Thursday, May 27, 2010

27 May 1956 “1950’s Nutrition and Recipes”

I thought we should continue our discussions of food, proportion, portion servings and nutrition both vintage and modern.
I really feel I have struck upon something worth delving into more deeply and have already begun ear-marking and notating pages and compiling some information. To cook vintage can be fun and have a certain compelling nature that might help lead us down the path to ease, health, weight loss, and returning to the basic connection with our food. It is not all Ambrosia salad and Bacon covered butter.
50snutrtionbetterhomes This is the insert from my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook is the Daily Dietary Allowances.(You can click on image to see full size ) It lays out child’s age and caloric intake. So, a homemaker at the time would see and be aware of diet on levels we are not. Also, most girls and some boys were required to take Home Ec and it would have involved detailed information of diet and even such things as how to determine good fabric to make clothing etc. A skill set to help one be independent. Today we are schooled as if we are all independently wealthy and have no need to worry about it, because we can just buy it or someone else will do it for us. Unfortunately for most of us that ‘other person’ is often the corporate world making things fatter and more chemicals so you want more and therefore  buy more.
It’s interesting to note that for a woman 64 inches tall and 128 lbs at 25 should be eating 2300 calories. That might seem a lot, but when you see how it is divided and also figure an increased routine of running about and no ‘sitting at the computer or tv’ time. A homemaker in 1955 maybe watched some television. There was perhaps the ‘bad’ housewife who would watch her ‘soap opera’s (so called because of the soap advertising) but for the most part, tv was an event shared by family in the evening except the new generation of children who were growing up with it watched much more than their parents or older siblings.
The 2006 figure increased by an average one hour per person per week compared to the previous year. People in the North East watched the most television last year at an average 4.2 hours per day. But, I digress, back to nutrition.
In this same book it goes into great detail breaking down all the foods and their caloric equivalents. Under Main Dishes and Meats such things as:
Calories     Meat
95                Bacon, two strips
140             Beef Pot roast (2 thin slices 4 x 2 inches)
245             1 patty (about 4 patties per pound raw meat)
You can see that some of these ‘bad things’ are actually not high in calorie, no sugars and the fat content is minimal when one eats a realistic portion. For example, 4 hamburgers from one pound of ground meat is a much smaller portion than you would find or be instructed to make today. Before 1955, when I did make my own patties (usually bought them pre patties-how lazy is that!) one pound would be more like 2 patties so already that is two servings per one person.
Under BREADS in this same section they have one baking powder biscuit as 130 calories. Now the recipe in this book for biscuits (which I have used and do like) is as follows
Baking-Powder Biscuits
2 cups flour
3 ts[ baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 shortening (I use butter-shortening was one of those war time foods that became cheap and easy to make and therefore was part of the ‘easy’ way we were beginning to see such changes. Butter is MUCH better for you)
2/3 to 3/4 cup milk
Makes 16 biscuits. (If I use my vintage biscuit cutter that is true, but if I made a ‘modern sized’ biscuit it would probably make 6-8 again portion sizes!)
dailyfooddietary2 Here we see some examples of Daily food plans (click to view full size). It goes on to discuss deep yellow veg compared to dark green and you are aware of the need for the various varieties for health and vitamins.
Now, many of us like the nostalgia of the 50’s. And to some of us that might be the kitsch of the odd foods. Well, here are some sample recipes from my 1954 Better Homes and Gardens in a pull out ad (they are cut-able index card sized recipes to put in your recipe box) for Miracle Whip. Now, these recipes are not bad and yet are very ‘50’s fun’. Another way to make them even healthier (besides simply eating the smaller portions you would have) is simply making your own mayonnaise. It is not hard and once you taste it you will not want to go back. Again, before the 50’s homemakers would have made their own mayonnaise. It would not have been used as prevalently as it was to be in the 1950’s but that was because it was now a product they wanted you to buy so the more offers and free recipes they gave, the more you would buy and use it. Nothing wrong with that, but you also have the power to take the fun 50’s food and make it healthier with that easy choice of home-made mayonnaise.
There are endless mayonnaise recipes out there. Simply look them up, even Youtube videos on ‘how-to's’ and with that any variation you like. Use olive oil, use different types of mustard etc. You decide, but that is one of the wonderful things about getting  more involved with your food YOU get to choose. It isn’t or shouldn’t be scary or upsetting to have choice and control over one’s life.
This is the recipe I use. It is from my Fannie Farmer Boston School cookbook from 1951 that actually belonged to a family member. I use this book often because it does show that indeed we ate ‘gourmet’ in the 1950’s.
mayorecipe I have made both the whole egg and the traditional egg yolk only. I usually always have a need for egg whites (white cake etc.) so make the traditional.
Now, for some of those very 50’s recipes. (click to enlarge)
confettimold cantonesetunarecipe worldsbestmeatloaf Now, these would really dress up any vintage table. If you wanted authenticity and again use your own mayonnaise, and small portions and follow the guidelines for the amount of various fruit and veg and protein and milk per day. I think it would be fun to even do ‘more gourmet’ versions of this, for example, the Cantonese Tuna could use real tuna steaks from your fishmonger, Use real onions and caramelize them and maybe instead of just sweet pickles, a nice hot pepper jam or chutney and either make homemade egg noodles, adding some fun spice, and bake them to add for crunch or use strips of colored dried tortillas as the crunch. Have fun, mix it up, but don’t think it is all bad mayonnaise and bacon.
I think as I continue to research this book idea, I might even like the thought of their being a traditional or fun kitschy dish such as these that would also have a more modern ‘gourmet’ version as well, and including the caloric amounts and how it fits into the various 50’s food schemes (the five food groups as the video, the four as the Better Homes or the Basic Seven as is covered in the Betty Crocker Book).
I think we can discuss this more next post and get into the Betty Crocker 7 version.
I found this study done in the U.K. in the 1990’s that showed that the diets of children in the 1950’s was actually much better than 90’s (and I am sure it is much worse now than the 1990s).
The article in its entirety can be found HERE. But, here are some of the stats:
The project looked at the diet records of 4,600 children aged four in 1950, and compared them with similar records taken in 1992.
The researchers discovered that 1950s children:

