WASHINGTON – A typical day of eating for Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards (search) while on the campaign:
Breakfast — McDonald's "Deluxe Big Breakfast" platter with two hot cakes, scrambled eggs, sausage and a biscuit.
Lunch — McDonald's cheeseburger.
Later — McDonald's chicken sandwich. Then some cookies.
And lots of Diet Cokes — about 10 cans — throughout the day.
Edwards, 50, is not alone among the candidates whose eating habits don't reflect a five-star palate during the campaign.
Food on the fly and exercise on the run sums up the candidates' diet and fitness regimens. In a hot race to fill the ultimate prized political seat, the fuel these candidates are getting is mostly junk: fast food, sweets, sodas. And exercise? Well, there's not nearly enough of it, some of the candidates say.
Wesley Clark (search), 59, eats a lot of "garbage," his son Wes Jr. says. His weaknesses: Cheetos and Gummi Bears.
And Howard Dean, who by December had gained 12 pounds during his time on the campaign, snacks constantly. His choices aren't necessarily healthy ones. He favors chocolate chip cookies and doughnuts, and he often eats chocolate peanut M&Ms on the plane.
"I think his diet could be better," said his wife, Judy, who sent him some clementines at one point.
Tall and lean John Kerry, on the other hand, is not getting much food at all these days, or exercise, and complains loudly about the latter. An active man who likes to play exhibition hockey games and go kite-surfing, he recently groused he's "in the worst shape of my life" because of the lack of physical activity.
Kerry, 60, skips meals because of his harried campaign schedule. His staff spots him with the occasional milkshake. He attends few events where food is actually served, so it falls largely on staffers to find ways to get him meals.
He said his last real exercise was a bike trip he took last summer for a charity fund-raiser, and there is no time during the day to work out.
He said that after the primary season, he'll tell staffers to set aside some time each day for exercise.
The Clark campaign goes out of its way to scout swimming pools for the retired Army general, a former swim team captain. He swims mostly at YMCAs for about 40 minutes.
Clark doesn't drink much caffeine. "He is sick of the quick meals and junk food of the trail," said spokesman Matt Bennett. "He does his best to eat right."
For all his fast-food gorge-fests, Edwards runs religiously — five miles a day. He does an eight- to 10-minute mile, depending on whether he's outdoors or on a treadmill, which is faster.
This helps counteract the fatty foods.
"It's not pretty," said the North Carolina Democrat's campaign spokeswoman, Jennifer Palmieri, describing his meals on a recent day in South Carolina.
While in Iowa, Edwards was particularly fond of "butter burgers," she said. Those would be burgers cooked with a pat of butter on them.
But when he's in an expensive restaurant, he'll order fish or steak. "He doesn't eat a lot of vegetables" she said.
Still, Edwards is in good health, with cholesterol in the normal range despite his fatty diet, she said, adding, "We share desserts."
As a devout Orthodox Jew, Joe Lieberman, 61, stays kosher according to a stringent set of dietary restrictions based on commandments in the Bible.
Dean, 55, who doesn't drink caffeine and gave up alcohol several years ago, says he likes to spend time doing something recreational outdoors when he can.
"He eats on the run, sleeps on the plane," said Jay Carson, Dean's spokesman. "His schedule is so packed everyday that he rarely gets to do any exercise. He laments that because he is a fan of the outdoors."
Dean and his wife are both medical doctors and know about healthy habits. But it's proving hard in the campaign for him to practice what doctors preach.
"When I was on the bus in Iowa, all I saw were candy bars and chips," his wife said in a New Hampshire TV interview. "I don't know if the good food was hidden, or it just wasn't there."
Dennis Kucinich, 57, a vegan, stays equipped with oatmeal, pita and hummus.
Al Sharpton, 49, who is fond of Southern cooking — fried chicken and potato salad — tries to exercise in the morning on the treadmill at the hotel where he's staying. He awakens between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. to make sure he gets the job done.
He eats one main meal a day, preferably before 9 p.m., with snacks spread out through the day. He disavows sweets. But caffeine is a must, campaign spokeswoman Rachel Noerdlinger said.