After the children with the market basket have selected their
fruit and vegetables they will next come to a booth filled with eatables
which look as if they had never seen one another before and were surprised
to find themselves in the same company. Some are in bottles, some in jars or
in their own natural shells, some are in wooden boxes or cartons and rattle
around whenever they are stirred, and some stand out boldly in all sorts of
shapes, ready to be sliced and sold. Perhaps you have guessed that the
bottles hold milk, that the jars and shells hold oysters and clams, that the
boxes and cartons hold dried beans and peas and nuts, and that the food all
ready to be sliced off is great pieces of meat—beef, mutton, pork, veal, and
other kinds. Besides these, there are eggs, cheese, and fish.
It is certainly a queer collection at this second booth, for eggs
and oysters, or pork and nuts, or beans and cheese, have not often much to
do with each other. In one respect, however, all these foods are alike;
namely, they all contain a good deal of a substance called protein. It is by
no means easy to extract the mineral matter from fruit and vegetables, but
it is a simple matter for any one to get protein. If you live in the
country, go to a wheat field, pick some grains of ripe wheat and chew them.
They will soon become a gummy, elastic mass, and this is one kind of
protein. If you live in a city, far away from fields of wheat, make a stiff
dough of some flour and work it with your fingers in a dish of water or
under a gentle trickle from a faucet until the starch is washed out; and
what remains of the dough is the same kind of protein as that obtained from
the wheat kernels. Aside from the water in them, lean meat, cottage cheese
and the white of egg are almost entirely protein. Dried beans and peas,
peanuts and lentils, although really vegetables, contain so much that they
belong in this group. The soy bean, which first came to us from Japan and
China, and is now raised in large quantities in America, is more than
one-third protein. Fish contains almost as much as meat, while milk and
cheese are the best protein foods we have.
The chief business of protein is to supply material for growth and
repair. A child who does not have as much protein as he needs will become
stunted. The body of a grown person does not increase in height like that of
a child, but it is subject to constant wear and tear, and if there were no
way to replace what has been worn out, it would not take so very long for an
active person to use up his body. A boy who goes barefooted all summer does
not wear out the soles of his feet, or rather, what he does wear off is
replaced; but he would wear out more than one pair of shoes if he gave them
the same treatment that he gave his feet. Shoes wear out, but feet are kept
in repair by the body.
Protein is an absolutely necessary food. This is what gives it its
name, for the word protein means of the first importance. Unluckily,
most people make the mistake of thinking that in order to get protein food
they must buy meat; and as meat is usually expensive, they spend much more
money in buying it than is at all necessary. If they only knew that cheese
and eggs and milk, as well as fish and other seafoods, will take the place
of meat altogether, and that beans, peas, and nuts will do a great deal
toward filling its place, they would come home from market with fuller
There is one thing that the children with the market basket should
remember when they stand before the protein booth—that not all proteins
which the foods provide are alike. Some come from animals and some from
vegetables. Some can supply all the protein needs of the body, some only
part of them. That is why, if we eat milk, cheese, eggs, or fish, we can do
without meat altogether; but if we depend upon beans and peas, we need some
milk, or eggs, or meat besides.
Fish is an excellent substitute for meat; but is is a pity that e
have so many whims and prejudices about it, and fancy that a new kind of sih
cannot be good because we have never heard of it before. If you make a list
of the kinds of fish that you are accustomed to eat, you will find it a very
short one, and yet there are at least seventy kinds of salt water fish and
thirty of fresh water fish that we might be using as food. A number of tehse
that we do not know are fully as good as those that we are accustomed to
eating. Besides this we have slated, and dried, and canned fish. Many other
countries use much more fish than we. We eat on an average only about
one-third of a pound a week each, and most of us eat it only one day a week.
Canadians average more than one pound, and English people average one and
one-fourth pounds. It is foolish and narrow minded to be afraid to try new
Milk is one of the best protein foods we have, the very best for
children. People often think of milk as a drink rather than a food because
it is a liquid; but they ought to learn that a glass of milk has as much
protein as a large egg or one and one-third ounces of meat.
Many people look upon milk as merely a luxury, and therefore they
are ready to strike it out of their fare if its price rises. It is a pity
that they do not understand how necessary a food milk is. Compared with
other protein foods it is not expensive. Do you know that when milk is
fifteen cents a quart and eggs sixty cents a dozen, a quarter of a dollar
will buy more protein in the form of milk than in that of eggs, and as much,
as in beef at thirty-five cents a pound? Milk, too, contains fat and sugar
and other things that the body needs. It is a better source of lime than any
other food, besides containing the substances called vitamines that we have
just begun to know about. Every boy and girl ought to have at least a pint
of milk a day, and every child under six should use a quart, while grown
people should have some every day. Buy milk and save money is a good slogan
for the housekeeper.
Even in skim milk and in buttermilk most of the protein and milk
sugar and the greater part of the lime of the whole milk are found. Cottage
cheese, even when made of skim milk, is a good substitute for meat. American
cheese, too, may be used in place of meat, and has one advantage over milk
in that it is not so bulky. A cube of cheese measuring one and one-fourth
inches will furnish about as much protein as a glass of milk. Unluckily, we
are not very sensible in our use of cheese. We ought to remember that it is
one of the hearty foods and eat it in place of other protein foods instead
of when we have already had enough.
Four large eggs contain about an ounce of protein, and so does a
quart of milk, or half a cup of cottage cheese, or one and three-fourths
cups of baked beans, or one-third of a pound of meat. Certainly, there is no
monotony in protein foods and every taste ought to be suited with one or
another of them. When the housekeeper goes to buy protein foods, however,
she must remember that from day to day her family will need variety, and
that some of her daily supply of protein should always come from milk.
A wise man has said that no family should buy meat until at least a
pint of milk has been bought for each member.
It is worth
That protein is found in a great variety of food, both
animal and vegetable.
That protein supplies food for growth and repair; and that it is
therefore of the first importance.
That there are different kinds of protein and that we need a
variety, unless we get enough of the one best kind of protein food, milk.
That meat is not necessary if we use the right foods in its place.
That we ought to use more fish and to learn to know more varieties.
That to buy milk is a cheap way to get protein.
That every child needs milk each day.