The home economist must have a good working knowledge of nutrition. I believe the homemaker would be wise to learn the basics, as well. We are responsible for providing for the health and nourishment of our own body as well as those in our household. This chapter in our textbook covers the basics quite well. Despite the age of the text, the dietary recommendations are still worth considering with a modification or two. It’s certainly healthier than the Standard American Diet (with the apt abbreviation – SAD). With a solid understanding of the vitamin and mineral content of various foods, the homemaker is better equipped to plan adequately nourishing meals for her family.
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Facts & False Notions
“Eat what you want, after you have eaten what you should.” Not bad advice!
Milk and its products, fruits, vegetables and eggs are “protective foods” because they are essential in protecting us from poor health. To these, one may add meats, whole-wheat grain or enriched breads and cereals.
There is then a list of “essential foods” needed every day and the nourishing materials in them:
- bread and cereal
- butter and “oleomargarine” (This is one of the things we now know better – stick to real butter unless you are vegan. Then choose a healthy plant-based version.)
- sugar and fat
What the Nourishing Materials Do in the Body
This section begins by grouping nutrients according to their main uses:
- Materials that serve as fuel (carbohydrates, fats, proteins) and “cellulose” or “roughage” which we now generally refer to as fiber.
- Materials the build and repair the body (proteins, minerals and water)
- Materials that regulate body processes, help us grow, and keep us well (minerals, vitamins, water)
There is a list of the major vitamins and the use of each. The statement is made that although more vitamins are known, it is believed that adequate intake of foods containing A, D, C, B1, B2, and niacin will insure sufficient quantities of the others. I never heard that claim in my study of nutrition in nursing. I’m curious to know if that really holds true.
Do Foods Contain All Nutrients?
There is a chart showing the composition of common foods (oranges, bread, butter, milk and eggs). It demonstrates that they all contain the nutrients water, protein, fat, carbohydrates and minerals, although not necessarily vitamins, and in varying amounts. They are ranked as poor, fair, good and excellent in regards to vitamin content.
How Do Foods Vary in Composition?
Foods contain varying percentages of nutrients. This section contains a brief explanation of that.
Foods Rich in the Nutrients
Certain foods are especially rich in particular nutrients. For instance, meat and eggs are rich in protein. There are two charts here – one listing foods rich in calcium, phosphorus, iron and iodine – and another with sources for each of seven vitamins. There is also a list of around a dozen foods labeled “poor in vitamins”.
Losses of Vitamins by Cooking, Oxidation, and Drying
Vitamin content isn’t stable in all foods. Vitamins are affected by cooking, contact with air, and by drying. Some are less stable than others and it’s helpful to know how the vitamin content of our food is affected by these conditions.
Suggestions for Saving Vitamins in Cooking
I think this section contains good advice that might not be common knowledge to all homemakers today.
- Do not let prepared vegetables stand in water before cooking.
- If vegetables or fruits are cooked in water, use a small quantity of water, raising the temperature to boiling point as soon as possible.
- Do not use baking soda in cooking vegetables.
- Cover vegetables and fruits while cooking, especially those containing Vitamin C. Do not stir air into them during cooking, nor strain them when hot.
- Do not discard vegetable water. Use it in gravies, sauces, soups, or drink it.
- Serve vegetables or fruits immediately after shredding or chopping.
- Use garden vegetables as soon as possible after gathering.
- Cook commercially frozen foods before they are entirely thawed out.
False Notions About Food
I was a bit surprised by the accuracy of this portion of the chapter. It addresses acids and bases, food combining and food allergies. It’s not terribly long but does provide a brief overview of these topics.
Food and Weight
Being decidedly under- or overweight can have negative impacts on an individual’s health, as well as self esteem. A very brief paragraph makes the assertion that learning to count calories is an important means of learning how much to eat.
What Are Calories? How Are They Counted?
