One hundred, or even fifty years ago, the average American meal looked quite different from what it is now. The way we view food is evolving year after year, but it’s important to understand where our modern tastes came from.
Before industrialization, most Americans grew their own fruits and vegetables and raised their own cattle. Nearly all livestock was free range, as the idea of feed lots and mechanisms to transport these animals did not exist.
After conserving food throughout World War I, the end of the war brought a desire to cook hearty meals once again. Meats and vegetables were consumed at nearly every meal, and more elegant desserts, like upside-down cakes, became popular.
The Great Depression and another world war made fresh fruits and vegetables scarce. Most Americans were living on a highly restricted budget, so cutting back on expensive cuts of meat and restaurant dining was a necessity.
An economic boom helped make home cooking a craze during the post-World War II period. Cookbooks and television advertisements encouraged women to try new and modern forms of cooking, which they could showcase to neighbors at parties and cookouts.
As technological advancements grew, American eating habits shifted to closely resemble today’s standards. Fast food chains skyrocketed in popularity, as well as soft drinks and snack companies, through ads directed toward young people.
Like the previous decades, fast food consumption continued to increase rapidly. Most Americans admitted to dining out more than once a week. Because of this, fat and sugar consumption became extremely high in the US.
There has been an increase in recent years of Americans adopting vegetarian or vegan lifestyles. Though dairy and grain consumption is still high, fast food and soda consumption is decreasing for the first time in decades.