Looking slim and lovely was certainly a goal in the 1950s, even with diets heavy on meat, refined carbohydrates and low in vegetables. The desired figure was curvy, but slender with a narrow waist. Diet menus, plans and even pills were all available to help achieve a girlish figure, but the average daily diet seems heavy and bland to the modern palate.
The 1950s saw some significant dietary changes both in terms of everyday menu planning and attempts at weight loss, including the introduction of convenience foods, the popularity of the casserole and, often, less home-grown food. Canned and frozen foods became more common.
Guidelines for good eating in the 1950s relied on seven basic foods. Two or more servings of milk per day were suggested, as well as two servings each of fruits and vegetables. At least one serving of meat or cheese was required per day, as well as a minimum of three to five eggs per week. Two or more tablespoons of butter per day were considered essential, along with at least two servings of bread or cereal. These are the minimum food amounts suggested by the nutrition guidelines of the 1950s.
Portion control was suggested and encouraged in the 1950s, based upon age and activity level. Children and teens needed larger portions than adults. Sedentary individuals required smaller portions than someone who was quite athletic or worked a physical job. Walking, housework and simple calisthenics were the most common forms of exercise for women in the 1950s. Typically, a more luxurious lifestyle produced a lower overall activity level.
Losing weight in the 1950s was all about calorie counting. Smaller portions allowed for a reduced calorie intake, often to a lower level of calories than modern nutritionists recommend. Less access to ample foods, high fat food choices and a diet based largely around bread and potatoes made weight loss easier.
Dangerous diet trends also existed in the 1950s. Appetite suppressants, including amphetamines, were popular. Candy-flavored diet supplements were available over the counter. Some women tried vibrating exercise devices that promised effortless slimming. Fad diets combining high fat foods with grapefruit or cabbage promised quick weight loss.