5 Foods Your Grandparents Didn’t Eat

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I’m using the word “grandparents” loosely in this post, because I know some of my readers may be young enough to have grandparents who were raised eating these foods and if that’s you, then just think “great-grandparents”. My grandparents were born in the 1910s, and grew up eating fresh, local, and homemade foods.  The foods on this list simply weren’t widely available, if at all. 

And the result of these foods not being available?  In 1930, only 1% men aged 75 and over died of cancer. [source] Now the rate is closer to 10%. [source] Our grandparents didn’t suffer from rampant food allergies, widespread infertility, obesity and autoimmune diseases.  While diet isn’t necessarily the only cause of all these health issues becoming more prevalent in the last two or three generations, there certainly seems to be a correlation.

 1. Nonfat and Lowfat Milk Products

Nonfat and lowfat milk products weren’t even available until after WWII.  They didn’t gain wide acceptance until the late 80s. [source] While whole milk and cream are nutrient dense, whole foods, nonfat and lowfat dairy products are low in nutrients (which is why they need to be fortified with vitamins).  For more about why nonfat milk isn’t a health food, read this article.


2. Vegetable Oils

In the early 1900s, people ate lard, butter, tallow and other animal fats. Before 1950, even margarine was made with tallow. In the United States  in 1930, the average person ate over 18 pounds  of butter a year and just over 2 pounds of margarine. By the end of the 20th century, an average American ate around 5 lb of butter and nearly 8 lbof margarine.[Source] 


3. Soda

Okay, I’m taking a little creative license here, soda is NOT a food. Soda was generally consumed socially at a soda fountain in the first half of the 20th century, and before the 20s, was “phosphate soda” which consisted of fruit juice and carbonated water. Coca Cola became very popular in the 20s and people consumed 2-3 bottles a week. The cardboard 6-pack was introduced during this time. Before 1950, Coca Cola was only available in 6.5 oz bottles [source], or a little over half the size of a modern soda. The average American now consumes a gallon of soda a week! [source]


4. Processed Meats

In the early 20th century, meats would have been traditionally cured. As industrialization set in and corporations replaced small farmers and butchers, it became necessary to use standardized amounts of sodium nitrite to prevent botulism, as well as to ensure beef products had an attractive red color preferred by consumers. Modern meats processed with sodium nitrite can lead to colorectal and pancreatic cancer. [source] Meats cured in small batches using traditional methods are not the same thing.


5. Preservative laden baked goods

Commercial baked goods weren’t introduced to consumers before the 1930s when Wonder Bread introduced its sliced breads that wouldn’t dry out, and the Twinkie was invented.  Before this, people would have purchased fresh bread from a bakery, or made it themselves. Now the baked goods you buy at the supermarket are preserved with Ammonium Sulfate (as in AMMONIA) or L-cysteine (an amino acid derived from hair and feathers).

So what did they eat?

Most people ate a basic diet of meat, including organ meats such as liver, potatoes, sauces and gravies made from broth, full fat dairy (ice cream was a popular dessert), gelatin molds, vegetables from their gardens, and bread and other baked goods they baked or bought from a bakery. We try to eat in a similar way in my home! For more about our general eating philosophy, read this post!


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About Kelley

Hi! I'm Kelley. Real foodie and crunchy mom to a teenager and a toddler. My husband and I live in Southern California.