Hundred-year-old Advice: What Should I Feed My Family?

19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Saturday, September 5, 1914: Ditto

vegetables 1
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

The previous day Grandma wrote, “Nothing much for today.” Since nothing was happening in Grandma’s life I thought you might enjoy some quotes from an article on nutrition in the July, 1914 issue of Ladies Home Journal:

Since the members of the family have to be fed three times a day for each of the three hundred and sixty-five days in the year, how to feed them is a subject worthy of consideration, is it not?

The very best meal planning, of course, is that based on a thorough knowledge of human nutrition, but we housewives cannot all of us get that accurate training. The thing to strive for in feeding your family is what is called “the balanced rations.” Adults and children have very different food needs, brain workers and body workers have still different ones, and surely I do not need to tell you that the sick and the well require diets of quite opposite character.

Muscular work demands energy-and-iron-producing food, such as meats, starch-producing things, sugar, and fats. Therefore you are safe in letting the man folks have their buckwheat cakes and sausages, and pie and doughnuts in reason. Children need bone-and tissue-building foods, so see to it that they get plenty of milk, eggs, cereals, vegetables and fruit, with meat and sweets sparely. Brain workers need easily digestible foods and a lighter diet than people who work with their hands. Give the invalids mainly nutritious liquids, and your boarders whatever they want.

None of this is so difficult as it seems, if you keep in mind that certain kinds of food have uses for nearly all of the family, and can be served for general consumption at the general table. The foundations of all living tissues are in milk, eggs, cheese, meat, legumes, nuts, and cereals. This gives you a basis to go on, and you can add to the list foods for special needs and vary the menu with great variety. Keep in mind that the greatest medicinal agents are vegetables and fruits; include them in the family dietary the year round and you will not go far astray.

24 thoughts on “Hundred-year-old Advice: What Should I Feed My Family?

  1. Food was so much better back in 1914. Unless you were eating those sausages and meat described in “The Jungle” then, ack! Living on a farm, I bet your granma had lots of good tasting, healthy food 3 times a day, with raw milk thrown in along with yard eggs.

    1. I agree–farm families typically ate such good, healthy foods back then.

      I’ll never forget some of the graphic descriptions of the horrors of food processing in The Jungle–and your comment makes me think about how rapidly the nation was shifting from wholesome locally, grown food to branded commercially processed food.

    1. It’s such pragmatic advice–just keep the boarders happy, and don’t worry about whether their food is healthy. I was surprised that boarders were mentioned as a category of people in this article. Many families must have taken in boarders a hundred years ago.

    1. How true–I bet they didn’t feed the boarders expensive foods. I can picture boarders wanting lots of sweets; I wonder if they were expensive to make back then.

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