Vintage 1950s Knox Diet

Inside one of my vintage diet booklets from the 1950s is the “Choice-Of-Foods” diet from Knox Gelatine. As to be expected, aspics, food molds and other forms of “gel cookery” are an integral part of the diet and recipes are provided. In addition to the meals, gelatin drinks are touted as between meal snacks, such as a cold glass of gelatin with 3/4 cup fruit juice or, served hot when mixed with broth. The Knox “Booster” drink contains 3-6 tablespoons of dry milk.


The Choice-Of-Foods diet, based on meal planning data from the American Diabetes Association and the American Dietetic Association, is promoted as time-saving because you don’t have to count calories.


Three different diets are offered: total values of 1,200, 1,600 or 1,800 calories. Foods are grouped into seven different category lists: vegetables, breads, milk, fats, fruits, meats and snacks. Listings within each category are broken down into serving sizes that appear to have equal calorie values. Depending on which of the three daily calorie totals you’re following, you’re permitted to have a certain number of servings of each.


Many 1950s ladies’ magazines offered suggested menus for diets of differing caloric amounts so the concept wasn’t terribly revolutionary. What is unexpected and ahead of its time (I don’t mean in a favorable way) appears on the vegetable list. According to the list, you can have unlimited amounts of those particular foods in raw form.


I immediately thought of two things, the first of which is Weight Watchers’ long list of foods that won’t “cost you” any of their “Points.” Essentially, they don’t count in their PointsPlus® universe. The second thing that came to mind was the “negative calorie food” folklore popular in the 1980s. The belief was that certain foods burned more energy than used to consume them.

This line of thinking about weight loss is not aligned with the typical 1950s diet advice with good reason. Promoting any kind of food free-for-all for those of us who are reducing or want to stay reduced doesn’t add up. (In 2005 the American Dietetic Association stated: “Consumers should not be led to believe that fat- and calorie-reduced products can be consumed in unlimited amounts.”)

Having said that, the unlimited foods in the Knox list are low in sugar, low in calories and high in fiber. I like that they separated out the higher value choices in the “vegetable” category as being limited. Many of the foods included in the current Weight Watchers list of free foods, especially the fruits, are limited in the 1950s Knox diet.

My advice is to eat lots of those nutritious foods from the Knox list of unlimited foods with a few grains of salt and maybe even a pat of butter, but just be sure to count it all in your calorie totals! It’s not impossible to do.

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