  • Ate more bread and milk, increasing their fiber and calcium intake
  • Drank few soft drinks, deriving less of their energy from sugar
  • Got most of their vitamin C from vegetables rather than juices and drinks
  • Ate more red meat, giving them more iron
  • Had more fat in their diet
In fact, the 1950s diet was almost in line with current recommendations on healthy eating for children.
Professor Michael Wadsworth, Director of the Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development, said that, although the fat and overall calorie intake of the 1950s child was higher, generally children were more active than their 1990s counterparts.
It is only in recent years that the problem of childhood obesity has emerged as a major public health threat.

And I am certain it is higher today, but here are the 1990 numbers:
Estimates in 1990 suggested that one in 20 children aged nine to 11 could be classified as clinically obese.
However, a string of recent smaller studies is suggesting the true rate could now be well in excess of this.

This is a new finding for today:
• Nearly 30 percent of an average American child's calories are consumed during snacks between meals, largely due to eating high-calorie junk food, says a new study reported by CBS News today.
Without the structure of home life, with meals at certain times, schedules being lessened so that there is definite family time, meals AT table, no unsupervised in between meal snacking how can any of us, even those without children, hope to get to the grips of our food our diet where our food comes from and really our role as human to food. I think much as learning to clean and sew and organize, learning to cook and understand your food is just another element in the move towards the new ‘Responsibility’ that needs to happen among modern people. And I really do feel that using much of the 1950’s as a model is helpful because they are the closest to us in the past that were truly living a modern life we can understand and in their basic beginnings we can learn to emulate and adjust to have more control over our own use of technology and foods and money and quality time. This time travel trip still continues to open more doors and show me more of the reality of our world. For the most part, I feel, though sometimes disgusted or shocked or feeling helpless, that we are still on the threshold enough to take hold and say, “Stop, we need to try to control our future more”. I hope you are all willing to come along for that ride.
Well, until next time, Happy Homemaking and hopefully, Happy Cooking!


  1. Amazing post.
    I was 10 in 1990 and was probably obese already. I ate and ate and watched tv.
    The insight into the 50's diet and the diet today is so interesting. Thank you for delving into this!

