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The “See-Food” Diet

The “See-Food” Diet
  • The Diet Question (by )
  • Diet in Illness and Convalescence (by )
  • Some points to be considered in the plan... (by )
  • Diet for Children (by )
  • Practical problems of diet and nutrition (by )
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Diet and nutrition fill over a quarter million pages of text within the World Library’s virtual bookshelves. GoodReads lists 43,181 titles focused on food and drink, and Amazon’s search results for “diet” yields 186,133 titles for printed books and 30,071 e-book titles. Titles focusing on what and when to eat tout their food and drink regimens as the answer to many problems related to health, energy, and moral character.

Diet and nutrition have occupied pages of medical copy for decades. Max Einhorn published “Practical Problems of Diet and Nutrition” in 1905; Susannah Usher published “Some Points to Be Considered in the Planning of a Rational Diet” in 1912. Other texts, some based on scientific research, opine on the optimum benefits to be gained from specific diets, such as Diet in Illness and Convalescence published by Alice Worthington Winthrop in 1898. In the preface, Winthrop notes that her book incorporates essential portions of Diet for the Sick by Messrs. Harper & Brothers, published in 1885. In stating that Harper and Brothers’ work cannot be improved upon, she then goes to state, “she feels justified in making such additions and changes as the intervening years require, and as the present general interest in the subject demands.” Winthrop also mentions that her “additions and changes” to the reference material were “obtained from surgeons and nurses” at the Montauk Point, NY during August and September of 1898, “where opportunities for the study of typhoid and malarial fever were only too abundant.”

The care and feeding of children accompany tomes and articles on beneficial diets. In 1916, Louise Eleanor Shimer Hogan published her book Diet for Children as a guide to nourish children’s good health and good character through food. In her handbook, she provides menus for mothers and nurses “that would show them in still greater detail the working out of the principles advanced in earlier works, lead me to offer this book in the hope that it may sufficiently meet their needs. It should show them how, under conditions of health, as well as of illness, they may often assist and control a child’s mental, physical, and moral growth through that care which depends upon simple wholesome food, well selected, well prepared and carefully given.”

In the feeding and care of children, Hogan lists various foods that she recommends be forbidden to children until “after second dentition,” presumably to facilitate a “happy, even temperament” as well as good health. They include: ham, sausage, pork, dried beef, corned beef, goose, duck, broiled kidneys, stewed kidneys, liver and bacon, gravy from roasted or fried meats, meat stews, raw celery, raw or fried onions, radishes, cucumbers, baked tomatoes, stewed tomatoes, fried tomatoes, raw tomatoes, fried potatoes, pickled beets, carrots, pastries, griddle cakes, fresh bread, meat pies, fruit pies, hot biscuits, rich cakes, muffins, doughnuts, preserves, canned fruits, tea, coffee, and any kind of liquor.

In 1884, Susanna W. Dodds, M.D., published her guide on healthy eating, The Diet Question, Giving the Reason Why: from “Health in the Household”; or Hygienic Cookery. Her handbooks focuses on the “hygienic diet,” stating that “In the first place, the hygienic table admits of a great a variety as any other; and once the palate adapts itself to the change—which requires but a short time—the food is quite as keenly relished as that prepared in the ordinary way.” This diet, she states, “is why one can work longer and with less fatigue.” In short, “it nourishes better” because “it contains no stimulating or abnormal substances, to tax the vital powers in getting rid of them; no salt, pepper, spices, or other irritating condiment.”

Reading dietary advice from past centuries shows that, while today’s nutritionists may have better science to substantiate their claims, dietary fads come and go, and few of them can be completely divorced from moral overtones. “You are what you eat,” they say.

By Karen M. Smith
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