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Historically Healthy Commanders-in-Chief Go on Diets

As ordinary citizens in today’s world, we sometimes find it difficult to take the time to eat healthy meals and maintain active lifestyles. We are quick to jump into the most popular diet trends anddiscover new ways to incorporate little activity into our daily routine. Just imagine how much more complicated it is when you’re responsible for leading our nation as president.

Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) wholeheartedly supports healthy eating and active lifestyles, as exemplified in all of our warrior recovery programs. For personal inspiration this Presidents Day, we’ve taken a deeper look at a few American presidents and dissected their healthy practices — from their diets to their active lifestyles — and have found historical ties to today’s newest health trends.

President George Washington

  • His Historic Diet — Our first president loved fish, nuts, and fruits, especially cherries. He was known to crack the nuts open in his mouth, which may have attributed to his teeth issues. He and First Lady Martha also enjoyed various game and fowl, home-grown fruits and vegetables, and fish from local rivers.
  • The Just-Right Diet for George: The Zone Diet encourages the consumption of high-quality carbohydrates and fats, such as olive oil, avocado, and nuts. We’re sure Martha would agree with our pick for her hubby’s healthy diet.
  • Physical Conditioning — When Washington was in his mid-20s, he was 6 feet 2 inches, muscular, and weighed 175 pounds.  During the start of the French and Indian Wars in 1755, Washington, despite suffering from dysentery, climbed on his horse and rode for 12 hours under heavy assault. Even later in life, he was known to be very active while working around his Mount Vernon property.

President Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt

  • His Historic Diet — Not a vegan by any stretch of the imagination. Roosevelt loved fresh game and was an avid hunter. Breakfast consisted of hard-boiled eggs with rolls and coffee. His lunch was usually baked or fried chicken and a glass or two of milk. Dinner with the family meant an entrée of fried chicken, steak or lamb.
  • The Just-Right Diet for Teddy: The Atkins® Diet allows eating as much protein and fatty products as he likes. Since Roosevelt was a carnivore extraordinaire, this is perfect for him. Atkins also stresses laying off the carbohydrates.
  • Physical Conditioning — Roosevelt was a rower and boxer at Harvard, a rancher, a big-game hunter, and an accomplished naturalist. He set up a boxing ring in the White House, sparring with men half his age, and only quit when he was blinded in one eye by a punch. He even found time to earn a brown belt in judo. He tried tennis but thought it was boring. Instead, he hiked or rode his horse daily through the roughest country he and his friends could find. They even swam across half-frozen rivers.

President Woodrow Wilson

  • His Historic Diet — While some of Wilson’s presidential predecessors liked complicated or foreign foods, he kept his meals simple. Chicken salad was his comfort food, and he also enjoyed an assortment of fruits and vegetables  country ham, peach cobbler, buttermilk, fresh eggs, hot biscuits, homemade ice cream and plain white cake.
  • The Just-Right Diet for Woody: The Fruitarian Vegetarian Diet is perfect for this president. He would only have to cut out the ham and other meats and he’s all set.
  • Physical Conditioning — Wilson, always spry and athletic, played more than 1,000 rounds of golf during his two terms in office.

President Gerald Ford

  • His Historic Diet — Ford had a healthy appetite but preferred to keep his meals simple. Breakfast consisted of fresh squeezed orange juice, an English muffin with margarine or jam, or a waffle. For lunch, it was soup and First Lady Betty’s homemade bread. Dinner was always served with a crisp Boston lettuce and red onion salad, followed by comfort foods like a casserole, spaghetti and meatballs, or spare ribs with sauerkraut.
  • The Just-Right Diet for Gerald: The Weight Watchers® Diet focuses on losing weight through diet, exercise, and a support network. The dieter aims for a target weight or a body mass index between 20 and 25, considered the ideal range. Ford remained very active during his presidency, so this diet is just right for his lifestyle.
  • Physical Conditioning — Ford was an accomplished athlete at the University of Michigan, a former Eagle Scout, and was the starting center on two undefeated national-championship teams. The Packers and Lions offered him contracts to play pro football. He lived to the age of 93.

President Ronald Reagan

  • His Historic Diet — Although he loved eating jelly beans (which he started eating when he gave up smoking a pipe), Reagan loved sitting down with First Lady Nancy for a breakfast of juice, fruit, cereal, a boiled egg, and decaf coffee. Lunch was usually soup and bread. For dinner, Reagan preferred the comfort foods of his youth, usually dishes with chicken, veal, or fish.
  • The Just-Right Diet for Ronald: We looked it up and there is a jelly bean diet, but we would not recommend this for anyone. The perfect diet for Reagan is the South Beach Diet®. This diet recommends whole grains, specific fruits and vegetables, appropriate fats, and lean protein sources. It also recommends avoiding certain carbohydrates, based on their glycemic index. Foods with a high glycemic index will increase blood sugar more quickly, to a higher level and for a longer time than foods with a lower index. Reagan would need to switch to whole-grain bread, and unfortunately cut out the sweets.
  • Physical Conditioning — In his youth, Reagan was quite the athlete. He played football and was captain of the swim team at Eureka College. As a teenager, he rescued 77 people as a lifeguard. While in office, he exercised daily with at least 20 minutes of calisthenics and progressive-resistance weight-lifting, which consisted of increasing weight rather than repetitions. At his ranch, Reagan loved to ride horses, chop wood, clear brush, and mend fences.

Past presidents set examples not only through their leadership, but also through their healthy lifestyles. The main presidential takeaway is to stay active and eat wisely, a philosophy WWP firmly supports.

WWP hosts a variety of physical health and wellness events designed to connect warriors with training, skills, and techniques that empower them to reduce stress, combat depression, and live an overall healthy and active lifestyle.

To learn and see more about how WWP's programs and services connect, serve, and empower wounded warriors, visit, and click on multimedia.

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