Harry Truman: Health-Conscious President


I think it is interesting to learn how famous people look after their health, so when I came upon a section in the book I am reading (Truman by David McCullough), I thought “I think people would enjoy reading about this.”  I hope I am right!  Harry Truman served 2 terms as President beginning in 1945.  At age sixty seven, then in his seventh year in office, he still walked 2 miles almost every morning and had a legendary high level of energy.  Some nutrition wisdom seems to hold strong through generations of Americans, and other ideas about healthy eating change as we learn more through research.  Here’s what a typical day of eating was like for President Truman:

I eat no bread but one piece of toast at breakfast, no butter, no sugar, no sweets.  Usually have fruit, one egg, a strip of bacon and half a glass of skimmed milk for breakfast; liver and bacon or sweet breads or ham or fish and spinach and another nonfattening vegetable for lunch with fruit for dessert.  For dinner I have a fruit cup, steak, a couple of nonfattening vegetables and an ice, orange, pineapple or raspberry . . . So I maintain my waist line and can wear suits bought in 1935!

It looks like he ate at least 6 servings of fruit and vegetables a day.  It may have been several more if his portions were large.  This consistent fruit and vegetable intake, along with his daily walking regimen, probably added years to Harry Truman’s life, not to mention his quality of life.  As for the liver, bacon, sweetbreads and ham, I cannot say that those contributed to a longer life, but his level of discipline would make it likely that serving sizes were moderate.  No sugar, butter, or sweets!  That is truly discipline.  Most people I know would have a hard time being that strict with their eating, including myself.  I think I would add a few servings of whole grains to Harry’s diet for added fiber and nutrients, and I would recommend that he choose fish more often than the other high fat meats he ate.  Still, all in all, he ate a nutritious diet, considering the nutrition knowledge of the time.

Another interesting fact about Harry Truman’s lifestyle is that he had one ounce of Bourbon whiskey every morning after his walk, followed by some setup exercises (sit-ups?) and a rubdown.  Can you imagine a shot of Bourbon after your treadmill workout?!  Still, it was always just one ounce and may have been prescribed by his doctor.  Some health advice does change with time!


2 responses to “Harry Truman: Health-Conscious President

  1. Having a shot of whiskey in the morning is a really old-timey thing to do. My dad’s grandfather was said to be a really intelligent old guy. My dad said he would watch him get up every morning, stoke the fire in the fireplace to get some heat in the house then go out onto their big front porch and break the ice in the washing bowl (cold!) and wash his face by splashing icy water on it. then he would come in and have one shot of bourbon to warm up. sometimes they would put the whiskey in a small glass of warm water with one sugar cube and call it a hot toddy. that’s something the inimitable David (davy) Crockett would have. Stay healthy!

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