Somewhere along the way, we lost our sense of adventure when it came to food. Believe it or not, there was a time when we scaled mountains, dove to the deepest depths of the ocean, and yes, incorporated gelatin into nearly every meal we plopped onto the dinner table. There was something about the risk that appealed to us.
What would tuna look like suspended in a tower of jell-o? What about ground beef? Nowadays, we’re fine settling for totally normal foods, like kale salad and avocado toast, but there was a time when we really pushed the boundaries between “food” and “science experiment.” These 20 vintage recipes are definitely from another, more adventurous time. Actually, “adventurous” may not be a strong enough word.
1. Lobster Relish: Nope! We could’ve gone our whole lives without seeing this monstrous dish, but here we are, with the image of this lobster-leg-shrimp-mold-gelatinous-olive creature burned into our souls forever. At least there’s lettuce!
2. Hot Dog Fondue: There’s nothing more American than hot dogs and reinvention, and for some reason, this is a combination of both. If you’ve ever had a hankering to turn your plain ol’ hot dog into art, then this recipe is for you!
3. Spam ‘N’ Limas: Where would the ‘50s be without Spam? It was the canned ham fad that never had to happen, but for some reason it did, and it left behind crazy recipes like this one. Nothing like sliced Spam and lima beans mixed with lard!
4. Liver Sausage Pineapple: Who? Why? How? This dish makes us wonder many things, but our number one question is: How did people react when this meal was unveiled at a dinner party? The liverwurst and mayo combined with PINEAPPLE is just upsetting.
Better Homes and Gardens
5. Frozen Cheese Salad: Why would you freeze cheese? Why?? This is a Weight Watchers recipe from the olden days, and it’s a real downer. It’s basically just frozen cottage and blue cheese surrounded by raw broccoli. Yum.
6. Shrimp Sandwich Roll: Can you believe Pillsbury was behind this mess? We’ve heard of dessert rolls and shrimp rolls, but combining the two is just weird. It has a gross Pepto-Bismol pink hue, and that “cute” olive in the center only makes it worse!
7. Perfection Salad: If you couldn’t already tell by the name, this salad is far from “perfection,” unless your idea of the perfect salad is shredded greens suspended in a towering mold of translucent gelatin.
McCall’s Great American Recipe Collection
8. Baked Stuffed Salmon: This is a real “What would you do?” situation. Seriously, though — if your hostess plopped this creature on the table, would you run? Cry? Plead for mercy? This thing looks like it’s plotting its own escape.
Curtin Publications, Inc.
9. Frosted Ribbon Loaf: We have to admit that this “dessert” looks pretty festive…at least on the outside. Once you cut into it, you’re forced to acknowledge the layers of ham, egg, and cheese on the inside, which is just plain wrong.
10. Summer Salad Pie: The name of this dish may sound pleasant enough, but it’s hiding a real monstrosity underneath its crust: tuna and Jell-o. Betty Crocker’s cookbook referred to this pie as “pretty as can be,” which really makes us doubt her taste!
11. Atora Steak Puddings: Who’s making these, the crazy old witch in the woods? Despite the recipe’s insistence that these steak puddings are “dainty” and “wonderfully light,” we wouldn’t exactly be excited to see these on our plates.
12. Super Salad Loaf: Clearly, vintage times were obsessed with baking normal foods into disgusting loaves. We don’t know what’s worse with this recipe, the “bologna shell” or the “mashed peas” mixed with mayonnaise.
13. Ham and Bananas Hollandaise: Yeah, this dish is just as horrible as it sounds. We don’t know who thought it would be a good idea to wrap slices of ham around bananas, but we hope they learned their lesson…which probably happened when they took that first bite.
14. Jellied Tomato Refresher: Because there’s nothing more refreshing than a tall glass of salsa, amirite? If you’re adding Worcestershire sauce and garlic salt to your evening cocktail, then you’re doing something wrong. And no, the little jalapeno garnish doesn’t help!
