Dining Through the Decades: 1940

American Factory Workers

After a brief recovery from the Great Depression (some wondered what was so great about it), and no jobs, American was again forced to endure other hardships due to the horrors of World War II. The men marched off to Europe and later the South Pacific and the women marched out of the kitchen and into factories.

Food Rationing and Victory Gardens

The government restricted each American to 28 ounces of meat per week plus limited the amounts of sugar, butter, milk, cheese, eggs and coffee permitted. As a result, sales of convenience and prepared foods increased. Margarine replaced butter. In fact, margarine was a relatively new product to many and to make it look like butter, coloring was artificially added. Rationing, substitutions, and making do with less dominated most of this decade. Home cooks made sugarless cookies, eggless cakes, and meatless meals. Food was prioritized to the troops and farmers and manufacturers were obligated to supply military needs that created food shortages for consumers. Posters proclaimed: “Do with less, so they’ll have enough”. Food rationing using ration cards was introduced in 1942 and ended in 1947 The government restricted each American to 28 ounces of meat a week plus limited amounts of sugar, gasoline, butter, milk, cheese, eggs and coffee. The production and sales of convenience foods soared while the use of margarine replaced the restricted butter. The Victory Gardens provided vegetables helped to fill out dinner menus since canned goods, frozen fruits and vegetables were also rationed. Ground beef became popular; hamburger was only seven rationing points as compared with 12 for a T-bone steak.

The government encouraged Americans to plant Victory Gardens similar to what they had done in World War I.  Reflecting the times, women’s magazines of the day featured recipes for fresh vegetables, while the vegetable sections of popular cookbooks grew larger. Home canning became a necessity to not waste the precious harvests of fresh produce from garden cooperatives.

On the Home Front

After the war, many new products were introduced to the American public. These “convenience foods” (dehydrated juice, instant coffee, cake mixes, etc.) came about because of the military interest and research in using these products for the troops. Many people could not afford to “eat out”; thus, many restaurants closed for good. People entertained differently with pot luck suppers and progressive dinners becoming popular. Neighbors pooled their rationing points to help the cause. Vitamins were recommended to help with the nation’s nutritional needs. This more than likely helped fuel a burgeoning supplement industry that we experience today.

Uncle Spam

Even though Spam had been introduced to the American palate a decade before, it played a major role in a convenient form of meat to the American table. The troops soon tired of their main course of rations – Spam. During the war, the U.S. government bought 98% of Hormel’s products – Chile Con Carne, Dinty Moore Beef Stew and canned hams and of course, Spam. Soldiers called Uncle Sam, “Uncle Spam”. Americans did not go on vacations due a rubber shortage for tires. But they did go to the movies, so popcorn consumption soared.

Starvation Overseas

World War II was extremely hard on those living in Europe. In July, 1943, a great tank battle occurred in the Ukraine between the Germans and the Russians with the Russians emerging as the victor. Some historians consider this a turning point for the war. In Leningrad, starving people ate anything they could find – leather shoes, briefcases; they stripped wallpaper off and ate the paste. In India, the British took rice to feed their troops and almost six million Indians starved or died from malnutrition. In the Netherlands, Anne Frank wrote in her diary about the bland diet that included slimy, very old cabbage. In Leningrad, people resorted to cannibilism. The siege ended in 1944 with the death toll from starvation at about 1 million people.

Ancel Keys, K Rations and a Starvation Experiment

Ancel Benjamin Keys (January 26, 1904 – November 20, 2004) was an American scientist who studied the influence of diet on health. When it appeared that the U.S. would be in World War II, Keys went to the Quartermaster Food and Container Institute in Chicago to inquire about emergency rations. After some frustration and lack of interest from the Institute, he eventually worked on the development of the K ration for military troops in the field.  The initial ingredients of the K-ration were procured at a local Minneapolis grocery store—hard biscuits, dry sausage, hard candy, and chocolate. The final product was different from Keys’ original ingredients, but most of Keys initial suggestions did make it to the final product. The small container weighed only 28 oz. but provided 3200 calories a day.

