A History of American Eating Habits
Food to Fuel an Active Life
George Washington and his soldiers weren't chomping on watermelon. Rather, a soldier's daily ration included about a half pint of beans or peas, a pint of milk, a pound of beef, pork, or salted fish (yes, a pound), and a pound of bread. He also received six ounces of butter.
It amounted to 3,000 to 4,000 calories—more than even many overweight people eat today. It wasn't just soldiers who were eating so much food. Most people ate about that amount, too. Yet obesity wasn't rampant. "Daily life required a terrific calorie intake," says Sandra Oliver, a food historian in Islesboro, Maine.
It was the "pre-leisure era," she notes. People walked a lot, rode horses, and expended a lot of calories—in their everyday jobs and chores.