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Healthy Living From The Past

Updated on September 21, 2016
Elsie Hagley profile image

Elsie has been cooking for sixty years and has many recipes. I'm sharing some with you, some are my mothers recipes, hope you enjoy baking.

Healthy Foods

Fish and meat are good healthy body builders Photo belongs to the author - Elsie Hagley
Fish and meat are good healthy body builders Photo belongs to the author - Elsie Hagley

Healthier Living

Eating, exercising and aging healthy is easy to achieve if we look back to twentieth century and how they lived without all the modern medicines.

Days gone by, were we healthier?

Here are a couple of reasons why I'm writing about Health and Aging.

We never worried about what goodness we would get from eating this and that, we ate what was put in front of us, and never asked questions, just thankful we had something to eat.

Most of it was homegrown and home baked, we never had takeaways, anything like that was cooked at home.

These days we know much more about what makes us healthy and what doesn't.

We understand good nutrition and exercise, we've got powerful drugs and incredible surgical techniques, that can help save and prolong our lives, so we should be much healthier shouldn't we?

I can honestly save my parents never took me to a doctor in the early years of my life, we didn't get sick very often, if we did there was all the home remedies, for curing this and fixing that, not like the doctors these days, that you cannot get an appointment until next week, by that time you are better, so maybe we should stick to some of the old ways of curing our ill's and wails.

1950's Foods

The above video - Foods that we had during the 1950s were not as healthy as todays's foods but the portions were smaller. After World War II ended, our country experienced a real booming economy.

The lady talks about what they ate in the 1950s interesting, she chats about the way things were in the 1950s.

Sponge Cake

Nice creamy sponge cake, good food eaten in moderation. Photo belongs to the author - Elsie Hagley
Nice creamy sponge cake, good food eaten in moderation. Photo belongs to the author - Elsie Hagley

Were we Healthier In the 1950s?

You would think so, but when we make comparisons to how we lived 60 years ago, it's surprising to find we don't necessarily have the upper hand in the fit and healthy stakes.

Rates of diseases like diabetes and heart disease were lower and obesity wasn't the major problem it is today, and cancer deaths are taking over heart related deaths.

In those days we never ever worried about our weight, in fact we had good eating habits and were much more physically active.

Preparing everything that our family ate from scratch - we could not pull something precooked from the freezer, as a matter of a fact, never had a fridge until 1959, we only had a safe which was outside on the south side of the house, every time you wanted anything food you would have to go outside to get it.

You couldn't open a packet or jar out of the cupboard and pull some precooked meal out, this meant we ate a lot less salt and fewer preservatives, and the large portion of our main meals was home grown vegetables, which were naturally organic and most times not exposed to pesticides.

A sponge cake was my favorite special treat, made from our own eggs, and jam made from our orchard, with cream taken from the cream-can, we only had this on special occasion, and was it a treat.

Yes our diets were much higher in saturated fat, food was cooked in butter or lard, rather than the so called healthier fats, and there was no such thing as low-fat dairy products.

Recipes For Healthy Eating From The 1940s - 1960s

The amateur chef is encouraged to revisit traditional dishes, perhaps even organize a themed dinner party, and try some of the old fashion recipes that taste just as nice as they did in the 1950s it's a shame to let them slip by.

You will find that recipes haven't changed that much over the years, we have just got faster in preparing and cooking them with all the modern day cooking utensils.

Kumara and Bacon Frittata

Kumara and bacon frittata. Photo Credit - Elsie Hagley
Kumara and bacon frittata. Photo Credit - Elsie Hagley

This Frittata is simple, affordable and healthy - Home Prepared Meal just like the 1950s, it will not break the bank.

500 grams (2 cups) kumara, peeled and cubed,

2 tablespoons olive oil,

1 onion, finely sliced,

4 rindless rashers of bacon, coarsely chopped,

5 eggs,

1/2 cup milk,

1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese,

Salt and freshly ground black pepper,

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley,


1. Heat oven to 120c (250F). Grease a deep flan dish

2. Cook kumara in boiling salted water for five minutes,then drain well and set aside

3. At the same time heat a frying pan, add oil, onion and bacon and cook for five minutes until onion is softened.

4. In a bowl beat eggs with the milk and then stir in the grated cheese. Season mixture well with salt and pepper.

5. Stir in the kumara, onions, bacon and parsley into the egg mixture.

6. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish.

