Hundred-Year-Old List of Calorie Requirements by Job

Source: A Textbook of Cooking by Carlotta Greer (1915)

For more than a hundred years people have known about calories. Cooks a century ago worried about providing enough calories for people who did hard physical labor.  A 1915 home economics textbook showed that a lumberman needed more than twice as many calories each day than a shoemaker.

According to the book:

The man who is working at hard physical labor needs more food than the man who sits quietly at his work. Moreover, one working actively out of doors can take foods which are difficult of digestion for the person of sedentary occupation. 

A Textbook of Cooking

26 thoughts on “Hundred-Year-Old List of Calorie Requirements by Job

    1. My general sense is that new methods and technology in the early 1900’s enabled scientists to estimate calories for various foods.

  1. Interesting to notice the jobs that are mentioned … wonder what jobs they would list nowadays bet shoemaker or weaver would be on there.

  2. You share such interesting stuff. Thanks. And, by the way, based on my own interests, I read “Job” in your title as referring to the book of the bible, wondering what Job had said about calories. Glad to see I misread the title and not the book of Job.

    1. Is that an example of a homonym? . . . or maybe it’s a homophone? I know I learned that in school, but the difference between those terms is pretty murky to me now.

  3. Now we worry about providing less! What a switch. So interesting how we don’t even consider the hard manual labor anymore, leaving it up to the individuals and the fast food restaurants to decide.

    1. You picked up on something that really bothered me – both about this table and the chapter in general. The book focused on how many calories men needed when working, when sleeping, when resting, etc. It also had some tables and information that showed caloric needs by age – but little information was included that specifically provided information about how many calories women needed. And, I found this doubly annoying since the book was aimed primarily at a female audience.

  4. It’s important to remember that there are other groups that need a high caloric intake. High school athletes come to mind — or probably teenagers generally. When the seasons change and I begin working fewer hours in the winter, I have to be really careful about adjusting my own intake. If I don’t, I can put on 5-10 pounds in a couple of months without changing a thing about my diet. It’s the lessened activity level that does it.

  5. I wear my Fitbit daily and was surprised that standing at a table cutting last week for 7 hours – I did take a few breaks – gave me 4700 steps. So if I got that many steps I must have burned some calories! I didn’t realize Calories were thought of 100 years ago. ~Elle

    1. It’s amazing how many steps we take while doing normal daily activities. People have known about calories for more than a hundred years. In the 1910’s there was a lot of interest in the science of cooking and eating.

  6. This explains the kinds of noon-time meals my grandmother used to serve on the farm–it burns a lot of calories to throw bales of hay all day!

    1. Your comment brings back memories. It was hard work throwing hay bales on hot summer days – though somehow they are good memories.

  7. Fascinating! I would love to see a similar chart for children based on age. I swear my 5 year old moves enough to need many thousands of calories each day, but getting him to eat… well, that’s a challenge. At least he’s not picky, just not very hungry.

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