The month of April is Traditional Foods month here at Keeper of the Home. Between myself and the amazing writers who contribute here, we will be delving deeply into a wide variety of traditional foods (raw milk, grains, fermented foods, grass-fed meats, cod liver oil, just to name a few) and we’ll share some of the history, the benefits, and the how’s of preparing these nourishing foods.

To kick things off, I thought it may be useful to approach the broader subject of what exactly “traditional food” means. Here are a few of my own thoughts as we launch into this topic:

In essence, traditional foods are those whole and ancient foods that have been eaten for centuries and even millenia. They are the foods that your great-great-great-great-great grandmother and grandfather would have eaten. They are simple, naturally grown or raised, nutrient-dense, thoughtfully prepared. They are not fads (in fact, they tend to go in direct opposition to most conventional nutritional advice these days).

Traditional Foods Are:

  • Foods in their original form, as they were Created— not modernized, not processed, not packaged.
  • Foods that have a long history of supporting good health.
  • Foods that are whole and nutrient-dense.
  • Foods that are simple and basic: meat and poultry, eggs, whole grains, fish, beans and legumes, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, dairy, fats.

Traditional Foods Aren’t:

  • A one-size fits all diet (rather it has to do with a healthful variety of foods that are local to you, so if you live on the coast you may eat more fish, but if you live in a fertile valley you may eat plenty of raw dairy and vegetables).
  • The so-called “health foods” that you’ll find with bold labels on the store shelves.
  • Low-fat, low-cholesterol, vegetarian or vegan.
  • Boring, bland, undesirable. (Quite the opposite- I think that once you get accustomed to them, you’ll find that traditional foods taste incredible and are easy to love!)

I love this explanation:

In the simplest explanation, traditional foods focused on four basic principles: 1) avoidance of modern, refined foods; 2) celebration of unrefined, whole and natural foods; 3) respecting the importance of nutrient-density in our food and 4) preparing and eating foods in the same manner that nourished our ancestors and kept them well. In essence, if your great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother wouldn’t recognize it, don’t put it in your mouth.

From Nourished Kitchen

Which Foods are Traditional?

  • Pastured, grass-fed and free range meats (cow, goat, lamb as well as wild meats like deer, moose, elk, etc.) and poultry. Also included are organ meats from any of these animals, which were highly prized by traditional cultures.
  • Fish that are wild, and preferably from less polluted waters (like Pacific/Alaskan salmon, for example). Cod liver oil is also a historically-valued natural food supplement and an important source of nutrients.
  • Eggs from pastured hens.
  • Raw (unpasteurized, unhomogenized) dairy products from cows and goats that are grass-fed (not grain-fed). This especially includes cultured dairy products like yogurt, kefir, creme fraiche or sour cream, and cheeses.
  • Whole grains that are soaked, sprouted or made using sourdough fermentation methods.
  • Organic or ecologically grown vegetables and fruits.
  • Bone broths made from the bones of the above-mentioned animals and fish.
  • Lacto-fermented vegetable and fruit condiments, such as sauerkraut, chutneys, pickles, various dressings and sauces, etc. Also, fermented beverages, such as kombucha, water kefir, beet kvass and others.
  • Fats such as butter, beef tallow and other animal fats, unrefined coconut oil, palm oil, extra virgin olive oil.
  • Raw nuts and seeds, that have been soaked for improved digestion.
  • Wholesome sweeteners like raw honey, maple syrup, dried fruits, small amounts of unrefined sugars like Sucanat or Rapadura.
  • Unrefined sea salt, which is full of minerals. Also, fresh or dried herbs and spices.

Bubbly sourdough starter

Excellent Reading Resources:

The Maker’s Diet– This was the very first book I ever read that broached the topic of traditional foods, and introduced me to Weston A. Price and Nourishing Traditions.

Nourishing Traditions– The most complete book I know of on traditional foods, including health and nutritional information, how-to’s of traditional food preparation, and a ton of delicious, healthy recipes. I use this book constantly.

Nutrition and Physical Degeneration– The original work by Weston A. Price. Though written back in the 1940s, it is still a fascinating read and very eye-opening. I will be writing a post specifically on Price’s work later in the month.

Articles and Posts:

Ancient Dietary Wisdom for Tomorrow’s Children– An excellent overview of Dr. Price’s work and findings.

Principles of Health Diets– From the Weston A. Price Foundation website, this gives a comprehensive list of which foods are traditional foods, and which foods to avoid.

What are Traditional Foods @ Agriculture Society (a wonderful overview)

Traditional Foods in a Nutshell @ Nourished Kitchen (includes some great links to more specific traditional food topics)

So, back to my question at the end of the video… what do “traditional foods” mean to you? Do you think that past generations knew something about maintaining health that we as a society have lost today?

All images by Stephanie of Keeper of the Home.