7. Bake the frittata for 35 to 40 minutes or until set in the middle.

8. Slice to serve.

Prepare 10 minutes, Cook 35-40 mins, Serves 8,

Freestyle Cooking - I Like Cooking this way - To be honest I have cooked this way all my life, as a meal provider since the 1960's

Free style cooking. Photo Credit - Elsie Hagley
Free style cooking. Photo Credit - Elsie Hagley

What is Freestyle cooking?

Freestyle cooking is about letting go in the kitchen, breaking out of the rut of cooking your tired old recipes and experimenting in the kitchen, using ingredients you have already got.

It is about learning to trust your own taste buds and not relying on recipes.

It's about experimenting, improvising and setting free your inner chef talents.

Its about tasting your food as you cook, adding flavors with herbs, spices, sauces, (like soy, worcester or sweet chili), seasoning's and pastes, and tasting again, then throwing in some more seasoning until it's just right.

I use it on any base, Meat, fish, chicken, vegetables, or grab anything that is defrosted in the fridge, you will be surprised what you can come up with.

I have never had any failures yet, but theres always the first time for everything.

I have been doing this for many years now, have had some wonderful tasting meals, only sometimes if someone asks me for the recipe it can be a bit hard to remember exactly what you have added to it.

1950 Family Date, Dinner In A 1950's Home

Sherry trifle. Photo Credit - Elsie Hagley
Sherry trifle. Photo Credit - Elsie Hagley

Pudding After Main Meal Midday

Our main meal of the day was midday, we always had pudding after our main meal, but the thing about this is that you could work that big meal off in the afternoon before evening and just have a light tea before retiring for the day.

Never a week went by without having a pudding of sago, tapioca or rice cooked in many different ways.

My best treat for puddings, on special occasions, was sherry trifle.

I still make this trifle recipe for christmas, my family love it.

Despite all this we consumed fewer kilojoules than most of us do today, we never drunk all the flavored coffees, alcoholic beverages and soft drinks that we drink these days - all of which are laden with kilojoules.

Three Things To Improve Your Health

1. Try cooking as many meals as possible from scratch, using fresh ingredients and no processed foods.

2. Grow some of your own food, even if it's a few vegetables.

Vegetables can be grown in a pot, such as tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, peas, beans and capsicums.

3. Read the labels on all processed foods, if it contains ingredients like preservatives and additives, don't eat it.

Beta gluttons yeast bread. Photo Credit - Elsie Hagley
Beta gluttons yeast bread. Photo Credit - Elsie Hagley

Why Our Grandparents Hardly Ever Got Sick

Many of our ancestors of a century or so ago were hardly renowned for glowing good health.

Although infant mortality was high, many women died in childbirth and diseases like cholera, typhoid and influenza wiped out whole families, (like the 1919 in NZ - in the flue epidemic, where many thousands lost their lives, which was world-wide).

Recent study shows that Europeans who lived in the 1950s mostly had much stronger immune systems than we do today.

While that is partly to do with their eating pattern, and exercise, it is also down to the yeasts found in the bread they made themselves.

These yeasts contain compounds called beta glucans, which can help the immune system to fight off bacteria and viruses, according to research.

Beta glucans are considered to be so effective in boosting our natural defenses that they are being included in several cancer drugs currently being developed.

These days, most yeast-based foods like bread don't contain beta glucans because they're removed during the refining process.

It is suggested to take beta glucan supplements, (as long as you don't have a gluten problem such as coeliac disease) and eat around 10 servings of organic fruit and vegetables a day to boost your immune systems.

Were we Healthier In the 1940's - 1950's

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    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 21 months ago from sunny Florida

      Well said. Growing up in the fifties and sixties I ate most food from our garden. My Momma and Daddy grew veggies and fruits in abundance. Everything was from scratch pretty much except for an occasional cake mix which was infrequent.

      I got off track for too many years and have just embraced eating healthy again in the last 4 weeks. The pounds are melting away but I walk every day, a LOT.

      Thank you for sharing this with us.

