SINCE the health and efficiency of the family depend so directly upon what they eat, no study could be more worthy of the house-wife’s attention than the art of planning harmony in her meals, and this subject should appeal to every thinking mother.
A small amount of food in right combination gives more energy than a large amount poorly combined, just as a small, well disciplined force of arms is more effective in war than an untrained mob. This makes the selection of foods a matter not only of health, but of economics as well; and when the principles of combining foods are rightly understood, very palatable and nutritious meals may be prepared from the most simple and inexpensive foods.
In planning the meal, two great objectives should be kept in view: first, the selection of foods that provide in about the right proportion all the kinds of substances required to nourish the body; second, the selection of foods that agree with one another, as discussed in a previous chapter.
In seeking to balance the food elements in a meal, we should think of foods classified in the following four groups, and choose some article of food from each group at least once a day; then the daily ration is not likely to want for any necessary element. There is nothing mysterious about the planning of most palatable, nutritious, and inexpensive meals. By a study of these groups, one may learn how to substitute one food for another in accordance with palatability and price, and when laying in supplies of food, to consider the question in terms of these groups.
TABLE OF FOOD CLASSIFICATION
1. FOODS RICH IN PROTEIN :
Milk, skimmed milk, cottage cheese, eggs, nuts, nut foods, dried beans, dried peas, lentils, macaroni, entire wheat, oatmeal.
2. CARBOHYDRATE FOODS:
All cereals, breads, crackers, macaroni, break-fast foods, sugar, honey, sirups, fruit, especially dried fruits, potato, other vegetables.
3. FOODS RICH IN FATS:
Olives, nuts, cream, butter, vegetable oils, solid vegetable fats.
4. FOODS DEPENDED ON FOR MINERAL MATTERS AND BODY-REGULATING SUB-STANCES :
Whole cereals, fruits, whole meal cereal products, entire wheat breads, greens, fresh vegetables, melons, salads (raw green stuff).
Fresh vegetables, especially the coarser kinds, contain a large proportion of water in their composition, and if served by them-selves, would fail of supplying proper nutrition to the body. However, when they are served with one of the more solid foods, as grains, nuts, legumes, etc., they furnish a needed bulk to the food, and are rich in mineral and vitamines.
As examples of simple foods that combine well in the making of well balanced meals, take potato, consisting largely of starch, and eggs, which are largely albumen and fat. These balance each other in about the right proportion. Rice, being nearly all starch, and beans, heavy in protein, when taken at the same meal, make an excellent combination. Nuts, being rich in protein and fat, when eaten with fruits, containing sugar and acid, make an excellent balance. If the meal be composed principally of potato or rice (both consisting largely of starch), a few nuts, with ripe olives or a little cream, will supply the needed protein and fat.
In seeking to provide foods that will give proper nourishment to the body, we should avoid the extremes in either of two directions : on the one hand, that which tends toward an impoverished diet ; on the other hand, that which brings into one meal too many heavy, highly concentrated foods.
Avoid having the meals one-sided, by serving the more watery foods, such as fruits or vegetables, with one of the heavier foods, as grains, legumes, nuts, etc. Vary the meals from day to day, making a change in both the taste and the appearance of the food as it comes to the table.
Serve some raw food daily, as in these the mineral and vitamine constituents are preserved unchanged by heating; and avoid, so far as possible, white breads, white rice, package breakfast foods, and so-called refined foods, which have been robbed of their life-giving elements, and thus cannot sustain the body in a healthy condition.