  2. That "Cantonese Tuna" is a scream...did not know the Chinese used Miracle Whip....great with interest.

  3. Wonderful post! Thank you for the information. I look forward to the talk about the basic 7. I have read on other blogs women who started following those guidelines when cooking and found they and their families lost weight and were MUCH healthier. I am thinking of going in the same way myself.

  4. I believe in balance, my oldest is soon to be 9 and around 58 pounds, my youngest at five is just over 40 pound mark, I pack fruits and veggies for morning snacks, etc.,

    Now they do have Fruit roll ups occasionally etc., but I do not buy small cakes except for birthdays, but I do have lots of fruits in the fridge, it's all in moderation like offering a few cookies for dessert after a meal.

    And yes they do have sugar crisp :), but like I said all in moderation, with plenty of outdoor time etc., and limited Wii use :)

    However, fruits and veggies are expensive and some cannot afford to feed their family and buy as much fruit and such that children need, sadly, the cheap food is the unhealthiest for the children, but in this time of great economic struggle I can understand how some families' in order to not starve have to make choices that are not necessarily the best.

    Mom in Canada

  5. Mom in Canada-I think what is very interesting, though, is food (especially fruit/veg and meat) is much cheaper today than it was in 1950's. Yet, the homemaker (only one income families) made it work. I think another reason that was is because our concept of 'enough' or 'hungry' is VASTLY different than it was. Children did not snack as much and there more times of parents saying, "No, you'll spoil your dinner". At least that was what I have been told. I think over all we modern people have just been 'fed' the idea that we want it and we want it now and we deserve it all the time, so many times when children or adults (like me) think we are hungry it is habit or boredom and a glass of water or juice will fill our tummy. I am not saying you are doing anything wrong, so please let me clarify that, but you can see how making the 'cheaper' food 'cheaper' it is easier to mass produce than real food and thus people get more of it and then when the 'I'm hungry' hits, we eat it. So, really, as you say, those even poorer are worse off, but they are not helped buy a system that only cares about selling more and more and more. It is a scary time, indeed, becuase we are literally killing ourselves. Even though with medicine we are all living longer, there are now actually studies which show todays children, with obesity, lack of exercise, and increases in other food related disease such as diabetes. the average life expectency is going down! Isnt' that amazing. But, honestly, in 1950's food cost more in comparison than today when you do the conversion. back then Food was more but housing cheaper. Now it is the other way around and what we can't afford is a roof over our heads, so we stress and stuff ourselves with the cheap stuff! The same with clothing, it was more expensive back then, so people made more of their clothes, which instilled knowledge and craft into many people, today it is cheaper to buy clothes at Gap or Old Navy etc, but they are all cheaply made and who cares, just throw it out and buy new. Just what modern people spend on clothes, and entertainment (no 100 dollar a month cable bills or cell phone bills)could be scaled down and they could buy less junk and have more than enough veg and fruit for their families. It is a sad state, isn't it.

  6. We had to cut back on our grocery budget, but I still buy apples, bananas, honeydew and cantaloupe and veggies as well. I just had to shop at a cheaper store :)

    I find that both my boy's are going through a growth spurt, my youngest can eat two apples (cut up minus the peeling) at 1 pm, and have a small snack like a Mini Chips Ahoy bag (140 calories a bag) at 3 and then eat supper at 5 or oldest eating has slowed down due to his age, but he still has an afternoon snack when he get's home from school, and they both get a snack like a fruit or veggie just prior to bedtime.

    I think the key is to encourage an active lifestyle coupled with eating at home, and minimizing their TV and Wii exposure.

    One good thing having kids growing up at this time is the abundance of a variety of fruit and veggies off season that's a bonus as well :)

    Mom in Canada

  7. I remember the mid 50's. In my family, we ate all meals together on weekends; we came home for lunch in elementary school. We ate as a family for dinner. I mostly remember canned vegetables and fruit, especially off season. I do not remember a lot of snacks in the house, although in those years my mother baked cookies and such. We played outside as did the rest of the neighborhood children year round. We did not have homogenized milk.

