Trump is his taste — not just in gold-plated toilet-paper holders, but in food. He may be plunging the world into dangerous waters, with aggressive talk aimed at North Korea and threats to take the United States out of the Paris accords on climate change, but he also is setting a terrible example for bad health, particularly among low-income Americans, by what he eats.

President Trump is an avowed lover of junk food. He particularly likes the Quarter Pounder and Filet-O-Fish from McDonald’s, with fries. He is also apt to devour a bucket of fried chicken from KFC or Popeye’s and wash it down with Diet Coke. He absolutely loves a meatloaf sandwich with mayo. His favorite home-cooked meal is a big, thoroughly well-done, slab of meat. 

Several years ago, he marketed frozen Trump Steaks through the Sharper Image, priced at between $199 and $999 for a pack of four. It was a public-relations boon for the Sharper Image, even though no one was buying the beef. “The net of all that was we literally sold almost no steaks,” the C.E.O. of Sharper Image told a reporter last year. “If we sold $50,000 of steaks grand total, I’d be surprised.”

By contrast, Michelle Obama, with her Let’s Move! and Healthy Hunger-Free Kids school lunch program, promoted fitness and nutrition, especially among children. But the example Mr. Trump sets as Eater in Chief contradicts all the advice coming from medical and nutrition sources these days about how to live longer and healthier lives. Mr. Trump claims to know more than anyone else about almost everything, from women’s rights to wall-construction to the art of war, so why would he have to listen to what the doctors, scientists, and nutrition experts have to say about taco bowls? 

The former first lady knew that obesity is the cause of serious health problems. She planted a vegetable garden on the White House lawn. She was quoted joking about her husband’s disciplined food habits, alleging that his late-night snack was seven (not six or eight) almonds. Mr. Trump likes to snack on Doritos and Lay’s Potato Chips. Now, I like a nice potato chip as much as anyone, but they shouldn’t be a mainstay of an adult’s daily intake. Mr. Trump obviously gets a bit of exercise when he plays golf, but his way of keeping his weight down is to save calories by eating only the topping on a pizza and leaving the crust on the plate.

This is not a Democratic-versus-Republican issue. President Clinton obviously wasn’t the greatest role-model, either. He loved McDonald’s, too, and he loved his Southern barbecue — but after having had several coronary bypasses and two stents, he is now a committed vegan.

Mr. Trump apparently watches a lot of television, but I am sure he hasn’t paid attention to reports about the higher cost of food and the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables in low-income neighborhoods. Of course, if he happened to hear any such thing, he would call it fake news. Let them eat beautiful chocolate cake?

What I am really getting down to is the unconscionable gap between rich and poor in something so elemental as the food we eat. The Trump administration’s proposed budget threatens programs that help poorer Americans, including children and the elderly, eat decently; these include nutrition assistance via the Older Americans Act, which helps 2.4 million older adults who might otherwise go hungry, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which is run through the Department of Agriculture.

At Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration, simple, hearty seafood dishes inspired by the bicentennial of the birth of Abraham Lincoln were served. At Trump’s inauguration, steak with chocolate sauce and a chocolate soufflé accompanied by cherry-vanilla ice cream were the highlights. Do I need to say it? You are what you eat.