Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Medieval Diet?

Last week I came across a post on Lifehacker in which the blogger in question described his change to a flexitarian diet and how he'd been able to lose substantial weight with a few relatively easy modifications to his eating habits. Seeing as I've been getting decidedly Pooh-shaped lately, and remembering that many years back we'd gone semi-vegetarian and didn't die from meat withdrawal, I've come to think that this may be a good thing to try.

Then the thought occurred to me that this sort of semi-vegetarian thing was a major part of the Church-dictated medieval European diet. On three days each week - Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays - meat from land animals was off the menu. They were replaced with fish, leguminous vegetables, and the like. Of course things were much more restricted during lent (no dairy or eggs allowed either, making it a sort of pisco-vegan diet). Interesting, but I'm not quite ready for 40 days of that.

So what would a modern, healthy version of "The Medieval Diet"™ be like? Let's see ...

  1. No meat (other than fish) on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays
  2. Lunch is the main meal, dinner is smaller
  3. Meat portions are small (~4 oz.) with the bulk of the caloric intake coming from other foods
  4. Seasonal, locally grown fruits and vegetables
  5. Carbohydrates from a variety of grains and tubers
  6. Reduced intake of sugars

Mind you, this isn't how people actually ate in most of medieval Europe. Most food historians now think that the average worker was consuming around 3000 calories a day (not counting times of famine) and burning it all off with hard work, and the wealthy were eating a diet full of fats, sugars, and protein (and paying the price in terms of diet-related diseases just like we are today). Still, it's a diet that has a basis in medieval practices, and is surprisingly close to what a lot of modern nutritionists advocate.

We'll have to see how well it works.

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