In seeking to provide a balanced diet, a few suggestions may be helpful. In the first place, flesh foods contain a very high per cent of proteid matter, with no carbohydrates; thus, in a given quantity eaten, too much proteid is the inevitable result. This high per cent of proteid, as stated in the preceding chapter, is productive of no good, and is a cause of positive harm. Therefore, it should not be our aim to bring the per cent of proteid up to that contained in meat; this would only tend to defeat one of the main objects of health reform,—that of providing a balanced diet. Our aim should be to provide a diet that will take into consideration the main functions of food in the body.
The comparison between the body and the locomotive engine serves as an illustration for studying the fuel value of foods. While iron is essential to keep the engine in repairs, the greatest demand, however, will be for fuel with which to heat the boiler. So in the vital economy; proteid like the iron is essential for the growth and repair of tissue and the body waste; but beyond this it is inferior to carbohydrates and fats, and as different kinds of wood and coal are capable of giving off different degrees of heat, and also giving off that heat in longer or shorter periods of time; so different food staffs work in about the same way. Also different kinds of coal, after being burned, leave a residue of clinkers to be raked out of the furnace; so with the overeating of proteid foods, there is an extra amount of work for the kidneys to rid the system of accumulated poisons.
Then we should remember that fresh vegetables are by no means the most nutritious food, for, as may be clearly seen, water enters largely into their composition. Some, in leaving off flesh foods, make a mistake in making vegetables, as roots and tubers, the principal article of diet. These vegetables, combined with grains and nuts, will give a well balanced diet. The legumes are a highly nutritious food, and when properly prepared may be used in a variety of ways in making dishes that are wholesome and pleasing to the taste. They are, however, a heavy food, and for people leading sedentary lives, they should not be indulged too freely. Grains, combined with nuts and nut foods and some vegetables, as corn, peas, tomatoes, etc., will give a great variety to the bill of fare of dishes that are simple, healthful, and nourishing.
The various nut foods on the market, composed chiefly of grains and nuts, contain the nutritive elements of food in a very concentrated form, and should not be eaten too freely, but should be combined with other foods. A few examples of how they may be made into appetizing dishes will be given in some of the following recipes. Other nut foods of a similar nature may be used in the place of the ones given, if desired.