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1931 diet tips still relevant today

“The science of nutrition travels so rapidly that it is almost impossible to keep up with it,” wrote Lenna Frances Cooper in her textbook, “Nutrition in Health and Disease.”

Wow, is she right! Nutrition research findings hit the headlines daily. It’s a lot of information to digest. But, get this: She made that observation in 1931.

Cooper, a nurse and dietitian, was a dean at the Battle Creek Health Care Institution in Battle Creek, Mich. She was one of the co-founders of the American Dietetic Association and was appointed to the staff of the U.S. surgeon general.

You know how most folks think of healthy foods as the ones that don’t taste very good? Well, Cooper was even on the case when she wrote in the foreword of her cookbook, “The New Cookery”: “Many food faddists have attempted to prepare wholesome foods but have neglected the almost equally important requirement — palatability.”

In honor of Cooper’s pioneering advice from 1931, here are a few tips to dine out more healthfully today.

● Celebrate the season with a variety of salad greens.

Today: So-called “winter greens,” rich in anti-oxidants and disease-fighting beta carotene and abundant in autumn, include Swiss chard, kale, mustard greens, collards and escarole. Chef Joe Schafer at Parish pairs sweet potato ravioli with the pleasingly bitter notes of Swiss chard.

1931 advice: “The quality of lettuce, which can be obtained all the year round in almost all sections of the country, has improved enormously.”

● Choose the whole-grain version.

Today: You can find whole-grain versions of everything from tortilla chips to doughnuts. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee tells us to eat fewer refined grains. Choose brown rice over white and whole-wheat bread over white. Discover the taste of “ancient” whole grains such as quinoa, spelt and amaranth that are showing up on restaurant menus.

1931 advice: “As a class, the whole cereals are rich in minerals, but these are found particularly in the germ and outer layer, which are usually discarded in the milling process.”

● Break the whole egg for breakfast.

Today: Rethink that egg white omelet. The nutrient choline, found in yolks, helps support the brain’s neurotransmitters and is linked to new memory cell production.
1931 advice: “The egg yolk is of much greater value than the white, as it contains the majority of the minerals and vitamins.”

● Eat like a vegetarian.

Today: Eat more plant-based foods such as vegetables, cooked dry beans and peas, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Check out the vegetarian entrees on menus when dining out, even if you’re not a vegetarian, to increase intake of valuable nutrients including fiber and anti-oxidants.

1931 advice: “Where an overindulgence of meat has been the habit, a recourse to a vegetarian diet often brings excellent results.”

● Dine out healthfully when there’s no time to cook.

Today: Whether it’s lower-fat fast-food favorites at Evos or chef Jeffrey Wall’s perfectly tossed orange and fennel salad with orange basil dressing at La Fourchette, restaurants are offering a greater selection of well-prepared healthful options.

1931 advice: “For cookery, lay wood shavings over the bottom of the firebox. When the wood is burning well, fill the firebox with coal. When the coal is burning without blue flames, close the oven dampers and the front door, but leave open the sliding draft in door.”

O’Neil’s advice: Get back in the time machine, use a smart phone to book dinner reservations, check the online menu for seasonal specialties, reapply lipstick and follow car’s GPS to the restaurant. Meet you there, Lenna!

Carolyn O’Neil is a
registered dietitian and
co-author of “The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!” E-mail her at
carolyn@carolynoneil.com.

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