100 years of food (1919 – 2019)
There’s an obvious difference between food habits of early man and today’s generation, but how has the concept of food changed over the past 100 years? It seems like an age ago, but as you read you might discover surprising similarities to current dietary customs. Back then our food choices relied on instincts and cravings – there was no such thing as tracking daily calorie intake, carbs or fat consumption. Despite better food access and this introduction of discipline into our diets, research shows we are less nourished. This article will explore why and provide you with a taste of global history.
Meat, Eggs and Dairy
The lack of factory farmed animal products in the beginning of 20th century meant people were eating the healthiest animal product available. Those in rural areas usually raised their own livestock, but urban zones had local butchers where meat was fresh and hand-picked by butchers themselves. Growth hormones, antibiotics and genetically modified feed was never given to animals; meat quality was higher than today.
More than 10 billion animals will be raised in American factories this year. Animals live in tiny spaces, with no daylight and unsanitary conditions while being fed chemically treated food, the negative effects of which are passed onto us when we eat them. Not to mention, the animals are being fed with products that limits their capacity to absorb nutrients, which later stops our bodies from getting the nutrients from the foods we eat.
Fruits and Vegetables
The term organic farming did not resonate with society 100 years ago, because there wasn’t anything else besides organic farming. Pesticides and chemical fertilizers were not part of the farming process; therefore, everything grew naturally and provided more nourishment than today’s artificially grown produce. Growing your own and buying from local organic farmers will increase the chances of you getting nutritive aliments. Having just a few pots of home-grown herbs or small plants can even be beneficial for those who are living in big cities.
There is no exact meal plan that everyone should follow because not everyone has the same needs or body imbalances. Trusting your cravings is essential if you make the right choices. For example, if your body is craving fat, try adding some olive oil onto roasted veggies, as an alternative to deep fried food.
Following the First World War, food habits began to change as dishes like clam broth or potatoes gratin became popular in American society. Things took a different turn in the ’30s when the Great Depression caused mass unemployment, forcing people to become more resourceful by growing vegetables or eating canned foods. Dandelion greens, gophers, wild berries and squirrels were commonly consumed. This is also when the infamous mac‘n’cheese, Ritz crackers and Spam canned meat all appeared. The American government also decided to create the Food Stamps initiative by having Soup Kitchens where they provided one free meal per day. Modern US struggles with health
issues such as obesity and diabetes, while 20% of the children in New York were considered underweight back in the ‘30s. The World War II attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 caused the government to re-evaluate their internal situation. Food was rationed, starting with sugar. Every family received a ration book, even babies and teenagers. Bakeries were luckier as they were given more sugar, which later became one of the reasons people started buying sweets rather than baking their own. People were only allowed one pound of coffee every five weeks, reducing daily coffee intake to one cup per day instead of three. Rationing ended in 1946.
England also felt the fallout from the World Wars. In the ‘40s, food was rationed and people were encouraged to become self-sufficient by growing their own fruit and vegetables. They were allowed one egg every two weeks, one pound of meat per week and one-eight ounces of cheese. Wheat was replaced with more readily available grains, making bread healthier. In 1942 it became even stricter, with people being allowed one packet of dried powdered egg (equivalent to 12 eggs) every month. Rationing didn’t end until 1954, more than nine years after the war.
While eastern Asia had rice as a staple food, the western side preferred wheat, from which nan or chapati was made. In Central Asia and the northern part of Mongolia, people used to farm in oases at a small scale and counted on milk and livestock for daily meals. Dates were a key source of nourishment in the Middle East and they are becoming increasingly popular in the western world as a healthy, filling sweet alternative.
It is common in Asia for eating habits to come from religion. For example, traditional food culture in China revolves around medicine and the belief that food helps you achieve long life, a concept influenced by Taoism.
The inspiration for “soul food” comes from African cuisine and had a huge influence on American food too. 100 years ago, food in Africa was dependent on the region. People would eat vegetables, fruits and meat that were available locally, and South Africans did not have access to North African fruits or vegetables. Yam remains one of the most popular foods in East Africa.
Then versus Now
While eating habits from 100 years ago might not seem healthy by today’s standards, Americans for example are facing a health crisis that didn’t exist in the last century. The US spends more money on healthcare than any other country in the world, yet they are dealing with an epidemic of diabetes, obesity and chronic diseases nationwide.
Meat consumption may have been heavy in the past, but the quality of the animal products was arguably higher than the one we have access to nowadays. Our ancestors’ diets were not made up almost entirely out of chemically created foods, as ours are today. Year-round availability of everything means that we are most likely eating products that don’t grow naturally and often forget habits should be season-dependent.
Nourishment Vitality Coaching is customized for your own needs. Your body and personal style is at the core of our program and we believe on working together towards a healthier way of living. Eating habits become a place of exploration and discovery. Here to help you see things from a different perspective, you will learn to see these not as your enemy, but as an opportunity for growth and self-improvement.