Curbing food stamp purchases of cookies, chips, energy drinks, and soft drinks at least falls in line with the food stamp program's mission to provide nutrition. Nutrition experts are already discussing whether to remove unhealthy items from the list of foods participants can buy.

But seafood and steak? Seafood has been shown, time and again, to be a healthy part of any diet. And steak is such a broad category that it's essentially banning people from buying any flat cuts of beef, from porterhouse to flank.

"It just seems really repressive," said Mark Rank, a professor at Washington University and author of the book Living on the Edge: The Realities of Welfare in America. "I don't see how it makes any sense to ban some of these foods. Fish is something that should really be in your diet. And steak, what does that mean in this context?"

Brattin admits that the language might need some tweaking. "My intention wasn't to get rid of canned tuna and fish sticks," he said. But he also insists that people are abusing the system by purchasing luxury foods, and believes that that must be stopped, even if it ends up requiring the inclusion of other less luxurious items.

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