Keys was not finished yet. Interest was building about how to treat mass starvation and how-to bring people back to normal nourishment afterwards in the best possible way to avoid metabolic complications. 1944 Keys carried out a starvation study with 36 conscientious objectors. The participants were eventually placed on a reduced 1800 calories/day for 6 months.

After and during the starvation period, the Keyes subjects exhibited a psychiatric syndrome, called semi-starvation neurosis. They dreamed and fantasized about food; they were anxious and depressed; they hid their food in their rooms; they often binged. Participants exhibited a preoccupation with food, both during the starvation period and the rehabilitation phase. Sexual interest was drastically reduced, and the volunteers showed signs of social withdrawal and isolation. Is this what happens in a less serious way to people who become chronic dieters?

TIDBITS AND TRIVIA

1941 McDonald’s opened their first hamburger drive-in near Pasadena, California.

1941 Cheerios breakfast food was introduced by General Mills contained 2.2 percent sugar.

1942 Americans struggled to find wartime food easy to prepare and at the same time lose household help. A new cookbook, entitled How to Cook A Wolf by M.F.K. Fisher was published to help these shortages. The Chapter headings told the story: “How to Be Sage without Hemlock: How Not to Boil an Egg”; “How to Keep Alive”; How to Be Cheerful Though Starving”; “How to Practice True Economy”.

1942 H.B. Resse decides to concentrate his marketing of his peanut butter cup which he sells primarily to the military. He charges a nickel for one cup which then led to a larger one in an orange, yellow and brown wrapper as we can recognize today.

1943 Spam is still with us after its introduction 6 years ago and again becomes all too familiar to GIs. In Britain civilians and troops consider it a luxury and vast shipments are also made to Russian troops.

1945 U.S. food rationing on all items except sugar ends but food remains scarce in most of the world. Black markets exist throughout Europe.

1947 The first commercial microwave oven is introduced by the Ratheon Co. of Waltham, Mass. Ratheon’s $3,000 Radarrange used an electronic tube called a magneton that cooks quickly, but the reults are unappetizing.

1948 V-8 Cocktail Vegetable Juice introduced by Campbell Soup Co. is a mixture of tomato, carrot, celery, beet, parsley, lettuce, watercress, and spinach juices.

1949 The average American steel worker has $3,000 per year to spend after taxes, the average social worker $3,500, a high-school teacher $4700, s car salesman $8,000, a dentist $10.000.  Typical food prices: pork 57 cents/lb,, lamb chops, $1.15/lb; Coca-Cola 5 cents/7 oz bottle; milk 21 cents/qt; bread 15 cents/lb.; eggs 80 cents/dozen.

1949 General Mills and Pillsbury introduce prepared cake mixes, initially in chocolate, gold and white varieties.

1949 Sara Lee Cheesecakes are introduced by Chicago baker, Charles Lubin whose refrigerated cream cheese product will make his Kitchens of Sara Lee (named after his 9-year old daughter) one of the world’s largest bakeries.

Source: 

Cuisine and Culture: A History of Food and People, Second Edition, Linda Civitello.

The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink, Andrew F. Smith, Editor

Can We Say What Diet is Best for Health?

 

Can We Say What Diet is Best for Health?

Over the past few decades, it has been reported that a lifestyle pattern of poor dietary choices is linked to a growing disparity between life span (longevity) and health span, defined as years of healthy life.  Globally, lifestyle-related chronic diseases constitute an enormous and growing burden of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, cancer, all of which involve diet in some manner.

What are these dietary patterns that often claim successes over another pattern? This comparison offers a brief description of each pattern as well as the rationale for the claims.

