Articles

Lady, YOU’RE STARVING YOURSELF

Maybe it's time Canada's husbands asserted their authority and made their wives and daughters eat up or else. Nutrition experts say 50% of the nation's women are undernourished

SIDNEY MARGOLIUS January 15 1951
Articles

Lady, YOU’RE STARVING YOURSELF

Maybe it's time Canada's husbands asserted their authority and made their wives and daughters eat up or else. Nutrition experts say 50% of the nation's women are undernourished

SIDNEY MARGOLIUS January 15 1951

Lady, YOU’RE STARVING YOURSELF

SIDNEY MARGOLIUS

IF YOURS is a typical Canadian home, it’s an odds-on bet that the worst fed person in the family is a woman—either the housewife or her teen-age daughter. Nutritional investigators, after a series of surveys in Canada and the U. S., have come up with the shocking fact that black coffee breakfasts and tea-andtoast lunches are causing a rash of crankiness and anaemia among women between the ages of 15 and 40.

Here are the hard facts from Dr. L. B. Pett, chief of the nutrition division of the Department of National Health and Welfare:

Women between 20 and 39 show more than any other group the warning signs of malnutrition—anaemia, thinness, overweight (which can result from malnourishment, too), protein and vitamin A deficiencies. At least 50% of Canada’s women are undernourished in one or more important respects, according to some medical estimates.

The housewife is the poorest fed person in the average Canadian family, and the poorest diets are found among young unmarried women and older teen-age girls tomorrow’s mothers.

The same situation is being uncovered in the U. S. A survey in New York State showed that men and younger children in average families ate far better than the women. Fully half the women who were studied had inadequate diets and the record among pregnant women was even worse. While 83%, of the men ate enough protein food like meat, fish and eggs, only 40%, of the housewives got enough of these foods. Half the men drank enough milk every day but only one out of three women consumed as much as she needed.

Malnutrition isn’t confined to women, of course. The fact is, the late Dr. Frederick Tisdall, a leading explorer in nutrition, found in his studies at the University of Toronto that many people simply do not eat the kind of meals that promote good health. Before his death last year he warned Canadian and U. S. medical authorities that present eating hahits are a major public health problem.

But malnutrition is far more widespread among women than among men, on the basis of recent surveys.

A housewife is generally pretty active, with household chores and children to look after. She may even need more food than her husband, who often has a sedentary job. She may need as much as 3,000 calories a day while a man in an office could get by with 2,500. But does the wife in the average family eat as much as her husband? Hardly ever.

Many teen-age girls don’t pay enough attention to eating either. A New York survey found that seven out of 10 boys ate enough protein foods but more than half the girls examined did not. Two out of three boys drank as much milk as they needed but half the girls did not get enough milk. The result was that girls had worse teeth and more skin trouble than the boys, along with pallid sickly complexions.

One painful result of malnourishment among women is difficult and sometimes premature childbirth. Tisdall’s studies showed that

when pregnant women ate high quality meals—plenty of eggs, milk, cheese, wheat germ and fruit—they had far less trouble in labor and convalescence than poorly nourished mothers. And their babies were far healthier.

But the most shocking fact in the Tisdall report was this: All 14 infants who died during the time of the investigation belonged to poorly nourished mothers.

The most common result of malnourishment is nutritional anaemia which may not kill you or even put you in bed but which you actually can see and feel. A pale tired-looking girl wears the danger signs on her face and in her bearing. Nutritional anaemia is such a growing problem that the Department of National Health and Welfare is campaigning in Canada’s schools for better eating habits.

Feeling happy and full of life sometimes is a matter merely of eating what’s good for you. People who eat deficient meals —not necessarily too little but not the right kind of food—often are depressed and don’t feel like doing anything or going anywhere, without realizing why. Tisdall found that when these people were

You Need These Foods to be Healthy

This daily food quota — eaten in at least three meals

— is recommended by the Canadian Council of Nutrition as a healthful diet:

MILK: Young children, at least a pint; adolescents, at least 1 VJ pints; adults, at least one half pint.

FRUIT: One serving of citrus fruit, tomatoes or tomato juice, and one serving of other fruit.