15. Monterey Souffle Salad: What was with the ‘50s obsession with gelatin? More importantly, why did people feel the need to combine fish with gelatin? This “tuna salad treat” is a disaster, and adding refreshing chunks of citrus doesn’t make it any better!
16. Lime Cheese Salad: Three words that simply have no right to be together, “Lime Cheese Salad” is actually worse than it sounds. Ingredients include cottage cheese, mayonnaise, jell-o, and the star of the show, seafood salad!
17. Glazed Potato Salad: You didn’t think we’d come all this way without another unnecessary loaf, did you? Believe it or not, yes, this is potato salad, and that lovely white refrigerated glaze? That’s mayonnaise.
18. Snowy Chicken Confetti Salad: Yep, another weird salad that didn’t have to happen, but here we are. We honestly can’t tell what this even is. This is considered to be a “hearty make-ahead salad” for the summer, which makes it even more confusing.
Better Homes and Gardens
19. Igloo Meat Loaf: All those hours spent playing with your food could actually be for a good reason! In this case, it makes for a cute little mashed potato igloo with a meat loaf center. Weird, but adorable!
20. Banana Candle: This one pretty much speaks for itself. The Banana Candle comes from a recipe book called Be Bold With Bananas, and this recipe is definitely bold, especially considering how it’s usually served atop lettuce and a slice of pineapple.
21. Even some of today’s foods are grosser than you think. If it grows from the earth it’s gotta be a healthy choice, right? Not always. Stone fruits in particular are packed with sugar. Bananas and melons, those are also on the higher end of the fructose-serving scale.
22. Don’t worry! There are less sugary fruits out there to sink your teeth into. Toss back a handful of blueberries to fulfill your cravings. Strawberries and raspberries are safe bets, too. Granny Smith apples are another low-fructose option.
23. Stop reaching for prepared fruit juices in lieu of your breakfast. Aside from steep prices, just one of these juices wipes out your entire recommended daily sugar intake. Also, since they’re made from fruit juices as apposed to whole blended fruits, they have no fiber.
24. Prepacked trail mix is another pretender. The process of drying fruit amps up the sugar content of an already relatively sugar-high food. Really, the only worthwhile snack in the bag are the mixed nuts, and every rational person pushes past them to eat chocolate.
25. Mixed nuts are high in calories, which really defeats the point of a trail mix as an at-home snack. Luckily, you can make your own to ensure each handful is a delicious, yet guilt free. Use sunflower seeds, unsweetened coconut, walnuts, soy nuts, and roasted peanuts.
26. Combine butter, Parmesan, and heavy cream and what do you get? The delicious stupor -nducing treat that is Alfredo. Adding this sinister sauce to pasta is a recipe for a meal heavy in carbs and fat that can spike glucose levels.
27. So, flip your pasta party into something considerate of diet restrictions. Whole wheat pasta cuts down on carbs, while adding a boost of fiber. Slather those noodles in a traditional tomato sauce. Store bought works, but control the sugar intake by cooking your own from scratch.
Children’s Hospital of Orange County
28. White rice is one of those pesky foods with a high glycemic index, meaning the carbs convert to sugar in the body super quickly. Really, it’s not all bad. White rice increases folic acid, which aids in producing new cells. It’s just not an ideal mainstay for a diabetic’s diet.
29. Sub in the next best thing — brown rice. It’s doubly rich in vitamins and minerals, that are stripped in the process of refining the grain in white rice. That process also cuts out tons of fiber. Stick with the brown rice, and while we’re talking brown stuff…
30. That coffee? It’s not “coffee.” All the benefits of the caffeine boost are muddled with sugary syrups, high-fat milks, and oodles of whipped cream. Consider these on par with milkshakes. It’s possible to cut down on the sugar content, just ask for low fat milk and half the syrup pumps.
31. Microwaveable meals are a lunchtime staple. Even though the box claims to be “lean” or “healthy,” flip it over and read the nutrition facts. A rule of thumb is to avoid frozen meals that are over 500 calories and 30% or more of those are from fat.
32. The best way to start your day is without sugary breakfast cereals and surprisingly — oatmeal. Prepacked oatmeal contains a lot of sugar, with added flavors and sweeteners, that spike glucose levels in the blood. Opt for old school oatmeal. The real stuff.
