Are You Really Well Fed?

You can eat heartily, even expensively, and still be undernourished. Women are the worst offenders — too many prefer fashion to fitness

GEORGE H. WALTZ May 15 1949

Are You Really Well Fed?

You can eat heartily, even expensively, and still be undernourished. Women are the worst offenders — too many prefer fashion to fitness

GEORGE H. WALTZ May 15 1949

Are You Really Well Fed?

You can eat heartily, even expensively, and still be undernourished. Women are the worst offenders — too many prefer fashion to fitness


If ANYONE asked you if you were well fed you undoubtedly would answer with an indignant, “Why, naturally.” Yet, if you are an “average” person, t he chances are better than 50-50 that you are underfed !

If you are one of those “typical” males, the odds are that you are underweight and undernourished. You tend to tire easily and you often have spells of the jitters. Your teeth aren’t in the best shape and when it comes to vitamin intake you are a little on the low side. Even so, you probably stack up better physically than your “average” wife, and your son is apt to be better off than your teen-age daughter.

There are nutritionists who say the average family is needlessly undernourished. They base their belief on an extensive year-long eating test

recently completed by nutritionists of the Pennsylvania State College with the aid of the Westinghouse Electric Corporat ion. In this test 64 families (239 persons) of better than average health, education and income ate meals prepared from special menus. Medical checkups before and after showed that, as a group, they were basically undernourished, and that by sticking to a common-sense, correct diet they improved enormously.

Although the dining tables of North America are perhaps more loaded than at any time in history, in many cases they sag under the weight of the wrong foods. We may turn over a major chunk of our weekly budgets to the butchers, bakers, and greengrocers, yet through ignorance and improper planning we shortchange ourselves on nutrition.

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when the right foods are bought and served, housewives often throw away many of the vital ingredients long before they reach the table.

The nutrition division of the Canadian Department of National Health and Welfare recently stated that the cooking water Canadian housewives pour down their kitchen drains each six months contains vitamins and minerals worth $25 millions at current drugstore prices. And that figure does not include vitamins destroyed by bad cooking methods.

Good nutrition habits are a matter of education—education about the “foods” that can’t be seen. Things like niacin, thiamine, vitamins, and carbohydrates aren’t visible in a slice of liver, a leg of lamb, a bottle of milk, or a breakfast bowl of cereal. Yet they are there and vitally important. We must have them and others if we are to be well fed.

To many the label “healthful eating” smacks of bushels of raw carrots, crates of lettuce, and meatless meat dishes brewed from nuts and vegetables. Yet normal healthful eating is interesting eating because it calls for the use of a wide variety of foods from meat and potatoes to salads and sweets.

Here is a simple eating test. List the variousfoods you had for your three meals yesterday. List them according to general types—meat, fish, green vegetables, citrus fruits, milk, and so on. You will probably say to yourself, “How can I be anything else but well fed?” However, unless your list includes some of each of the 11 basic food groups—milk and cheese; meat, poultry and fish; eggs; dried beans, peas, nuts or peanut butter; leafy green and yellow vegetables; citrus fruits and tomatoes; potatoes; other fruits and vegetables; cereals including flour, bread, and pastry; fats; and sugar—you have missed out on your daily nourishment.

Watch Teen-age Girls

The amount of each food group necessary to meet your own requirements depends on your age, sex and work. Children need more of certain foods because they are growing. A teen-age boy needs as much or more food than his father. Office workers need less than someone doing hard, manual labor. Expectant and nursing mothers and the sick have special needs.

Too many of us, particularly in or near large cities, tend to concentrate our daily eating. We skip or skimp on breakfast, eat hasty sandwich lunches, and then try to stow away the major quota of our daily food at the evening meal. Only about one out of every seven average people regularly eats a good breakfast. One tenth generally skip it entirely in their mad rush from bed to work, while a big percentage settle for toast and coffee. Nothing could be worse, say the food experts. For proper nutrition, each of our three daily meals should provide one third of our day’s requirements.

In the Pennsylvania test normal breakfasts approved by the nutritionists were eaten every day by the human guinea pigs. And where box lunches were needed they were packed with more than “just a sandwich.”

The families chosen for the experiment all had adequate means as well as the desire to be well fed. The researchers wanted a test group that had no reason to be undernourished.

Yet they were! At the start of the test the medical rating of the average of the group was class II, which meant that out of a possible 100 points the average person scored only 79.4. Few scored 90 or more. Some were suffering from digestive disorders of nutritional origin. Many complained of nervousness and fatigue. Less than one third of the entire group were getting the number of calories recommended for normal growth and health.

In these tests fathers and sons measured up better to the medical standards than did mothers and daughters. The average teen-age girl was underweight, lagging in bone development, and low on calcium, iron, and vitamin intake.

Most flagrant breakers of the laws of good eating were fashion-conscious mothers and their adult daughters. They were underweight and needed to bolster just about all the food components. They had eaten themselves to poor health and made the worst showing of all sex-age groups at the start of the investigation.

During the 12 months of the test the families (119 males, 120 females) ate meals prepared from 36 master menus which gave enough selection to provide 78,650 choices. There was no monotony in the food. To ensure proper preparation, nutritionists visited the home kitchens to teach the housewives correct cooking methods.

