Donald Trump has embarked on his first presidential visit to India, the world’s largest democracy – and home to the world’s largest population of vegetarians. Since Mr Trump is a noted beef-eater, in particular a lover of steak and burgers, gastronomically speaking, the visit will prove one of his most challenging.
A person close to the President told CNN: "I have never seen him eat a vegetable."
Mr Trump was once challenged to go vegan for a month by the campaign group Million Dollar Vegan, which said it would donate $1m to a veterans’ charity if the president swore off animal products just temporarily. The group even promoted the offer via a full-page ad in the New York Times. Mr Trump did not take them up on it.
Instead, the president’s reputation for eating a meat-heavy, vegetable-light diet precedes him to this day.
Mr Trump’s steak preferences, for instance, are well-documented: well-done and slathered in ketchup. It’s an order that’s earned him much derision, and it’s now being used against him by Democratic candidate and fellow New Yorker Michael Bloomberg.
The Bloomberg campaign recently plastered the Las Vegas strip in billboards mocking Mr Trump for various of his habits and failings. Among these was one reading “Donald Trump eats burnt steak,” followed by the words “Mike Bloomberg likes his medium rare.”
Beyond steak, Mr Trump’s diet has attracted both ridicule and bemusement before. During the 2016 Republican primary, he tweeted a now-notorious picture of himself tucking into a remarkably large bucket of KFC chicken – with a knife and fork.
Great afternoon in Ohio & a great evening in Pennsylvania – departing now. See you tomorrow Virginia! pic.twitter.com/jQTQYBFpdb
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)
At the time, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza did a “very deep dive” into the picture and deduced not only that the bucket was a “$20 Fill Up” featuring not only chicken but mashed potato, biscuits and gravy.
Mr Trump also doesn’t confine himself to KFC: witness this video of him serving McDonald’s burgers on silver platters during the government shutdown in January 2019.
While the president is reputed to be a teetotaller, some worrisome drinking habits are well-established, chief among them that Mr Trump consumes roughly 12 cans of Diet Coke a day. Nutritionists have raised the alarm in response, pointing to the effects of over-consuming caffeine on such a scale.
Some might point out that the president’s diet is his business alone. But his administration is hardly putting healthy eating first.
Michelle Obama spent several painstaking years working to promote healthy eating among children, in particular poorer children who rely on school meals for nourishment. The Trump administration, however, has been rolling back the hard-won reforms she pushed through.
If American school meals start to look more like Mr Trump’s own diet, American schoolchildren will be in trouble.