 

Dietary Pattern Primary Characteristics Rationale
Low Carbohydrate Restriction of total carbohydrate to less than 45% calories

High protein or either animal or plant origin

Has recent and widespread interest. Can include a popular variation called the ketogenic diet (highly restrictive)
Low Fat (Vegetarian and traditional Asian) Restriction of total fat or 20% of daily calories. Some can include dairy and eggs, limited meat such as chicken and seafood Long-standing use, extensive research backup. Popularity is weak due to limited appeal; lack of taste

 

Low glycemic (blood sugar) Limits the glycemic load of certain vegetables and many if not all fruits. Relevant to diabetes and pertains to carbohydrate quality as to effects on blood glucose in the body.
Mediterranean Emphasis on olive oil, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains, beans, limited meat, moderate wine included Mimics the traditional diets of Mediterranean countries. Associated with extensive research that emphasizes “healthy” fats

 

 

 

 

Mixed Balanced

Includes both plant and animal foods that conform to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, DASH and Diabetes Prevention diets Long-standing, widespread use. Associated with extensive research and intervention trials to address chronic diseases.

 

Paleolithic Focus on diet of our Stone Age ancestors. Avoiding processed foods with emphasis on fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, lean meats.

Dairy and grains are excluded.

Native human diet emphasis with substantial research. Emphasis on lean proteins.
Vegan Often exclude all animal products, including dairy and eggs. If ill-conceived, can include plant-based junk food leading to nutrient deficiencies. Relevant to ethics, animal welfare issues, environmental sustainability

 

Claims for other dietary patterns exist in abundance. Many such practices such as juicing or fad dieting does not meet the requirements for a healthy diet pattern. Add to these raw food eating, detoxification schemes that enjoy media attention in the popular culture but only contribute to the confusion of those who seek existing  legitimate dietary advice.

Can we say what diet is best for health? It would be difficult based on individual needs for one thing. Ideally, It is often said that the best diet is one you decide for yourself based on some basic knowledge and your particular lifestyle. The diet should focus on health and weight control, not just weight loss.

Even if the healthy diet claims are made clear, we must learn somehow to navigate our way through the supermarket that constantly appeals to our senses with a myriad of some 40,000 products with the majority of them processed in bags, boxes, bottles, jars, and cans. Many are loaded with fat, sugar or salt. Often, many Americans are drawn to the appeal of convenience that many of these foods offer.

Here is what we think we know.  From assessing the diets presented in the table above,  compatible elements of these diets include: Limited refined starches, added sugars, processed foods, limited intake of certain fats, emphasis on whole plant foods (nuts, seeds, legumes) with or without lean meats, fish, poultry, and seafood.

To put this in its most simplest form,  Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food and The Omnivores Dilemma says:

Food, not too much, mostly plants.

 

 

All About Diabetes Type 2 in the U.S.

We may be approaching another healthcare crisis other than the pandemic.  In both crises, the numbers keep rising and no one really seems  to earnestly do much about it. Both can be frustrating and prevention can be a key factor.  Prevention always is the best medical advice but it’s difficult to find help due to a lack of interest or funding.  In my opinion, many cases of diabetes type 2 can be prevented if enough attention is paid to understanding certain aspects of the disease. Studies of previous prevention programs have shown to make a difference. One particular study compared lifestyle  modifications with the anti-diabetes drug, metformin and found that lifestyle modifications were just as effective as taking the drug. This finding is an important result in that it suggests that lifestyle can influence our health and help to prevent some of the chronic diseases that have become leading causes of death in the U.S.

Even weight loss of 5-10% of body weight  is the first line of defense against diabetes type 2 as well as learning about which foods you eat can help control blood glucose levels thus resulting in insulin secretion and/or insulin resistance.

CLICK HERE.

You can find the complete study HERE.

Doctors and Diets?

So many times I have heard from people that tell me their doctors say:  “Watch your diet”.  What in  the heck does that mean?  Perhaps we hear this from many physicians because they do not receive much nutrition education in medical school.   There has got to be a better way to inspire people about their lifestyle choices.  My recommendation:  Consult a nutritionist (watch for credentials). There are many types of nutritionists that have dubious training and lack any reliable credentials. For diabetes help, look for the credentials “CDE” which tells us that  this person is a certified diabetes educator.  Many are also registered nurses or registered dietitians.  Read the related articles below for a comprehensive discussion of this problem.