In spite of rising food costs the planned menus cost these American families only $1.34 more a week. And here is what each person got for his additional 36 cents plus a week: 24% more milk, 47% more lean meat including fish and poultry, 15% more citrus fruits and tomatoes, 24% more leafy green and yellow vegetables, 14% more

potatoes, 9% more of other fruits and vegetables, 21% more flour and other cereals, and 30%; more fats in the form of cooking fats, margarine, and butter.

A final physical examination given at the end of the year showed that the over-all medical rating of the group had risen to class 1. Some individual ratings had been boosted as much as 14 points. What’s more, the families i-eported fewer colds, skin conditions were better, there was less fatigue and nervousness, and the number who had attained the correct weight for their age and sex had increased by more than 50%; during the year.

The Dictates of Fashion

The men and teen-age boys showed the greatest improvement. Surprisingly, they co-operated better than the women and the gii'ls. At the start of the study only 40%; of the teen-age boys weighed what they should. At the end 85% had hit their ideal weight. Although they came from homes of plenty, the young boys simply hadn’t been getting enough to eat!

Although the teen-age girls also showed considerable improvement, they finished well behind their brothers. Half of them started the test underweight. After a year of good eating three quarters of them had attained their recommended weights. They had made good strides in growth and bone development, but still showed a lack of calcium and vitamins.

Mother and her adult daughters showed the fewest gains at the end. When the test was begun, only 42%; tipped the scales at the proper weight; at the end the percentage liad risen to 64. Although they made gains in

protein consumption (meat, eggs, poultry, milk, cheese, etc.), their daily diets still lacked the proper quantities of minerals and vitamins.

l)r. Pauline Berry Mack, who helped direct the study, attributes this directly to their desire to keep fashionably slim.

The over-all picture, however, was one of great improvement. It. takes time for good food, in balanced quantities, to heal the scars caused by disregard for the common-sense rules of healthful eating.

Most housewives, Dr. Mack found, had been planning their meals in a haphazard fashion with little regard for nutrition. To them, food was food, and if it was of good quality, fresh, and supplied in sufficient quantities the family would be well fed. Food likes and dislikes played a big part in menu selection.

Both Dr. Mack and her co-worker Julia Kiene, Westinghouse home economist, felt, however, that there was more to the problem than improper selection of foods. They were sure that excessive cooking losses also were responsible for the poor showing of the families initially. They collected food samples from the families before and after cooking. A laboratory check showed that vitamins and minerals literally had been cooked out of the foods.

Put Milk in the Dark

They found that the average housewife, through ignorance, actually washed and boiled the vitamins out of her vegetables and in many cases poured the nutrient-rich cooking liquor down the drain. When the visiting researchers showed the women how vegetables should minimum of water and cooking them violent boiling in fitting tops the vitamin content of cooked foods rose. Leftover liquid, instead of being thrown away, was either served with the vegetables or saved for use in soups and gravies.

High temperatures and overcooking are taboo for meats too. For broiling, pan broiling, and even roasting, the recommended procedure is slow cooking at relatively low temperatures to conserve the natural meat juices and prevent charring. Charring releases valuable thiamine, while overcooking causes shrinkage and less servings per pound.

Dr. Mack and Julia Kiene gave their housewives these don’ts:

Don’t shell peas or beans until you are ready to use them.

Don’t thaw out frozen vegetables liefere cooking.

Don’t leave vegetables out of the refrigerator.

Don’t buy more vegetables than you can refrigerate at one time.

Don’t place meat in the refrigerator in its store wrapping paper. Remove wrappings, place on plate, and cover lightly with waxed paper.

Don’t allow milk to stand in the light. It causes a loss of riboflavin (essential for growth and good eyesight).

Don’t keep ground meats too long. They are extremely perishable.

Don’t store eggs in an open container. They will keep fresh longer in a covered dish. The shell of an egg is porous and allows the egg to evaporate.

Don’t cut oranges or grapefruit, or stem and wash berries, until just before serving time. Also, don’t squeeze orange juice in advance.

Don’t cut any more of the skin off potatoes, carrots, etc., than you have to. The layer just under the skin contains valuable minerals and vitamins. If your family will eat them,

serve such vegetables cooked in their skins.

Don’t allow peeled fruits or vegetables to soak in water. Many nutrients are soluble in water and will be lost.

At first glance, all this planning and preparation looks as if it would add up to a good many extra hours in the I kitchen for the housewife. But records, carefully kept before, during, and after the test, show that time is saved. Without the guidance she received from Dr. Mack and Julia Kiene the average housewife used to spend 12 hours and 50 minutes a week in planning, preparing and cooking her meals. Now she spends 12 hours and 6 minutes. Also, because of better I kitchen management she has cut her I dishwashing time from a weekly 8 ! hours and 56 minutes to 6 hours and 52 ! minutes. The total saving of kitchen time is 2 hours and 48 minutes a week.

About the only thing that stands between us and nourishing meals is common sense. There is no reason for the average family to be underfed in the lands of plenty. And when we disregard the simple rules of good eating we are gambling wdth our future health. +