    It isn't really our fault that we, as a culture, are considered "obese." The criteria for "obesity" has been skewed. "Obesity" as it is now defined, as opposed to "grossly obese," does not necessarily mean an early or poor health. I have found pictures of my relatives who were definitely padded as they had gotten older who lived into their eighties. I know a "fluffy" women in middle age who lived to be 103! WW2 was the vehicle to jump start the habit of using margarine instead of butter and vegetable shortening instead of lard. Today eggs get a bad rap. There were fewer additives, less food processes, and a greater availability of locally grown food. It is difficult to pick up a grocery product, even a simple thing as canned tuna, without additives! Canned tuna in my youth was tuna and water or oil. Not so today save the very few options.

    In the 50's, television turned off at night; they played the National Anthem. Families were able to eat together because most were able to come home together in the evening. Today, little Bob or Nancy has extended school days and calendar compared to the mid 20th century, and a full sport schedule that keeps them busy every evening and weekends. Most families were traditional in that the mother was the homemaker and the father was the provider. Family life was less stressful then and more cohesive. Stress contributes to poor eating choices.

    Dorothy's Daughter

  8. It's funny that you should class a 1/4lb burger as a normal 50s portion. American portion sizes are notoriously large compared to UK sizes for and I've lived in both countries so I have much personal experience of that. I've always considered it a modern phenomena, linked to fast food and such. Last time I was in the UK I ordered a large meal at a Burger King because I was sharing with my son. When it came out I thought for a moment that the order was wrong because the fries and the drink were the sizes I'd expect ordering a small meal in the US.

    Anyway, back to the 1/4lb burger. When I was growing up (UK in the 80s) a 1/4lb burger was practically unheard of. I didn't know anyone who made their own, we all bought frozen patties then defrosted them in the microwave when we were grilling out. A regular sized patty was 2oz and that's the size most people bought. 1/4lb patties were much more expensive and had similar package design to things like Hungry Man frozen dinners, boasting of the large size being suitable for a man sized appetite. Interesting to see that that was considered a normal portion in the US as early as the 50s when it didn't really catch on in the UK at all until much later. Even now a standard patty is half that size (8 to a pound) and quarter pounders are labeled as such. I just looked up a grocery delivery site in the UK to see what the current trend is and I see they sell mostly regular (2oz) and quarter pound burgers with one "mega burger" which comes in at a hefty 6oz and 330 calories. I compared that to a US grocery delivery site where the standard small size is 1/4 pound and 1/3 of a pound is more common.

  9. 4.2 hours TV a day per person!!!! You’re kidding!!! 4.2 hours – then you don’t have a life – at all! I’m chocked! In Denmark we watch TV 2.75 hours a day on average, which I think is a lot of TV watching. I watch about 2 hours a week (equaling a movie Sunday or Friday night), so I’m not the one making the high numbers.

    I have to try those bisquits. I presume you can bake a lot and store them in a box when they have cooled?

    This post contained a lot of scaring numbers, and I am sure, like you state, that these numbers are much worse today than 20 years ago. We might all end like in the Disney movie “Wall-E”, except for the few of us who still behaves like in the good ol’ days. And then we have to work to make the world go around and support all those very fat people who are on pensions because they cannot work due to their fatness. What is happening in the world!?

    Have a nice weekend, dear. :)

  10. Sanne, rather than baking a lot of biscuits and storing them, I would recommend cutting them out and then laying them out in a cookie sheet (not touching) and freeze them. Biscuits lose their fluffiness after a day or so of sitting. It's like they collapse and they start to get chewy. That's not a good quality in a biscuit. It should be light and fluffy and melt-in-your-mouth.

    But if you freeze them before they're baked, you can have hot biscuits whenever you want without having to spend the extra 15-20 minutes to make the dough and cut them out. Just bake them as-is, no defrosting required.

    I wonder if the larger American food portions have anything to do with our long history of farming and rural life. That's why we tend to buy bigger cars and do more driving. So much of the country was and still is very rural and public transit is just not a viable option in many places. We also tend to have larger families, which makes small cars very impractical. I'm the oldest of four and we've always had a large vehicle so we could all get in it.

    Here where I live there is a city bus system, but it's very unreliable and doesn't serve the outlying areas, which is where I live. In Louisiana we can't do things like subway systems because our water table is too high, 1-6 feet in most places and quite a bit of the state is actually below sea level. And in Texas, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, there can be over 100 miles between towns. And gas stations!