CLICK HERE.

CLICK HERE.

 

 

Will You Be a Victim of Covid-15?

Have you gained a few pounds during the COVID-19 pandemic?  You are not alone, according to a recent study.  Idle tiime + more snacks + less exercise + mindless eating + anxiety + depression can equal weight gain. Now is a good time to review how many more calories we eat now than we did decades ago. The excess does not take much to add up to an extra pound or two.

CLICK HERE.

Intermittent Fasting: Help or Harm?

 

Intermittent fasting simply means that you don’t eat for a period of time each day or week. Some popular approaches include:

Alternate-day fasting. Eat a normal diet one day and either completely fast or have one small meal (less than 500 calories) the next day.

5:2 fasting: Eat a normal diet five days a week and fast two days a week.

Daily time-restricted fasting. Eat normally but only within an eight-hour window each day. For example, skip breakfast but eat lunch around noon and dinner by 8 p.m.

Some research suggests that intermittent fasting may be more beneficial than other diets for reducing inflammation itself, and improving conditions associated with inflammation such as Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, asthma, multiple sclerosis, and stroke. Studies with a number of animal species have reported that fasting (or calorie restriction) leads to a longer and healthier lives.

There is a lot of confusing advice about whether intermittent fasting is a healthy eating pattern. The following article presents a common sense approach.

One thing is becoming certain. We eat too much and finding safe and healthy ways to combat this trend would seem practical in our society with its concomitant problem of the obesity/diabesity epidemics.

CLICK HERE.

FAD DIETS: A TIMELINE

Fad diets have in the distant past have embraced some of the most bizarre activitir with most built on gimmicks. Included in an entertaining book titled Calories & Corsets, our ancestors relied on recommendations that included “suspending themselves in weighing chairs or lukewarm baths, drinking vinegar and eating carbolic soup in the hopes of shedding unwanted pounds.”

A rice diet was designed in the 1940s to lower blood pressure; now it has resurfaced as a Weight Loss Diet. The first phase consists of eating only rice and fruit until you can’t stand them any longer. Another novelty diet is the egg diet, on which you eat all the eggs you want. On the Beverly Hills diet, you eat mostly fruit.

The most bizarre of the novelty diets proposes that food gets stuck in your body. A common supposition from the 1800’s is that food gets stuck in the intestine, putrefies, and creates toxins, which invade the blood and cause disease. This leads to the headlines proclaiming the latest detox formula of strange concoctions of foods that if consumed promise to “cleanse” the blood.  This is utter nonsense.

How to recognize a fad diet.

  • They promote quick weight loss. This primarily results from glycogen, sodium, and lean muscle mass depletion. All lead to a loss of body water.
  • They limit food selection and dictate specific rituals, such as eating only fruit for breakfast or cabbage soup every day.
  • They use testimonials from famous people and bill themselves as cure-alls. They often recommend expensive supplements.
  • Probably the cruelest characteristic of fad diets is that they essentially guarantee failure for the dieter since these diets are not designed for permanent weight loss. Habits are not changed, and the food selection is so limited that the person cannot follow the diet in the long run.
  • The dieter appears to have failed, when actually the diet has failed. This whole scenario can add more blame and guilt, challenging the self-worth of the dieter.  If someone needs help losing weight, professional help is advised.
  • It should be noted that some “fad” diets can work for weight loss due to their highly restrictive nature but should not be considered a healthy diet since their long term effects are not usually known.  A good example is the current ketogenic (keto) diet.

FAD DIET TIMELINE

Slimming down through the ages through fad diets has been around for centuries from President Taft to Victoria Beckham. Here’s a look at some of the most famous and infamous moments in diet fad history.

1820 Lord Byron brings people the once popular vinegar and water diet which entails drinking water mixed with apple cider vinegar.

1903 President William Howard Taft pledges to slim down after getting allegedly getting stuck in the White House bathtub.

