Need a laugh? Then you’ll love these 7 ridiculously terrible pieces of nutrition advice from the days of yore. Ripped from the pages of thrillers like What Shall I Eat: A Housewife’s Guide and a WWII-era nutrition pamphlet, these nuggets of “wisdom” are decidedly bad for you—but they’re great for a giggle.
And I could use a good laugh, because I had my first dietetic internship interview on Monday, and let me tell you, I was sweating bullets! Luckily I think it went fairly well, so how about we all kick back and relax with some hysterically horrible nutrition tips…
1. “Encourage the eating of pure candy by men and boys”
Yes, according to The Women’s Manual published in 1916, straight-up sugar is the answer to stress. While I’m totally guilty of medicating with cupcakes, I’m pretty sure mainlining sugar is terrible advice.
(Although in their defense, eating candy probably is better than getting hammered on whiskey.)
2. Eat butter every day
Eating butter or margarine every day is a great way to “avoid that tired feeling,” or so said U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1943 later in this pamphlet. In fact, when this “guide” was produced, there were 7 basic food groups—and butter was one of them.
3. Sugar is a food group
Not only was butter a food group, but in 1917, so was sugar. And, as this USDA pamphlet later says, “YOU NEED SOME FOOD FROM EACH GROUP EVERY DAY—DON’T SKIP ANY.” Apparently, that includes a daily shot of sugar, syrup, or jelly. However, the authors do state that sweet fruit is better for children than candy. So that’s something.
4. Start kids on beer early
Say, at the age of 4 or 5, from the looks of the sweet little swiller in this 1906 Ranier Beer ad. In fact, according to the rest of the ad, beer is “Beneficial to young and old….Cultivate the Rainier Beer habit.”
5. …Because nothing is more healthful than beer
According to this 1908 ad from the Honolulu Brewing and Malting Company, beer is good for what ails you. I mean, if “the doctor” says so, it must be true.
6. Give your children plenty of ice cream
This priceless advice comes from a 1920 ad for Peerless Ice Cream. According to the manufacturer, ice cream also contains “…the wonderful substance known as ‘Vitamines’…”
Not sure exactly what vitamines Peerless is referring to, but I’m pretty sure they don’t outweigh the diabetes-inducing saturated fat and sugar. Although when butter and sugar are their own food groups, who knows…maybe they really did think ice cream was good for you?
7. Treat heartburn and stomachaches with…chocolate?
According to this 1892 ad in What Shall I Eat…The Housewife’s Manual, nothing’s quite as good for an upset stomach as chocolate. Never mind that chocolate, as delightful as it is, actually increases stomach acid and can make reflux worse.1
I also love that Chocolat Menier “will produce digestion in 3 hours” after eating it…just like every food, ever.
That said, I kind of agree with the part about chocolate keeping the brain “fresh and vigorous”! After all, I feel like Veggie Quest is brought to you in large part by almond milk hot chocolate! 😉7 Hilariously bad #nutrition tips from the 1800s and 1900s Click To Tweet
Bonus: The best way to dry your hair
In my hours poring over old ads, books, and pamphlets, I came across advice that was enlightened right next to tips that might well kill you. Here’s one of my favorite examples: the best-ever hair drying method paired with a remedy that has to be worse than the paper cut you started with:
Let’s hear it for advice from the ages!
Your turn: Which of these is your favorite?
I can’t wait to hear what you think!Click here for references and image credits
- Murphy DW, Castell DO. Chocolate and heartburn: evidence of increased esophageal acid exposure after chocolate ingestion. Am J Gastroenterol. 1988 Jun;83(6):633-6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3376917
- Baby Ruth: “1952 Illustrated Candy Ad (2-page advert), Curtiss Baby Ruth Candy Bar, ‘Quick Pickup'” (Quick news weekly magazine, June 2, 1952, Vol. 6, No. 23) by Classic Film via Flickr Creative Commons
- Candy for men & boys: by Aurora Reed (The Woman’s Manual, 1916) via Harvard University Library and Questionable Advice
- Eat butter every day: by USDA War Food Administration (“Eat a Lunch that Packs a Punch,” 1943) via Internet Archive
- Sugar is a food group: by USDA Food Administration (“Choose Your Food Wisely,” 1917) via Internet Archive
- Beer for kids: Ranier Beer Ad by Seattle Brewing & Malting Co. (in Seattle City Directory, 1906) via University of Washington Libraries
- Beer is healthy: “Ad: Primo Beer” (Evening Bulletin, June 27, 1908, 3:30 EDITION) by University of Hawaii at Manoa Library via Flickr Creative Commons
- Give children ice cream: “Peerless Ice Cream – with Vitamines!” via Vintage Ads
- Chocolate for heartburn: Menier Chocolate ad (in What Shall I Eat? The Housewife’s Manual, by Miss E. Neill, 1892) via Internet Archive
- Hair drying method: by Aurora Reed (The Woman’s Manual, 1916) via Harvard University Library