    Many Europeans think that the whole country is tightly packed like New York City, Boston and Chicago. That's incorrect though. Most of the country is still very rural and it's nothing for towns to be 20-40 miles apart. That contributes a lot more to our lifestyle than most non-Americans realize.

  11. I have been going back and forth on whether or not to comment on this but I decided I will. Please do not take offense. I just would like to express myself. :) (misguided as I may be!)

    You often make comments about not being young or as a woman of your age, and somehow to me it just bothers me a little. I will be 30 in 2 months and I think that at 30 or even 40 I would have been a bit more modern. I guess to me its like saying i in todays time would not have Tivo because I was a young adult before it became popular.. Or that I don't watch American Ido, etc.

    I may just be rambling but I think that most ladies in their 30's would have been quite up to date on the modern life. Sure they would remember the 40's and talk about and even take into account the struggles of that time period; but I feel they would also have embraced modern culture as well.

    Just my random thoughts in the middle of the night. I truly do not mean any harm so forgive me if it comes across wrong. I ADORE your blog. I am reading it from the beginning (I am in June 09)

  12. I've been thinking about the points you made there Amy and I think it largely comes down to personality. I'm 30 years old. When I was a teen and young adult there was very little reality TV, the first time I saw such a show was Big Brother which premiered in 2000 when I was already a young adult. The first season was an interesting social experiment, both in the house and the cultural phenomena outside the house, but after that the series held no interest for me at all. Since then the closest I've come to reality TV is Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution and that's really more of a documentary. I also don't have tivo, just used a VCR under it died by which time the few shows I enjoy were available online anyway.

    It's not like I'm some crazy shut-in who will only use 1980's technology but there are so many things that I didn't grow up with that I just don't care for in the slightest. I don't do takeout from restaurants because if I'm going to pay for someone else to cook for me then I expect service and someone to do the dishes too. Products like boxed mac and cheese or flavored rice mixes just baffle me because it's so much cheaper and tastier to make your own plus it really doesn't take any longer.

    Of course there are many people who would embrace the modern too. In many ways my mother is more a resident of the modern world than I am and she was born in the 50s. She watches reality TV and uses a DVR. Most of her communication is done via text message whereas I've sent maybe a couple of dozen texts in my life, almost all to her. She happily buys processed and prepared foods; I look at them and think about how I can make them better and cheaper at home.

    Some people have a "newer is better" mindset and some have a "why mess with a good thing?" mindset. It's reasonable to assume that some housewives would have been adopting the new technologies whereas others would ignore them for the most part.

  13. I think that you both make good points and too we must remember there was never a 'type' 1950's woman. I just try to put it in context of what I would have gone through had I been there with MY personality. I tend to be very introspective and spend much time alone with my thoughts, therefore, I feel in my own position at the time, having come out of the war (hubby most likely being in the war and hopefully not dead or wounded) as well as living through the Depression, my own personality would NOT forget that and I would look at many of the modern things with interest, experimentation and then my own decision as to if I want them in my life. That is much the way I live in the modern world as well.
    I am not offended, believe you me people have been actually mean to me before, so don't worry. We all have our own opinions and of course our own take on the world. But, that is what makes sociological experiments such as these so interesting to me, because we are all different and have a different sent of ideals and ideas that we take to the table. So, we would all react differently. I have a feeling I would have bought into many new things right away, but because my hubby and I are very into discussing and trying to dissect the world around us, I believe we would have seen 'what was beginning to happen' if we were our age in 1956. It is just our personality. I have actually wished sometimes that I had the personality to just 'shut it all off' and happily watch tv and reality shows and honestly care about having long discussions about characters on tv shows, I have tried, but it is all fake on my side and I often wish myself just back home by myself, I am selfish that way. AND I am NOT saying that my way is 'smarter or better' and in many ways the ability to just 'shut it all off' and enjoy the mainstream must actually be very nice. But, I could never truly embrace and care for some modern things such as texting, modern tv sitcoms etc. It's just not me, so in 1956 as a childless couple I wonder if hubby and I would even have had a tv, most likely just watched at friends homes when they would have Bridge/I love lucy nights or something. So, many valid points on both your sides.

