Weekly Wellness: Should we be eating like it’s 1950 again?

This November 2017 photo shows a roasted cauliflower and chickpea salad tossed with garlic-tahini dressing in New York. This dish is from a recipe by Katie Workman. (Lucy Beni via AP)

One question that lurks in the back of my mind is why people seemed to have healthier and simpler lives back in the 1950s. It doesn’t seem as though there were half as many health issues, no one worried about gluten and people didn’t exercise extremely hard for hours each day. Obviously, there are more preservatives and chemicals in our food nowadays to keep it fresh longer and to make it look appetizing. However, there’s got to be a more specific explanation as to why our grandparents had a completely different relationship with food than we do today.

Studies show that children in the 1950s had much higher calcium and iron levels, due to their regular consumption of milk, bread and red meat. There were no “dairy is the devil” theories back then, and milk was an everyday drink. Red meat was also consumed more regularly than poultry, and greens and potatoes were a typical part of the meal. These foods were available to the general public and were much less criticized. This could be because no one knew anything about what they were consuming back then; they just ate it.

When discussing the simplicity of the 1950s diet, we must recognize that food came from inside the home. Delivery services, like pizza or Chinese takeout, weren’t popular until the 80s. So, everything that the family ate was cooked and prepared in their homes. Supersizing didn’t exist in the 50s. People ate in moderation and were content with the food in front of them. Additionally, that food didn’t have nearly as many chemicals or as much processed sugar or unhealthy fat in it as foods today, so it wasn’t negatively impacting people’s health as much.

There was a schedule to our grandparents’ diets. They most likely had a big dinner on Sunday, consisting of red meat, potatoes and vegetables. Or, if they were Italian, like my family, a whole lot of pasta, bread and meatballs. There weren’t as many healthy choices available to them, but foods didn’t need to be microwaved, and there were no crazy weight-loss foods or drinks that fed chemicals into our bodies. Now, there are so many processed “healthy” foods that we think are good for us but probably aren’t as nutritious as simple foods. Bread, potatoes, meat, vegetables and the occasional sweet treat might be all we need.

Perhaps so many people have intolerances to certain foods because our bodies aren’t meant to be consuming them, especially on a regular basis. Think of the difference between multi-seed low calorie bread and simple white bread. One might be marketed as healthier for us, but is it really? This isn’t to say we should eliminate all modern foods and go back to meat and potatoes all day, every day, but we should be more aware of exactly what is in our food. Some healthy new fad foods might not truly be as healthy as they’re marketed to be. Maybe consuming preservatives every day is too much for our bodies. Eating things in moderation is also a very important factor in a healthy diet. Regularly choosing foods in their simplest form might be a great way to cleanse our bodies and feel better overall.


Tessa Pawlik is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at tessa.pawlik@uconn.edu.