It was probably the most widely shared healthy eating tip of 2016. In a profile of Barack Obama detailing his solitary, nocturnal habits, the New York Times recently reported that the US president’s preferred night-time snack is seven almonds, eaten one by one as he reads, writes or watches televised sports in the White House Treaty Room until the early hours.
Mr Obama’s friend and former personal chef Sam Kass told the newspaper that Mr Obama was highly disciplined about the healthiness of his snack intake as he enjoyed his nightly, much-needed me-time. Mr Kass and First Lady Michelle Obama “would always joke: not six, not eight. Always seven almonds,” he said.
On Thursday, however, the President pooh-poohed the report, insisting the seven-almond rule was a myth. “This is an example of the weird way that the press works. Michelle and Sam Kass… one night they were talking about me and teasing me about how disciplined I was, that I didn’t have potato chips or I didn’t have a piece of cake,” Mr Obama told NBC.
“And this is when Michelle said, ‘Yes, and he just has seven almonds. That’s it.’ To really drive home the point that I needed to loosen up a little bit. And Sam relayed this joke to the New York Times in the article and somehow it was relayed as if I was counting out the seven almonds.”
Despite the First Lady’s fervent commitment to healthy eating, Mr Obama has always admitted his fondness for junk food, and can often be found scarfing a cheeseburger on the campaign trail. “If I get nachos and guacamole I can go to town on that stuff,” he said in 2012. “I asked my team to restrict my intake. If they put it in front of me it’s gone.”
The clarification will come as a disappointment to many who watched Mr Obama’s stirring speech to the Democratic Convention in Cleveland on Wednesday night and suggested he reward himself afterwards with an almond-based treat.
The President nevertheless said he “strongly” recommends the eating of almonds, calling the nuts “a good snack”. As the interview came to a close, he grinned with the relief of getting the truth off his chest. “I am so glad I had this opportunity,” he said. “This has been really weighing on me.”