The housekeeper of today must know not only how to select food for the normal member of her household, and how to provide for the varying needs of different ages and activity, but she is many times called upon to direct the diet of an invalid or a delicate child or to provide special foods for those who are sick.
It is not her province to diagnose a case, or to prescribe special diet, but it is her part to be able intelligently to carry out the directions of a physician. If the invalid is to have starchy foods eliminated from his menu, the housekeeper must know where to turn to obtain foods that will furnish the requisite number of calories without recourse to carbohydrates, and she must be able to prepare such food in a palatable manner; if the diet is to contain a large amount of fat, as in the case of a tubercular patient, she must know where to obtain this food in a digestible form, and, if there is need for economy, how to substitute cheap forms of fat for the more expensive ones. She must know, when the direction is given for a nourishing diet, how to add the egg or milk that is required, or to substitute some other form of food if these are not acceptable.
The housekeeper then, so far as invalid diet is concerned, should be familiar first, with the composition of the ordinary food materials, and second, with the relative digestibility of the different foods so far as that knowledge is available and with their physiological effect. Then, and then only, can she intelligently carry out the directions given.
One of the troublesome problems for the mother is the deciding upon the right food for children, especially for those of school age. While the physician will direct her in the care of her invalids, and in the food necessary for the young baby, she is usually left to work out her own problems so far as the older child is concerned. One reason for this is that comparatively little attention has been given to this matter, while the diet for the baby has been studied for years.
Fortunately the healthy child settles the matter for himself to quite an extent and his own normal appetite guides him up to a certain point. But a normal appetite may easily become perverted, and lead him far astray.
As we have seen, the child needs a larger percentage of proteid in the diet than the adult. At about ten or twelve years the needs of the body rapidly increase, and a far larger amount of food in proportion to body weight is used than in the case of the adult. The mother who has a growing boy of this age is often astonished at the amount of food he eats and seems to need. The chart given on page 51 shows the proportional amounts of the different foods needed at different ages.
Little anxiety need be felt lest the child overeat if the food be properly masticated and so taken slowly, if it be of the right kind, and if it be taken at proper times. The latter point is particularly important in its relation to sweets. Candy at the end of a meal for dessert is legitimate and even desirable, but the same article bought at the candy store and eaten on the way home from school before dinner is seriously objectionable, since it satisfies the appetite and lessens the desire for the regular meal without giving adequate nourishment. An over amount of sugar may easily be taken in this way while rarely, if ever, does this happen if the appetite is first largely satisfied with bread and milk, vegetables and meat.