  14. Rachel, that was a great tip. I didn’t even think of it. I’ll have to try it out.

    I know you often have to drive long distances, but you can drive very long in small cars too, and several children can also sit in a small car. I just think you have gotten used to the large cars. My dad owned for many years a Renault 4CV, very small car, and we were my parents, three kids, a cat and a big dog – no problem. We were used to it, we’ve never had big cars in my family, except for a huge Pontiac dad owned for a year or so. We drove on holidays and to the Isle of Moen (130 km from our apartment in Cph) every weekend.

  15. Sanne, one thing to keep in mind, at least nowadays, is with 3 children you need 3 carseats/booster seats if they're under the age of 8. So less room to squeeze in a bunch of kids and some sedans can't even fit 3 of them. They're just too narrow. Thus the minivan trend. But us Americans also travel with a lot of stuff. Probably more than we need. I think the larger our cars get the more stuff we Americans bring!

    What I find interesting is in the 1940's and 50's American cars were so big, bigger than many we drive now. There was a car show last summer and I noticed some of the sedans were longer than my minivan and possibly wider. You could fit 6 kids in the back because seat belts weren't used and didn't limit the number of passengers you could "safely" fit. The station wagons were adorable. :)

    I think so much of the American infrastructure was built in this time period and it was assumed everyone had a car or would get one soon. So everything could be spread out. I saw an ad from the 1940's advertising the neighborhood next to ours, but a bit further from town, that offered a shuttle service to housewives so they could get to and fro. Also for the husbands to and from the train that goes downtown. I'm sure the developer's biggest concern was potential buyers scoffing at the distance from town, the train and schools. The houses are quite large and on much bigger lots than in my neighborhood, which I assume was much of the appeal as well. It was billed as living the "country life" with the conveniences of the city. The streets wind around and all have sidewalks. But as opposed to walking to run errands it was to take a stroll in the "country".

    My neighborhood is designed on a grid with sidewalks all around. It was probably considered the "old" way of living. There are a couple of shopping areas that are walkable but it's a long walk. This may just be my modern perspective. But the school is close and groceries and pharmacies delivered. The train is a little more than a half mile. I wish more had been left as it once was. My town still has an old feel but I wish it were more so.

    Sarah H.

  16. 50'sgal thanks for the reply! You are so right that just as now, not all women are the same. And still in love with the blog! :0

  17. I too just love this blog. I love things from the 1950's. I love going into the Cracker Barrel restuarant with all those wonderful pictures on the wall and objects from the 50
    s. It really is spectacular.
    Thank you for letting me visit.

  18. You have such an interesting blog! I have a family of five, and we all eat breakfast together each morning, and dinner together in the evening. We have a computer & a laptop, but we do not have a TV (by choice). We take the Boston Globe & NY Times & the Wall St. Journal for news, as well as NPR and BBC for radio news. Our children enjoy team sports and outdoor activities, as well as board game, cards, and books. Our 3 children attend prep school in Boston, which requires each family to sign a pledge that their children will not watch TV during the school year or play video games. The lives of most people we know are much like the 1950s families that you describe, in terms of lifestyle. In my opinion, the more laid-back family-centric home environment bodes well for children. Of the 17 children of friends in our immediate circle who live the unplugged, and wholesome lifestyle, all of the children are National Merit Scholars and all are attending top-tier Ivys in the fall. Keep up your excellent site ; you posts, pictures and recipes are wonderful.

    Bunny Hollingsworth Weld

  19. I freely admit that I'm almost phobic of small cars. I grew up in farm country with huge trucks and tractors that are 20-30 feet tall being out on the road and that makes a small car very dangerous. When you're in a honking huge tractor or driving a combine from field to field and having to cross a major highway to do it, small cars just aren't visible.

    The area where I live now isn't as rural as where I grew up, but it's still definitely farm country and it's nothing to see a tractor being driven through town. There are farm trucks everywhere.

    I learned to drive in a very large Chevy conversion van that was about 10 feet tall. I could see over everything, even most of the farm trucks.

  20. I love this!!! I'm extremely interested in nutrition way back when (!!). I am beginning a collection of very old cookbooks. We are missing out, nutritionally, now, and it's really sad...I can't wait to make an ambrosia!!!! Thank you for your efforts!!


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