      Angels are once again on the way to you. ps

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 3 years ago from New Zealand

      @TanoCalvenoa: Love your comment, I agree with every word you said. Return to a diet with no preservatives and chemicals, live a long happy healthy life.

    • profile image

      TanoCalvenoa 3 years ago

      Organic produce, full fat dairy products, real food without preservatives and chemicals - sounds like what I eat now after doing a lot of research on how to eat nutritiously. Certainly lessening chemicals and laboratory creations and eating real whole foods will make one healthier.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 3 years ago from New Zealand

      @Charito1962: Yes it is and it's easy to make too, the flavor of the two together is something that makes it special, sometimes kumara is not something that all humans like, but I enjoy it.

    • Charito1962 profile image

      Charito Maranan-Montecillo 3 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      The kumara and bacon frittata sure looks yummy!

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 3 years ago from New Zealand

      @David Stone1: I agree with you about being Happier. True we wouldn't know each other (that is what the internet and social networking has done) that is good, I have many more internet friends than close friends and I love it, my internet friends make my day in my aging years. Thanks Dave for your excellent comment, giving more food for thought.

    • David Stone1 profile image

      David Stone 3 years ago from New York City

      No, by any measure, our health was not as good. There was more heart disease, and of course, infant mortality was high. In 50s, too, we were just seeing the end of polio. It's a quirk of memory that we remember the best things. But in the simplest terms, our life expectancy was lower, and while we may not have been overweight as we ofter are now, we had plenty of diseases, like rickets related to inadequate nutrition. The almost exclusive use of refined flour and sugars meant B vitamin shortages, if not clear deficiencies were abundant. Deaths from cigarettes and drunk driving were way higher.

      I think the more important question is, Were we happier? On balance, maybe we were because families and communities were so much more stable and supportive. Real wages helped keep families together. With the erosion of relative income since, family life has degraded.

      It would be nice to make the mend, taking the best of what we have from both eras, but that doesn't seem in the offing. Still, I think the changes technology is bringing for us will enable all of us to be more fulfilled, if - big if - we make the effort. There's always the option to lose yourself in front of the television or on video games. Choice is still there.

      But look at it this way. In the 1950s, we wouldn't even know each other, let along share ideas across generations and geography. This is really empowering, and I think we're all getting better because of it.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 3 years ago from New Zealand

      @Ruthi: Agree the lifestyles have certainly change, but not always to bad, there are still a lot of good ways these days.

    • smine27 profile image

      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Although I wasn't born yet back then, I have to agree that people were healthier back then. Less processed food, more real food and exercise sounds right to me. I loved reading this lens.

    • profile image

      Ruthi 3 years ago

      I do believe lifestyles of the 50s and 60s were much healthier than now. I guess this is one time when living in the past might be beneficial!

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 3 years ago from New Zealand

      @smine27: Thanks for visiting, glad you enjoyed reading it. For sure times have changed, but for me living in the country, only go for groceries once a week, so buy food to last a week of more, grow own vegetables though, allow enough food for slips or holdup's in the winter, blocking the road. That's farming in the high country, no cell phone coverage, if you have no power, wait for help, cook meals on a bot belly which heats up the hot water, are just a few of the ways things haven't really changed much, it's the way of life I was brought up with. I enjoy it but a lot of the younger generation wouldn't, can't live with out their cell or smart phones.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 3 years ago from New Zealand

      @aka-rms: I agree with you 100%, lets enjoy the best of both worlds and remember to laugh. very good for the body.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 3 years ago from New Zealand

      @Merrci: Yes you are right about sitting at the computer, but I do go out and help my husband everyday(regardless of the weather) to move stock and shift electric fences. Also daily walks and try everyday to do some gardening in my park like garden, which I have a lens about, I'm a very active person for my age.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 3 years ago from New Zealand

      @Redneck Lady Luck: Yes I can remember also that word "margarine' it was sometime before it was on my table. I still have visitors that won't use it and ask if I have any butter to spread on their sandwiches, or just go without and have dry bread with no spread.

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 3 years ago from USA

      I think we need to take what we know now and apply it to eating the way folks did back them. Best of both worlds.

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 3 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      Great article, Kiwinana. Very interesting. I agree all the processed food is not helping us. Course, the fact that from kids to retirees we are inside on computers so much probably doesn't either. I hope kids still go outside to play!

