Dietary Timeline

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A Farmers' Bulletin, published in 1894, authored by Atwater, is the first published guidance on dietary advice by the USDA. At this time, specific minerals and nutrients had not yet been identified, but Atwater suggests a diet for American males based on protein, carbohydrate, fat and "mineral matter".

Atwater, W.O. (1894) Foods: Nutritive value and cost. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Farmers' Bulletin No.23.

As Crotty suggests, Atwater's vision of a diet for the less affluent classes adopted a utilitarian approach to food. A survey of factory workers in 1895 had led him to the conclusion that if they followed a scientific dietary prescription, the wages of the workers were adequate. At the time, between 50-60% of the income of the working classes were estimated as being spent on food. Atwater believed that this proportion could be reduced and thus the quality of the workers lives could be improved.

Crotty, P. (1995) Good Nutrition? Fact and Fashion in Dietary Advice. Allen and Unwin, St Leonards, NSW.

Setting dietary prescriptions to ensure that the workforce could perform 'satisfactorily' entirely removed the concept of pleasure from eating. Deriving pleasure from food was a luxury afforded to the affluent. Indeed, in Atwater's 'energy for work' calculations vegetables were viewed as an inefficient source of nutrition due to their cost. Atwater regarded vegetables as a conceited choice for the workers.