VEGETABLES: At least one serving of potatoes, and at least two servings of other vegetables, preferably lea£y, green or yellow, and frequently raw.

CEREALS AND BREAD: One serving of whole-grain cereal and at least four slices of bread with butter or fortified margarine.

MEAT AND FISH: One serving of meat, fish, poultry or meat-alternates such as dried beans, eggs and cheese. Use liver frequently. In addition, eat eggs and cheese at least three times a week each.

VITAMIN D: At least 400 international units daily, in addition to the above foods, for all growing persons and expectant and nursing mothers.

Maybe it's time Canada's husbands asserted their authority and made their wives and daughters eat up or else. Nutrition experts say 50% of the nation's women are undernourished

fed balanced nourishing meals they became more cheerful and had a greater capacity for work—almost in a matter of hours.

During World War II factory surveys showed that workers’ output fell off sharply in the late morning. In one plant where production was below par it was found that many employees made a practice of going without breakfast.

What you eat may also determine how long you live, even though you’re in no danger of starving. In one experiment Tisdall found that, by doubling the amount of milk in the diet of laboratory animals he could increase their normal life by 10%.

Why do women neglect proper diet to an extent that it shows up finally in their health? Some home economists suggest that because of higher food costs many women purposely go short at mealtime to make sure others in the family get enough. They say that baby comes first, then the smaller children, then father, the older children and last of all mother.

But high costs obviously aren’t the only reason that women don’t get enough to eat. Malnutrition is found in well-to-do families too. One explanation is the desire of girls and young women to slim. They try to diet by omitting vital foods when their need for these foods is great. Especially they tend to skip breakfast—the most essential meal for a sense of well-being and to guard one’s health. Among sténos and schoolgirls, lunch too is often a thinly filled sandwich and black coffee or soda pop, or even just a candy bar.

Even if a housewife isn’t frying to save money, at certain hours she’s just too busy to prepare an adequate meal for herself. In their haste to get families off to work and school, women skimp on morning meals in the expectation of making it up with a good dinner.

Heavy use of sugar is another reason for malnourishment in a continent where ingredients of good eating are abundant. Health authorities say people were better nourished during the war when foods were rationed sugar was rationed too and we used only half as much as we do now.

Much the same results were seen in Britain and Norway when sugar was scarce during the war. The improvement in dental health was especially noticeable.

Sugar products in moderation are helpful because they make other foods more palatable. But sugar in excess dulls the appetite.

Many women say, “But if I eat a good meal once a day, won’t that satisfy my nutritional needs?”

The experts say no. In fact, one of the great modern discoveries of nutritional science is that you can’t make up at subsequent meals for those you skipped. Medical men once believed that if you ate a good helping of meat or other protein food once a day that was enough. Now they’ve learned your body won’t assimilate one big meal. They’re also beginning to realize that foods are interdependent: one type of food helps another type to become assimilated in your system.

For example, animal protein foods like meat, fish, eggs and milk

supply certain acids (called amino acids) and B-type vitamins that help extract the energy out of carbohydrate foods like bread and porridge. If you ate your breakfast cereal without milk, your body would have to work harder to get the energy out of it. Just as with an auto engine, if the proper amount of air isn’t mixed with the gasoline in the carburetor your car won’t move as efficiently.

Experts now emphasize that adequate nourishment means plenty of animal protein foods. A few years ago vitamins were all the rage. Everybody was urged to eat more fruits and vegetables and those who wanted to save chewing were beating it to the drugstores to get theirs in pill form. But now—without minimizing the importance of vitamins—we’re realizing we have to eat more animal proteins, not only because they provide high-quality nutrition like iron, “B” vitamins and other elements that give you vitality, but because they help your system use the nutrition in other foods.

Here’s an example: Many women take iron tablets to enrich

their blood. But at the Nebraska Experiment Station last year it was found that girls who got extra servings of protein foods were less anaemic than those who took iron tablets but ate less protein. The latter stored most of the iron in their bodies, but the girls eating proteins built more red coloring matter in their blood from the iron they got in regular foods.

