This page is being revised - Check back soon.

If you liked my article “Food as a Theme in Social Studies Classes: Connecting Daily Life to Technology, Economy, and Culture”  in The Social Studies v101 n6 (November-December 2010): 236-241.

You may be interested in my Facebook blog – Primary Source Emporium

Or my book Exploring Vacation and Etiquette Themes in Social Studies: Primary Source Inquiry for Middle and High School
and its companion website
teachingwiththemes.com

Dietary Requirements of a Medieval Peasant

The European medieval diet was largely determined by social class. For the majority of the of the people, peasants, a large portion of their daily diet was made up of grains such as wheat, rye, oats or barley(carbohydrates). The grains were boiled whole in a soup or stew, ground into flour and made into bread, or malted and brewed into ale. Estimates from the late Middle Ages indicated that a gallon of ale a day was not unusual, but the actual alcohol in the drink was low. Protein was usually provided legumes such as beans, peas or lentils, fish where available, or on very rare occasions, meat such as poultry, pork, or beef. Additional nutrients were provided by seasonal vegetables and fruits. The peasant's diet rates high on modern nutrition standards. But seasonal fluctuations in food availability and poor harvests often caused long periods of very poor nutrition.

From Jeffrey L. Singman, Daily Life in Medieval Europe, Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1999, P. 54 - 55.

A prosperous English peasant in the 14th century would probably consume 2 - 3 pounds of bread, 8 ounces of meat or fish or other protein and 2 -3 pints of ale per day. The bread was usually mean of rye, oats, or barley. Meat was expensive and usually only available on special occasions. Often eggs, butter, or cheese were substituted for meat. Vegetables such as onions, leeks, cabbage, garlic, turnips, parsnips, peans and beans were staples. Fruits were avaiable in season.

From Jeffrey L. Singman and Will McLean, Daily Life in Chaucer's England, Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1995, P. 159-160.

NOTE: The following sample diets are estimates. Nutritional values of bread, for example, are based on modern recipes. Total calorie consumption per day seems very high compared to modern standards. One must keep in mind that the daily physical demands of a medieval peasant were much more extreme that in most modern lives. Also, medieval diet varied depending on the season. Food was plentiful in late summer, fall, and early winter, while often very scare in late winter and early spring.