The upper classes during Tudor times ate a rich and varied diet. The food was seasoned by a wide range of spices, and was influenced by both domestic and foreign tastes. The lower classes could not afford to eat as much meat, but enjoyed a more varied diet in times of plenty.
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Meat, Fish, and Fowl
The upper classes and nobility ate a great deal of flesh. Often, large quantities of highly seasoned meat, fish, and fowl were served in lavish banquets. The meats were served fresh or preserved by drying, smoking, pickling or salting, and provided most of the nutrition enjoyed by those who could afford it. They did not eat many vegetables or fruits. This diet was extremely high in fat and very salty, which likely contributed to health problems.
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Vegetables and Dairy Products
The lower classes ate less meat, but kept vegetable gardens and raised chickens and other livestock, or purchased meat as they could afford. As a general rule, their varied diet probably made them healthier than their wealthy masters, especially as they got older.
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The wealthy ate lighter bread called manchet, made of refined flours, which removed a good deal of the nutritional value. Poor people tended to eat much darker bread, called ravelled or carter's bread, which was less refined, and therefore more nutritious.
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Few people in the Tudor era drank water, since it was usually badly polluted, but fermented drinks such as ale, beer, mead, cider and wine were widely available to everyone who could afford them.