A Nutrition-Wise Look at the Inaugural Luncheon
Should a once-(or maybe twice)-in-a-lifetime meal such as Tuesday's inaugural luncheon be held to high nutritional standards? Or does a president's swearing-in warrant a bit of indulgence?
One nutrition writer tallies the feast's calorie count at 3,048 and notes that the spread contains 142 grams of fat.
I talked with Kathy Valentine, CEO of Urban Design, the Arlington catering firm that's preparing the luncheon (as it has for several other inaugurations). Valentine told me her company hadn't calculated the meal's caloric content, but that the menu seemed reasonable to her, particularly as the three-course meal is being served on plates of a "nice size" -- meaning modest -- that helps keep portion sizes in check. So, for instance, while the seafood stew has a bit of butter and cream, the amount each guest is served has very little of those high-fat ingredients. "I wouldn't feel guilty eating it," Valentine says.
Valentine notes that, while the specifications her company had to meet in designing the menu mandated that it be reminiscent of the Lincoln era, the catering company always tries to keep health in mind. Because clients increasingly demand healthful offerings, she says, "We're always looking to be more health conscious, using lean produce, less starch and more local, fresh vegetables."
The calorie count is indeed high -- at least half again what most of us should consume in a day. Otherwise, you can see how the planners of this menu tried to include healthy ingredients: The stew features lobster, scallops and black cod (albeit under a blanket of puff pastry, which is meant to keep the mix warm). It's hard to argue with the array of winter vegetables -- asparagus, carrots, brussels sprouts and wax beans, which are prepared with a bit of butter and heart-healthy olive oil. There's a Bing cherry chutney to go with the roast pheasant and duck. A sweet potato dish has only a bit of butter and molasses for sweetening; both of those seem like worthwhile trade-offs for the nutrition-packed potatoes. And the cinnamon-apple sponge cake dessert. ... well, at least it's a fruit-based concoction, though the brioche-and-butter-filled bread topping seems, well, over the top.
Surely not a meal I'd want to eat every day. But Tuesday is far from an every-day day.
In any case, should you have a bone to pick regarding the meal, don't blame the new president. Valentine says the menu was planned in September and would have been the same whichever candidate won.
Jennifer LaRue Huget
January 19, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: Nutrition and Fitness
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