Advice on Eating the Right Quantity of Food from an 1840s Cookbook Author


The author of an 1841 cookbook, Sarah Josepha Hale, advised her readers about the proper quantity of food. She observed that the availability of food often leads to overeating.

Hale blamed diet mismanagement on almost half of diseases/deaths in toddlers two and under. That’s a scary, guilt-ridden statistic for moms of that era.

Though it’s easier said than done, stop eating after satisfying your appetite.

Hale saw indigestion and other stomach complaints as wise reminders not to overeat. A body’s digestive power is limited to the amount of gastric juices; outdoor exercise aids their secretion.

trail-running-1487718_960_720Tailor portion sizes to the amount of exercise. Outdoor activities require more energy so there is less likelihood of overeating. Those who exercise little get indigestion or headaches from eating too much.

Feed active, healthy young people well. If they don’t like plain meals, don’t tempt them with sweets or snacks.

Enjoying a variety of meals benefits our bodies unless it tempts excessive eating.

Hale believed that if something disagreed with the stomach, too much had been eaten.

Though written in 1841, her opinions on food are surprisingly similar to what is taught today.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Hale, Sarah Josepha. Early American Cookery: “The Good Housekeeper.” 1841, Dover Publications, Inc., 1996.