Fear of fat turns president's mess to lean cuisine

February 19, 1994|By Angie Cannon | Angie Cannon,Knight-Ridder News Service

WASHINGTON -- President Clinton might crave Big Macs, fudge and pastrami on rye, but greasy, creamy, fatty food now is officially passe at the White House Mess.

The dining room for the White House staff recently revamped its menu after Mr. Clinton's younger aides grumbled that the fare was making them fat.

A typical old menu featured Southern deep-fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, chicken enchiladas, tacos, burritos, refried beans, chili with cheese, barbecue beef sandwiches, and hamburgers.

The new menu lists lighter fare specialties, complete with calorie count and fat content. They include baked chicken breasts in a citrus marinade served with couscous (445 calories/16 grams of fat); pineapple shrimp salad with low-fat yogurt dressing (405 calories/14 grams of fat); and capellini with roasted tomatoes and goat cheese (365 calories/9 grams of fat).

Aides can still grab a burger, but a fruit cup, instead of fries, is the new option to go with it.

"People work 13-, 14-, 15-hour days here," said Al Maldon Jr., 43, the new director of the White House military office, which runs the mess. "People eat two or three meals a day here. The old menu had a lot of fatty, high-calorie foods that could be fixed quickly. It wasn't healthy."

Mr. Maldon instituted the new menu about two weeks ago.

The Navy-operated mess consists of two cozy, dark wood-paneled West Wing rooms with red carnations, white tablecloths and pictures of clipper ships on the walls.

Since the change in menu, Mr. Maldon says, he has been flooded with notes of gratitude from staffers.

Even fast-food junkie President Clinton -- who boasted this week he lost 16 pounds last year -- likes the lean cuisine, Mr. Maldon says.

"His secretary said he really liked the grilled chicken sandwich on pita bread," Mr. Maldon said.

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