    • Redneck Lady Luck profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 3 years ago from Canada

      Transfats were not an issue in most of our parent's day. I can remember my parents bringing home one of the first tubs of margarine and discussing how the dye was to be stirred in because people could be tricked into thinking it was butter if it did not arrive in its white state. That trans fat loaded margarine really did turn out to be so very bad for hearts.

    • shana273 profile image

      shana273 4 years ago

      I am trying to eat more "natural." It is so hard with all the "convenient" foods at the supermarket. I do love cooking but is does take time. Great lens!

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 4 years ago from New Zealand

      @suepogson: Thanks for commenting.

      I agree it would be nice to return to those days, life less hectic, time to sit down and enjoy a good family conversation on a sunday afternoon, after a nice roast dinner. No T V to disturb anyone, perhaps time to play a board game or cards.

      Those where the days.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Yes, because the food then were fresher. Now, foods have more preservatives and and even uses too much fertilizers on food and vegetables.

    • suepogson profile image

      suepogson 4 years ago

      I think people were healthier then because of food and also exercise (I spend far too much time in front of the computer or driving a car). Fast food is so easy, but just not good. I think the whole life-style change has generally been detrimental to our health. Great lens - makes me quite nostalgic

    • Einar A profile image

      Einar A 5 years ago

      Yes, I agree. The further our food gets from the source--ideally, small family farms and ranches--and the less outdoor work and exercise our lifestyles involve, the more our overall health degrades, as a society. Great article!

    • Brandi Bush profile image

      Brandi 5 years ago from Maryland

      Our food today is so unhealthy...too much processed and fast food!

    • greenspirit profile image

      poppy mercer 5 years ago from London

      Not necessarily, at least in Britain. I was born in the fifties; a time when England was coming out of wartime rationing. There was an insularity about cooking and foodstuffs...I seem to remember that tinned pineapple cubes and dodgy cheese (there was only one cheese) on sticks was the height of sophistication...thanks for blessing my crow lens...aren't they wonderful!

    • jolou profile image

      jolou 5 years ago

      Yes, I think people lived healthier lives then. We didn't have fast food and so many of the chemicals that are present in everything from cleaning products to the food we eat

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Most women didn't own a car and or drive, so they walked to the supermarket. Most communities didn't have school buses, so the kids walked to school. A lot of food was made from scratch. Yes, I agree we were healthier.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I remember those healthier days in the 50's before fast foods, preservatives and other ingredients we can't pronounce and plastic was rare. We have progressed in many ways that have not really been progress it seems.

    • JohannDog profile image

      Johann The Dog 5 years ago from Northeast Georgia

      People ate more real back then, something my Mum works toward now for all of us to be healthier!

    • WindyWintersHubs profile image

      WindyWintersHubs 5 years ago from Vancouver Island, BC

      Congrats on your Purple Star! Choices were certainly limited in the 50s and we ate more garden vegetables and wild game. Can't say our immune systems were better or worse as I had most of the childhood illnesses i.e. both measles, mumps (twice) etc and lots of colds. My mom and grandmother never cooked with butter and I only use it for shortbread at Christmas. Everyone's diet today seems to depend on their upbringing. I don't know if it's worse or better.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Yes I certainly do. People these days do not lead such simple and active lives as we did then. All the technology, processed, packaged food, far too many sweets and unhealthy snacks, also dependence on a vast array of medical drugs, are just not good.Great Lens!

    • lollyj lm profile image

      Laurel Johnson 5 years ago from Washington KS

      I know we ate better quality food in the fifties, and life was less stressful.

    • profile image

      suny51 5 years ago

      I do agree

    • profile image

      suny51 5 years ago

      Oh, such a grand lens, so much to learn. Than you.

    • verkeerd profile image

      verkeerd 5 years ago

      Totally agree!

    • kimbesa2 profile image

      kimbesa 5 years ago from USA

      Love it...thanks! and **angel blessed**!

    • GramaBarb profile image

      GramaBarb 5 years ago from Vancouver

      I was born in 1940 too :) - Love this lens - and I agree - awaaay to much prepared food today. I'm a big believer in cooking from scratch - from your garden to the table kind of scratch. Blessed!!