33. You know those people that drink a glass full of raw eggs? Well, you don’t have to do that, but they’ve got the right idea. Protein heavy breakfasts — better yet, egg white breakfasts — are a safe bet for those with dietary restrictions.
34. My bologna has a first name, it’s S-O-D-I-U-M. That’s not what Oscar Meyer intended, but nevertheless, it’s true. Processed meats are loaded with salt, and that can put you at increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.
35. We’re ruining all your childhood favorites, including white bread. Like it’s cousin white rice, white bread is part of the refined carbohydrate family. It digests rapidly, spiking blood glucose levels. Made from refined white flour, all the good bits, fiber, and nutrients are stripped away.
36. Cover your ears Leslie Knope: Waffles and their nemesis, the pancake, should be consumed in moderation. They fall under the refined carbohydrate category, from the white flour, and that’s without any toppings. The temptation of sugary saturated fats like butter and syrup don’t require explanation.
37. What’s the difference between a cucumber and a pickle? If you guessed, spoonfuls of salt, you’re correct. The satisfying crunch of a deli pickle is one of life’s greatest treasures. It’s a sound best enjoyed in moderation, as the sodium content increases blood pressure.
38. Another faker when it comes to health? Granola bars. Boasting flavors that sound like a mouth-watering, intricate dessert probably means they contain a substantial amount of sugar. Read the fine print to monitor if the carbs and sugars are worth the snack.
39. With names that sound like they’re fuel for gas guzzling vehicles, energy drinks shockingly are extremely unhealthy. You might be surprised to learn they’re also packed with carbs. Not a great option for a diabetic, or those with anxiety or insomnia.
40. So what can you eat? Well, tumeric has been used as a medicinal and nutritional spice for centuries in other corners of the globe because it contains a compound called curcumin, which helps stop your heart from getting enlarged.
41. Don’t eat it straight out of the ocean or off your dog’s head, but do enjoy some properly prepared seaweed. It’s a rich source of iodine and can help prevent your blood from clotting and your arteries from hardening.
42. Snowmen love them, and so should you. Carrots are filled with vitamins A, K, and C and their own antioxidant called carotenoids. Carrots prevent heart disease and also improve your vision! Best of all, you can also just snack on them raw. Yum!
43. Beets have a unique ability to lower the levels of homocysteine in your blood, which can help reduce the risk of heart disease and strengthen your organs. They taste great with a little goat cheese!
44. Pomegranates may look a little funny on the inside, and eating them takes some getting used to, but they’re bursting with vitamins and antioxidants that help prevent strokes, diabetes, and even Alzheimers!
45. When you skip the double shot decaf pumpkin spice frappe-cappu with extra whipped cream, coffee is pretty healthy for you — in moderation. It can reduce your chances of heart failure and heart disease. Too much of it, though, can raise your blood pressure.
46. Yes, most of us hated having to eat broccoli when we were young, but it’s actually very beneficial to your health! It can reduce cholesterol, and it contains sulforaphane, which balances your blood sugar levels.
47. Believe it or not, chocolate is good for you, but it all depends on how you consume it! The darker the chocolate, the better, because milk and sugar — which you’ll find plenty of in lighter chocolates — aren’t great for your body.
48. Surprise, surprise! Red wine isn’t all bad for you! Red vino can reduce built-up cholesterol and keep your blood vessels flexible, which will reduce blood clots. However, the limit is one glass a day.
49. Lentils are a wonderful option for vegetarians and gluten-free folks alike. They’re packed with protein but are low in calories, plus they taste great in salads and lentil soup!
50. While they used to be sold as the fur for pet-shaped planters, nutritionists have since found a better use for chia seeds: juices, bowls, salads, you name it! They are an incredible source of fiber, antioxidants, omega-3s, and protein.
51. You either love or hate this bitter fruit, but it’s definitely good for you: Grapefruits are loaded with fiber and potassium, as well as heart-happy things like lycopene and choline. Plus when you’re done eating, you can use the peel to make a helmet for your cat.