1925 Lucky Strike cigarette brand launches the “reach for a Lucky” instead of a sweet” campaign capitalizing on its nicotine content.

1930s The Grapefruit Diet also known as the Hollywood diet is born. The popular plan calls for eating grapefruit with every meal. Grapefruit is claimed to have fat burning capabilities.

1950s the Cabbage Soup Diet promises you can lose 10 to 15 pounds a week by eating a limited diet including cabbage soup every day.

Mid-1950 Urban legend has it that opera singer Maria Callas dropped 65 pounds on the Tapeworm Diet by swallowing a the tapeworm parasite in a pill.

1963 Weight Watchers is founded by Jean Nidetch “a self-described overweight housewife obsessed with cookies.”

1969 Jazzercise founded by professional dancer Judi Sheppard Missett, is a combination of aerobics exercise and dance.

1970 Sleeping Beauty Diet which involves drug sedation is rumored to have been tried by Elvis Presley.

1975 A Florida doctor. creates the Cookie Diet, a plan where you eat cookies made with a blend of amino acids Hollywood eats it up.

1977 A Slim Fast shake for breakfast, a shake for lunch, then a sensible dinner becomes a diet staple.

1978 Dr. Herman Tarnower, a cardiologist publishes the Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet. Two years later he is shot by his girlfriend, a headmistress of a girl’s school, Jean Harris. (not related to a diet).

1979 Dexatrim, a pill  containing phenylpropanolamine (PPA), appears on drugstore shelves. It’s formula changes after PPA is linked to an increased risk of stroke in 2000.

1980s A popular appetite suppressant candy called Ayds is taken off the market after the AIDS crisis hits.

1982 The aerobics craze sweeps into high gear when Jane Fonda launches her first exercise video work- out starring herself.  Her catchphrase “no pain no gain.”

1985 Harvey and Marilyn Diamond publish Fit for Life, which prohibits complex carbs and proteins from being eaten during the same meal.

1987 in her memoir/self-help book Elizabeth Takes Off, actress Elizabeth Taylor advises dieters to eat veggies and dip each day at 3 PM.

1988 Wearing a pair of size 10 Calvin Klein jeans, Oprah walks onto the stage pulling a wagon full of fat to represent the 67 pounds she lost on a liquid diet.

1991 Americans are still obsessed with  low fat food like McDonald’s Mclean Deluxe burger. The recipe called for seaweed extract called carrageenan. Beef made up only 90 percent of the patty, and water and carrageenan made up the remaining 10 percent.  Despite the addition of “natural” beef flavor additives, the result was a dry failure of a burger that was later called “the McFlopper”. Johnnie Carson made many jokes about it.

1994 The guide to nutrition labeling and education act requires food companies to include nutritional info on nearly all packing packaging.

1995 The Zone Diet called for a specific ratio of carbs, fat and protein in each meal and begins to attract celeb fans.

1996  Could your blood type determine how much weight you could lose? That’s the idea behind the Blood Type Diet, created by naturopath Peter J. D’Adamo.  He claims that the foods you eat react chemically with your blood type. If you follow a properly designed diet for your type,  your body will digest food more efficiently and you will lose weight and be healthier.

1997 Robert C. Atkins, MD publishes Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution, A high protein low carb plan. A previous book was published as Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution in 1972. It took the diet world by storm, since its primary goal was to eat fat, not avoid it. Fat-starved people loved it.

2000 Gwyneth Paltrow lends her support for the macrobiotic diet, a very restrictive Japanese plan based on whole grains and veggies.

2001 Renee Zellweger packs on nearly 30 pounds to play Bridget Jones.

2003 Miami Dr. Arthur Agatston adds fuel to the low carb craze by publishing the South Beach diet, seen as a more moderate version of Atkins.

Early 2000 The FDA bans the sale of diet drugs containing ephedrine after it’s linked to heart attacks.

Late 2000 The Biggest Loser makes its debut on TV, turning weight loss into a reality show. All but one contestant regained all their weight loss back after the show ended.

