From Where I Sit
We Are What We Eat
Volume 21 Issue 22 2013-06-14
Regular readers know how I love books and all they offer. My passion isn’t limited to the latest and greatest, though, so I was tickled to find an old coil-bound book called Edmonton Hospital Diet Therapy Manual. I am both amused and amazed by how much things have changed—and how much they’ve stayed the same.
I’m not likely to alter all my eating habits based on this slim 1960s-era book. Not because it’s necessarily bad information, but because none of the foods they reference still exist in the composition and format available at that time. Today’s bread is not the same bread that existed 52 years ago. The author of Wheat Belly would argue that the base ingredient, wheat, is nothing like 1960s wheat either, because of genetic modification. In fact, grandma wouldn’t recognize many of the meats, vegetables, or staples filling our pantries and freezers today.
As I leafed through the book some things leapt out at me. Others required more study. Terminology was one thing. This manual was the product of a joint committee of six hospitals, including a “sanatorium” and an “Indian hospital.” No one would dare use those terms today.
The tables which make up the Canadian Dietary Standard for Adults (1948) only go up to 160 pounds for women and 200 pounds for men. Today there are kids whose weight pushes those upper limits. Add another 100 pounds to the chart, and you get closer to today’s reality.
Somewhere along the way carbs became a bad word. Yet the 1950 Canada Food Rules advise eating “one serving of whole grain cereal AND at least four slices of bread (with butter or fortified margarine).” The same document recommends one serving of meat, fish, poultry, or meat alternatives per day plus eggs and cheese at least three times a week each.
The pages on infant feeding urge parents to give their babies diluted orange juice or vitamin-enriched apple juice daily, beginning at two to four weeks! How could that be good? More than one baby ended up with rotten teeth when juice pooled in her mouth after she fell asleep with a bottle. High sugar content is a big no-no today among enlightened parents.
Under the miscellaneous foods to exclude for children are peanut butter, nuts, olives, pickles, popcorn, coconut, and condiments. Did they know something we don’t about allergens?
With gluten-free foods now getting special mention on menus and being widely available even in places like Walmart I assumed, incorrectly, that celiac disease was something new. This manual devotes a couple of pages to the gluten-free diet. There are more foods excluded than included.
This book is just another tool (and a fun read), from where I sit.
Hazel Anaka's first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites.
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