52. Eat some asparagus for vitamins A, C, E, and K, and many other minerals to promote regular digestion and decrease your risk of diabetes.
53. Like all other nuts, almonds contain protein, but on top of that, they also contain a long list of nutrients that improve memory and intelligence and reduce your risk of diabetes. If you combine these with some very dark chocolate, you’ll have a party in your mouth and get double health benefits.
54. Get ready to stink! Garlic is not only flavorful but it also helps lower plaque levels in your arteries to keep them from getting clogged. There are even garlic supplements you can buy. We should warn you though, this is not for vampires.
55. They’re a fun size, and they taste great in almost every sweet dish, but what most people don’t know is that blueberries lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of cancer.
56. It’s alright if you don’t know how to pronounce it, just make sure to eat some quinoa once in a while! It has more than twice as much fiber as you’ll find in other grains, and it also contains protein, minerals, and essential amino acids. Just swap it in for rice and pasta, and you’ll be doing yourself a favor.
57. There’s a good reason why people love ’em so much. Avocados add a nice, smooth, cool texture to rough foods like toast, salads, rice dishes, tacos, and of course as guac on some chips. They are filled with monounsaturated fats, a good kind of fat that helps hearts grow even stronger.
58. Of course they’re juicy, sweet, and refreshing, but oranges are so much more. They contain a fiber that absorbs cholesterol as well as potassium, which neutralizes proteins that could potentially cause heart failure.
59. The main problem with cranberries is that they are very rare, so most foods and drinks that claim to contain cranberries are actually just cranberry flavored. However, when you find the real stuff, you can enjoy their antioxidants.
60. Chickpeas can be eaten raw, boiled, pan-fried, mashed, and turned into some delicious hummus dip. They contain fiber, potassium, and vitamins C and B-6, and some protein. They’re incredibly healthy AND versatile!
61. What’s the tea? Much like broccoli, green tea can lower your cholesterol, and its antioxidants cleanse your body of unwanted chemicals. With a little honey mixed in, it can also be great on a sore throat.
62. Unless your evil stepmother witch queen has poisoned them, you should totally eat more apples! Like green tea, there are plenty of flavors to choose from, all loaded with vitamins, antioxidants and a little caffeine. Don’t you want to keep that doctor away?
63. Get your spoon out and prepare to eat some oatmeal! It’s a filling, energizing breakfast full of fiber. Try to steer clear of those super sugary oatmeals, though, and add different fruits — or even just a touch of honey — instead.
64. Surely you’ve heard all the rage about kale, as it can be found in nearly every salad, smoothie, and pasta or rice dishes nowadays — and for good reason: it’s loaded with fiber, antioxidants, and (the good) omega-3 fatty acids. It’s a solid leafy green that helps prevent heart disease, so go ahead and jump on the kale train.
65. The only time some people consume eggplant is in an eggplant parm, and we’re sorry to say loads of cheese, bread crust, and marinara sauce in that won’t save you — but other eggplant dishes will. Enjoy the vitamins, minerals, and flavonoids (metabolites that help cell-signaling pathways and antioxidant effects).
66. Salmon: Don’t go crazy with eating fish, since you could get mercury poisoning or high cholesterol, but a balanced amount of fish, especially salmon, is excellent for your health. It’s packed with good omega-3 fatty acids, which can fight off blood clots, heart disease, and even dementia.
67. You don’t NEED this in your diet, so don’t worry if you’re vegetarian, but for meat-eaters, chicken is one of the healthiest ways to go. It’s a lean protein that matches well with almost every dish, so it’s easy to eat.
68. Remember that some oils and fats are good for you! Extra-virgin is a healthier alternative to cooking with butter or animal fat, and it will help balance your blood sugar and reduce harmful cholesterol.
Alex / Flickr
69. Popeye had it absolutely right — spinach is good for you and can make you strong since it’s packed with iron and vitamin K. You still need to exercise to be strong and healthy, but spinach will give you stronger bones, fewer blood clots, and lower the risk of heart disease.