Saturday, September 6, 2014

Healthy Foods

Years ago Lady Lydia had a post about the importance of eating breakfast called Women at Home Save Men's Lives.  Whether or not you agree with her recommendations of eating a hearty breakfast, one point which she makes can't be disputed; the homemaker plays a crucial role in maintaining the health of her family by providing her husband and children (and herself, of course) with healthy, nutritious meals.

Unfortunately, like so many domestic arts, cooking tends to be neglected nowadays and some women are positively proud that they can't so much as boil an egg. As usual, this caused a somewhat extreme reaction, and as a result we got an abundance of magazines and TV programs which promote rather unrealistic standards as an average busy wife and mother in all probability, won't be able to cook at a 5 star restaurant level.

The truth is that meals don't have to be too complicated in order to be nutritious and taste well. An important thing is to know which ingredients to choose and to be aware of the basics of healthy eating. I thought it's interesting to compare the 1950s guidelines for proper meals with the modern ones.

According to one 1950s manual, an adequate breakfast should consist of fruit, cereal + milk and bread and butter.  A full breakfast will add egg or meat. An adequate lunch will feature a main dish, vegetables, bread and butter + fruit, while a full lunch will also have cake, cookies or pudding. As for dinner, an adequate dinner is one consisting of meat and potatoes, green or yellow vegetables, salad (raw vegetables), bread and butter and fruit. Now a full dinner adds to this an appetizer or soup and finishes the meal with pie or cake for dessert.

 It seems rather excessive to me, though I suppose they ate smaller portions. On the other hand, it's interesting to know that you were expected to eat warm at least twice a day, as opposed to the modern system of relying on sandwiches and snacks and having only one warm meal a day. I also noticed that you were supposed to eat a lot of bread. Nowadays there is a discussion going on about gluten-free products as some people have severe allergy to gluten.

Wheat which is commonly used for making commercial sorts of bread is high in gluten content and I have personally read articles which stated that even if you are not allergic to it, it's probably not all that good for you. While I'm not sure if I agree with this claims, I did some research into the alternative to commercial wheat sorts, called spelt.

Spelt or dinkel wheat is an ancient wheat species mentioned in the Bible which was widely cultivated from the Bronze Age to medieval times. It's still used in Germany to make Dinkelbrot. Spelt flour contains less gluten but has a higher overall protein content. It is quite expensive, but can be used in combination with "normal" wheat flour. Spelt bread has a dark colour and nutty flavour (read more about spelt over here). Here is an article on health benefits of spelt flour.

Another product I'd like to talk about today is molasses, a by-product of sugar-refining process, featured in the picture above. Molasses, or blackstrap molasses is a good substitute for refined sugar. It has a rather peculiar taste and is less sweet, but that is something you get accustomed to. On the positive side, molasses has proven health benefits and supposedly is a good remedy against many health problems, including cancer.

As homemakers, we should always strive to do the best for our families, which includes (but is not limited to) learning about the latest discoveries in the field of nutrition as our own health and that of our family depends on it!


  1. Where did my comment disappear? I tried to recommend this blog for breakfast ideas :-)

  2. Hi Miriam,
    nice to hear from you and thanks for the link! I have no idea what happened to your comment as I have been away from computer for the whole day. I checked my spam folder and it wasn't there.

    However, I have experienced the same problem with Blogger deleting my own comments. Did you try to simultaneously login into your account and post a comment? If this is the case, you should first login, then post the comment, it usually works.

  3. Our parents used to give us a treat. They would stir in a good molasses into our milk! A few teaspoons full stirred in till blended. We thought we were getting something so special. Actually they wanted to impart more iron into our bodies and this was their way of doing it. To this day I still do this when I want a little extra treat. Since this is better for me than chocolate milk I feel no guilt in having my treat. :) Sarah

  4. This sounds like a great idea! I am allergic to chocolate (unfortunately), so may be I should try it. I use mollasses basically as tea/sugar substitute, stirring a teaspoon into hot water, but I have never thought it would taste well with milk:)

  5. Spelt bread is now sold in the market, so you do not have to make it yourself, but I would like to try the spelt flour and make my own. If a lady could learn to make poached eggs served on toasted spelt bread, it would provide the protein needed for her husband during a day at work. He would have a feeling of well-being and not get hunger pangs or any cravings for sweets. It is a very simple breakfast but at the same time could be made interesting by the way it is served and the appearance of the table, and even the homemakers own appearance.

  6. "It seems rather excessive to me, though I suppose they ate smaller portions."

    Maybe, but maybe not.

    It really all depends what kind of work you're doing; if you're doing more physical work, you'll of course burn off those huge carbohydrate loads. And in the past, more people had more physically demanding jobs than today; presumably that may even have been true of housewives before more modern labour-saving appliances became commonplace. So bigger meals made more sense.

    Part of the problem we have today, at least over here in North America, with high rates of obesity, heart attacks, etc., much more so than in the past, is that people still eat big portions, even though their physical output is so much less. And even worse, restaurants - which people in North America eat out at far more than Europeans do, I understand - keep serving ever-bigger portion sizes, so that exacerbates things, too... We North Americans already eat far more meat than Europeans, almost certainly more than we really need to; with more people working less hard and more inclined to plop in front of the TV and computer than going out and getting some exercise, it's no wonder we have far more health problems than Europeans tend to have, in comparison.

  7. Lydia, yes, I know, spelt bread is sold over here too, but it's like 4 times more expensive than normal bread! I was lucky to find spelt flour which wasn't too expensive. I've seen it at one store for 5 euros a kilo, I paid 2.90 and it's a lot! (Normal white flour costs 45 cent a kilo, whole wheat 85). It's cheaper in Germany because they eat more of it but it's rather far to go to do your shopping:)

  8. Will, it's also depends on what you eat. Modern diet is very unhealthy with its emphasis on sugary foods and drinks and fast food in general. Sugar is practically everywhere! We also eat a lot of bread (at least here where I live), as we normally eat one warm meal a day. Add to this potato chips, candy, french fries which are a diet staple for many families, commercial desserts full of (again) sugar, the reluctance of many women to spend more than half an hour on making dinner etc etc and you get an obesity epidemy! And yes, children don't play outside any more, though the problem is probably not only about computers and x-boxes, but about the amount of vibrancy in the streets...

  9. Yes, snacks are a big problem, as are unsafe streets in cities.