Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Eating & Menu Planning 1950s Style


In the 1950s guidelines for good eating relied on seven basic food groups.  Two or more servings of milk per day were suggested, as well as two servings each of fruits and vegetables.  At least one serving of meat or cheese was required per day, as well as a minimum of three to five eggs per week. Two or more tablespoons of butter per day were considered essential, along with at least two servings of bread or cereal.  Today I heard on the radio that butter is now considered essential again!


Portion control was suggested and encouraged in the 1950s, based upon age and activity level. Children and teens needed larger portions than adults.   Sedentary individuals required smaller portions than someone who was quite athletic or worked a physical job.   It all makes sense.  My 1950s “Complete Household Guide” explains it thus:

“The harder one works physically, the more oxygen is taken in through the lungs, and the more food is necessary.  Thus a person lying in bed would require 2000  or less calories- or units of energy – but a person performing hard, physical work needs at least 3000.”

Back then, exercise included:

  • Daily housework (scrubbing floors, dusting and vacuuming).
  • Gardening.
  • Walking – many homes had only one car
  • Carrying groceries from a number of specialist shops instead of one supermarket.
  • Washing clothes by hand (using a wheel and ringer system).
  • Cooking (often breakfast, lunch and dinner).
  • Child care.
  • simple calisthenics
  • bike riding


Not many women had sedentary jobs in front of a computer (or typewriter).  They could consume more calories and stay slimmer because of all the exercise mentioned above.

There were also some dangerous diet trends in the 1950s, such as appetite suppressants, including amphetamines.  Diet supplements were available over the counter, and fad diets combining high fat foods with grapefruit or cabbage promised quick weight loss.  My 1950s “Complete Household Guide” has a more sensible approach losing weight:

“The general principles are avoidance of fried foods, or rich soups and sauces containing flour, as little bread and potatoes as possible, and avoidance of sweets and abstention from alcohol.  A light breakfast of stewed fruit, one slice of bacon or an egg,  and a slice of toast; lunch consisting of a generous helping of salad with a small helping of meat or cheese; and dinner consisting of grilled meat, vegetables, and a sweet, should prevent any further accumulation of flesh and gradually rid you of what is already present.”


Sounds so easy!  I am going to give it a go, as I definitely need to ”prevent any further accumulation of flesh.  My most difficult thing twill be “abstention from alcohol”,as I am very partial to a glass red or two 0f red with dinner.  I already use a menu plan, as I don’t really enjoy cooking (it takes time, and then it’s gone so quickly - especially with five children!)   I do my planning 50s style and have a certain meal  each day of the week.  Tuesday, for example is pasta night, and Saturday is pizza night.  The menu is slightly changed in the second week , and a copy is on the fridge so that the kids know what we are having every night, and can even start preparation if I am home late.  This way I don’t really have to think too much about what I’ll be preparing, and our grocery list is very similar every week.  Leftovers are sometimes used for lunch the next day, or the meat sliced an use on sandwiches.  When I am being really good I also bake bread, on days where I use the oven for cooking if possible, and bake cake or muffins for the kids school lunches.

Here’s a sample two week’s menu:

  • Sunday – Roast Meat (Beef 0r lamb), Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Vegetables in season
  • Monday – Pasta with Roast veggie sauce (from left over veggies)
  • Tuesday – Rice and stir fry with lean chicken or meat
  • Wednesday – Meat Casserole (such as Irish stew), Salad
  • Thursday – Pasta with vegetable sauce (tomato and mushroom or pumpkin)
  • Friday – Home made hamburgers with rolls and salad
  • Saturday – Homemade Pizza, Green Salad (make bread)


  • Sunday – Roast Meat (Pork or chicken), Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Vegetables in season
  • Monday – Pasta with bolognaise sauce
  • Tuesday – Rice and chillie (leftover bolognaise with kidney beans)
  • Wednesday – Meat Casserole (such as irish stew), Salad
  • Thursday – Pasta with red sauce
  • Friday – Home made fish and chips and salad
  • Saturday – Homemade Pizza, Green Salad

Serving sizes are according to needs, and with summer coming I try to do more salads and less cooked veggies, and meat is done on the charcoal bar-be-que rather than inside.   As I am trying to follow my 1950s diet guidelines for losing weight, I keep a bowl of cooked brown rice in the fridge, and use that as my carbohydrate, instead of pasta and potatoes, for example.  Breakfast is cereal with fruit during the week, pancakes on Sundays.  Weekend lunches are ‘clean out the fridge soup’ or  a fancy salad.

Right, I am off for a bike ride!  Deb xxbike

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