The calorie is the unit used to measure the amount of heat produced by food. A calorie is approximately the quantity of heat required to raise 1 pint (or pound) of water 4 degrees F. There is an explanation of how this measured as well as a list of six items that might be included in a luncheon and their corresponding calorie counts.
How Many Calories Should Your Food Supply?
A chart is included for recommended calorie requirements by age and body weight.
Calories Do Not Give a Complete Measurement of the Value of Foods
Calories measure the energy or heat value of only carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Calories measure fuel value but not the quality of proteins. Nutrients such as vitamins and minerals cannot be measured by calories. Therefore calories are not a complete measure of food value.
How the Quantity of Proteins and Minerals is Indicated
This section explains how minerals are required in such small quantities that they are measured in grams and milligrams rather than ounces.
Vitamins are measured by units, milligrams and micrograms.
Checking Our Food Habits
Chart #1 takes the ingredients of a luncheon menu and outlines the calories, protein, calcium, iron, and vitamins A, B1, C and Riboflavin of each.
Chart #2 is the recommended daily requirements of the nutrients above broken down by age, sex, activity level, pregnancy and lactation.
The Effect of Exercise and Sleep on Overweight and Underweight
This book is written for high school home economics students so the advice in this section addresses over- and underweight in young people. More exercise is the recommendation for the overweight. Less exercise and more sleep is the proposed remedy for the underweight.
What to Do and What Not to Do to Reduce
Ill health or “improper working of glands” may contribute toward excess weight and requires a doctor’s advice.
Too rapid weight reduction may be harmful. One pound per week is enough.
Too little variety in foods, something often found in fad diets, can be dangerous. It is important to eat the “protective foods” listed earlier. Milk, yellow and green vegetables, raw fruits, whole-grain cereals, and lean meat will help provide the necessary nutrients.
It is recommended, in order to consume enough nutrients, that one not eat anything that furnishes calories without vitamins. This eliminates most table sugars. Each lump or heaping teaspoon of sugar yields 30 to 40 calories. But it isn’t necessary to eliminate all sweets. A small serving of a wholesome dessert at the end of the meal may prevent cravings later on.
The same is true for starchy foods. Potatoes and whole wheat bread may be eaten in moderation.
If an uncomfortable level of hunger persists between meals, use unsweetened fruit juice or buttermilk, but no solid food except uncooked fruit, tomato or celery.
What to Do to Gain Weight
Start with a doctor’s examination to rule out a medical condition. If nothing wrong is discovered, follow these suggestions:
- Sleep longer; take less strenuous exercise.
- Eat starchy foods such as cereals, bread, root vegetables, corn, and dried legumes.
- Eat easily digested fatty foods such as butter, cream, egg yolk, bacon and salad dressing. Fatty meats, gravy, pie, and other rich foods should be avoided because they may cause digestive disturbances.
- Eat proteins of excellent quality such as meat, eggs, cheese, whole milk.
- Eat wholesome sweet foods such as fruit – fresh and dried – custards and bread, rice and other cereal puddings.
- See that the diet furnishes plenty of mineral matter, vitamins, and roughage. The latter is required to stimulate elimination.
- Between meals drink whole milk and fruit juices.
Increase food quantities gradually until you reach the amount needed to gain weight.
A fattening diet should contain at least 500 to 1000 calories more than are needed by a person of normal weight of the same age and height.
Points to Consider
A couple of possible exercises for students:
- Count the calories you ate yesterday and compute the amounts of proteins, minerals, and vitamins the food supplied. Compare to recommended amounts.
- Make a day’s menu for an overweight person.
Books and Pamphlets
A list of a dozen resources for further study.
A basic understanding of nutrition, including the various nutrients and the recommended daily amounts, is helpful to the homemaker in creating a well-balanced eating plan for herself and her family.
THIS BLOG SERIES IS BASED ON THE 1949 EDITION OF YOUR HOME AND YOU BY CARLOTTA C. GREER.
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