2006 Beyoncé admits to using the Master Cleanse, a concoction of hot water lemon juice maple syrup and Cayenne pepper to shed 20 pounds for “Dream Girls.”

2007 Alli hits the market. The non-prescription drug is taken with meals to keep your body from absorbing some of the fat a you eat. The drug was not popular due to unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects.

2010 Jennifer Hudson loses a jaw-dropping 80 pounds on Weight Watchers.

2011 The hCG diet combines a fertility drug with a strict 500 to 800 calorie a day regimen that invites interest and criticism. The FDA has called this diet dangerous, illegal and fraudulent.

2012 Jessica Simpson loses 60 pounds of baby weight on Weight Watchers.

NOTE: In our current virus centered world, hope these fad diets bring a few smiles to your face.

Make 2020 A “No Dieting” Year

Research has shown us that simply the process of dieting can make us fatter. Year after year a tremendous number of people attempt to diet.  However, long-term studies of of those who diet consistently find they are more likely to end up gaining weight in the next few years than people who don’t diet.

Restrictive diets can lead to cravings, binge-eating, depression, and other eating disorders. The body has a range of weights referred to as a set-point at which it prefers to maintain in terms of body weight. When this set point is challenged by chronic dieting, you trigger the body’s natural hormonal and nervous systems mechanisms  to protect your body from perceived starvation. One of these is to lower your metabolic rate and thus conserve energy so you burn fewer calories.  The following article offers some sensible tips to avoid strict dieting and still be able to manage your weight loss or maintenance.

CLICK HERE.

Weight Loss and Fitness: An Opinion

The following article by Shannon Hilson writing on Medium is one of the best weight loss experiences ever This article is written by a real person in a real life situation, not by some so-called diet expert. Some experts tend to  espouse nutrition platitudes, leaving the reader feeling guilty, depressed and tired of hearing the same thing over and over again. (my opinion).

This article can pertain to not only dieting (aka as torture), but weight management (staying at your desired weight goal).

The bottom line: Dieting is just not a pleasant state of mind or body – no matter how easy a Nutrisystem commercial may seem – “just eat the food….”

For a sensible approach:

CLICK HERE.

The Simple Way to Eat?

Was a new diet part of your 2020 resolutions?  Great, but forget the new fads, diet pills, and starvation deprivation. There are many of the old diets still around- keto, paleo, Whole 30, NutriSystem, Jenny Craig to mention a few.  Just look at the magazine covers at the supermarket checkout – keto seems to have taken over all the others. The keto diet is quite restrictive, difficult to maintain and the long-term effects are not known. There is little evidence that  this type of restriction, although shown to be effective for weight loss, may not be a lifestyle choice for most people. Is there a better way? In my opinion, yes. The best diet is one you can live with and with a few adjustments compatible with the foods you choose. The best diet is one that with a little guidance and knowledge, is decided by you.

The following article is worth looking at if you want a simple approach.  All you need is a plate, a bottle of water, real food and of course, your commitment. And even better, this plan lets you be in control in following a reasonable and evidence-based plan that can fit easily into your lifestyle.

The article speaks for itself and provides a few links to add to the basics, i.e. some things you need to know like a guide to non-starchy vegetables. Oh, you may have to give up fast food and processed foods for a while. But, you may be glad when you realize that you will feel a lot better (and healthier) and the effort will be well worth it.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t want to say that weight loss itself is easy – it ‘s hard work but worth it when your goals are either weight loss or just changing to a healthier lifestyle.    That is why this plan is appealing. it is straightforward and makes sense.

So join the new “non-diet” approach that will help you lose some pounds but even better, eating for health. That is what eating should be about, not body image, eating disorders and food restriction. Learning how to eat rather than  just what to eat  is the answer (my opinion). ENJOY!!

One more thing – Always consult a registered dietitian, certified nutritionist, and your primary physician to discuss any dietary change to make sure it is nutrient dense. Also make sure you have no underlying medical problems like high cholesterol, hypertension, pre-diabetes, diabetes or digestive issues, for example.

CLICK HERE.