Modern doctors don’t put pregnant patients on a toast and tea diet when they gain weight too rapidly. The unborn child soaks up iron from its mother, and only substantial protein and iron-rich meals can satisfy both.

For adequate nourishment you may need more protein at breakfast and lunch than you realize. You think you’re doing well with a breakfast egg? You may need two or three and a bowl of milk and porridge, or a solid chunk of meat. Are you a bacon man? If just bacon is your main dish—you’d need about 10 slices plus two slices of bread to satisfy your morning protein quota.

Eggs Go With Anything

Here’s your protein need each day: a moderately active woman, 60 grams; pregnant woman, 85; nursing mother, 100; girls 16-20, 75; boys 16-20, 100; adult man, 70. Growing children especially require large amounts of protein. A child of seven to nine years actually requires the same amount as a fully grown woman.

Here’s a handy list of how much protein various foods supply in typical portions (four ounces except where otherwise specified):

Fish, 20; chicken, 23; liver, 23; veal, 22; beef, 20; pork, 17; navy beans, 10; cottage cheese, 9; whole milk (8 oz.), 8; egg (one), 6; cheddar cheese, 27; peanut butter (]/¿ oz.), 4; bread, 10; pancakes (2), 3; a slice of bacon five inches long, 2.

With meat priced the way it is, I’d hate to have to feed my family most of its proteins that way, even if it’s savory. It would take about $20 a week for that much meat for four people.

Fish, eggs and cheese are less costly alternatives. Fish is a rich source of the system-satisfying proteins.

Continued on page 45

Continued from page 21

Eggs can be a great boon if we learn to use them more, especially with meat. Ham and eggs are a well-known team, but meat-and-egg combinations at other meals besides breakfast can be money-saving and health-giving. Eggs are cheaper in late winter and spring.

Another trick is to mix expensive animal proteins with inexpensive cereal and plant foods. Cereals have proteins too but they’re called “incomplete” because they don’t supply as many amino acids as the animal proteins. Nearly complete in their store of amino acids are the legumes—soy beans, nuts and peanut butter. Bread and cereals are less complete, but when used with complete proteins give you enough amino acids to build and repair body cells. The Earl of Sandwich’s famous invention of a piece of meat between slices of bread is a nourishing combination.

Even more enticing combinations of complete and incomplete proteins are possible. Scalloped lima beans with eggs and cheese is one; baked eggs and asparagus another.

What’s Lacking On Our Tables?

One more way to get proteins at little cost is to use plenty of dry skim milk (what’s left after the dairy makes butter). It costs little to buy and is now available in most towns in homesize packages. It’s got all the nourishment of whole milk except the vitamin A in the missing butterfat, and because it’s in dry form it’s even easier to use in cookery than fluid milk. For example, you can add more dry milk to home-baked cookies and cakes than if you try to add extra whole milk and you come up with a tastier cake that also has a finer texrure. With dry milk it’s also easy to make cream soups and sauces (non-fattening and proteinrich). Shake a little of this dry skim milk into every possible dish and the whole family’s health will benefit.

Of course many types of food besides proteins are necessary for balanced eating. Nutritionists merely are stressing protein now because of the growing realization of its great importance to our systems.

If a nutritionist walked into the average Canadian home she’d most likely notice an insufficiency of milk, citrus fruits and tomatoes, vegetables in general, and whole-grain products like whole-wheat bread. Surveys have revealed that about one out of three adults takes little or no milk, only about half the homes use citrus fruits or tomatoes regularly, and vegetables other than potatoes aren’t used much at all.

Lots of C in Cantaloupe

Vitamin C foods are a particular problem in Canada because citrus fruits have to be imported. Apple juice doesn’t supply much vitamin C unless it’s fortified with an extra supplement. Tomato juice does, if you drink more of it than you would orange or grapefruit juice—5-6 ounces to a portion as compared to 4. Some other fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamin C if eaten raw or cooked with little water so this delicate vitamin survives the cooking. These include cantaloupe, kale, collards and raw cabbage.

Look back now to page 20 and read “Canada’s Food Rules” as revised last year by the government nutrition division. They make an easy-to-follow guide to the five groups of foods we need to eat every day for balanced nutrition. ★