When did food Change?

It seems more and more you see pre-made or processed food filling the grocery store shelves, while they can be a real time-saver, we’re learning more every day that they are truly not good for you. So it got me wondering when did food change from whole foods that people grew or made from scratch, to processed convenience foods? Well, let’s take it back to the 1890s when Trans-Fats were invented, then entered the food supply in the 1910s in well-known products like Nathan’s hot dogs, Oreo Cookies, and Aunt Jemima syrup.

Then in the 1920s World War 1 brought about new methods of food processing including canned and frozen foods. Naturally, as processed food ads promised to save time for housewives and women were growing exhausted from preparing food from scratch the convenience was very alluring to them. By the 1920’s popular brands like Wonder Bread, Velveeta Cheese, and Kool-Aid were introduced.

In the 1930s with The Great Depression, families had to get by with less, and reduce protein and add more vegetables and beans. Kraft Macaroni and Cheese was invented in 1937. The product could serve four for 19 cents, and the company sold 8 million boxes of its quick-and-easy Macaroni and Cheese Dinner in a year. In the 1940s, with World War 2 going on there was food rationing to feed the fighting soldiers. After the war, as a result of military research new convenience foods like instant coffee and cake mix were introduced.

Arguably, the first fast-food restaurants originated in the United States with A&W in 1919 and White Castle in 1921. The first Dairy Queen opened on June 22nd, 1940. Farmers started using techniques to increase their crop yields, thus decreasing the Vitamins and minerals in those plants.  The 1950s is when it really got bad with fast-food restaurants popping up everywhere and processed foods being mass distributed. The ready-to-eat foods felt like God sent for busy housewives who were happy to save time using canned and frozen foods. Swanson T.V. dinners were invented in the ’50s.

High Fructose Corn syrup was introduced in the 70’s very prevalently in beverages and processed foods. In the 1980s the artificial sweetener Aspartame was approved by the FDA, which has been said today to cause cancer. Also, the first GMO crop was introduced, the Tomato. And Ketchup was announced by the FDA to be counted as a vegetable in the school lunch program! In  1990, The 1990 Nutrition Labeling act required that all packaged foods include standard nutrition labeling information. In the 2000s low-fat, fat-free, and diets were all the rage. Manufacturers started taking out some high-fat ingredients like butter or oil and replacing it to maintain flavor and appeal with preservatives, sweeteners, and artificial sweeteners.

But things started to get better. As more and more food documentaries began to warn us of hidden dangers in our diets and where our food was coming from and what was in it, people started to question what they were really eating. The organic movement really took off, and due to the recession, many people went back to cooking at home with fresh real ingredients. Here we are over a hundred years since processed food began and now farmer’s markets are more popular than ever. There are over 8,400 farmers markets in the USDA’s National Farmers market directory and surveys show that they are thriving and expanding as they provide healthy, local fresh fruit and vegetables to American Families.

Organic and Non-GMO foods are appearing more and more as demand for it grows. Which raises the question, are processed or convenience foods on their way out? Or will there always be a place for them in someone’s kitchen? I truly believe the awareness of the harmful ingredients will make more and more people realize, You are what you eat.

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