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The Bible diet



Lentil Stew with Yogurt

Lentil Stew with Yogurt

Did people of Jesus’ time eat healthier than we do today? Meg, a high schooler, listens to me on Sacred Heart Radio for my Bible foods & herbs segments. She is interested in what people ate during the time of Jesus –  wanted info on this subject for a paper she’s writing.  You may be surprised to learn that many of the trends today have ancient Biblical roots. Mary also asked for info. Now what I have noted below is what ordinary folks ate, not the wealthy.




Meals eaten by ordinary people of Bible/Jesus’ times fell into 2 categories: daily and festive meals. Today we’re talking about the daily meals eaten.

Meals, though they may have been meager, were important to the bonding of family and community. Today we “break bread” with family and friends, much like Jesus did.

Daily Diet

Two meals a day: Women prepared meals.

Daily meals were prepared by women. Two daily meals were usually eaten by the family, either in the home or in the field.


First meal.

The first meal was eaten in the late-morning, as a break in the workday, and could include roasted grain, olives, figs or some other fruit, bread, dipped in olive oil or vinegar, or eaten with garlic, onions or radishes and water or wine. 

There’s another good example of this in the Book of Ruth (Ruth2:14) when she was helping out in the fields and prepared and ate food with the workers.


The daily diet of the ordinary ancients was mainly one of flat bread, cooked grains and legumes, like lentils, beans and chick peas. These were often roasted, dried and used in soups and stews or ground into pastes. Sesame seeds were an important seed to eat, and inscriptions of it have been found on ancient Egyptian tombs.

Agricultural workers comprised the largest part of the population.

Bread was eaten with every meal. Vegetables were eaten less frequently but were an important part of the daily diet. Most food was eaten fresh and in season, and fruits and vegetables had to be eaten as soon as they were ripe since there was no means of keeping them refrigerated.

Vegetables included cucumbers, onions, radishes, garlic (yes, it was eaten as a vegetable!) and leeks.

They drank goat and sheep’s milk mainly in the spring and summer, and also ate butter and cheese.  Milk was made into laban, a type of yogurt.

Figs, melon, grapes were common fruits, and dates, pomegranates along with other fruits and nuts, like pistachios, walnuts and almonds were eaten in season.

Meat, usually goat and mutton, was eaten rarely and was reserved for special occasions such as celebrations, festival meals or sacrificial feasts.

Game, birds, eggs and fish were also eaten, depending on availability. Fish was eaten fresh or salted for later use.


Honey, of course, was a common sweetener, eaten by John the Baptist, Jesus’ first cousin. Olives were used both as a food and for lighting lamps.

Vinegar, probably red wine vinegar made from red grapes, was popular.


Foods dried for later use.


It was important to dry foods in case of famine. Grapes were made into raisins and wine; olives into oil, figs, lentils and other beans were dried. Grains were stored for use throughout the year.  The typical diet was more vegetarian.




Spices like cumin, dill, cinnamon, mint, thyme, hyssop, mustard, coriander and salt were available and used to enhance foods.


Main/second meal.


That was the main meal and was eaten as supper in the evening, like we do today. That meal would have included a soup or stew cooked over the fire, along with the bread, vegetables in season, cheese and fruits, in particular melons in the summer. Milk was also part of the meal.


Permanent link to this article: http://abouteating.com/the-bible-diet-2/


  1. Peter Theroux


    I enjoy your visits to Matt’s Swaim’s show so much! I share your love for Lebanese food, too, having been lucky enough to live in Lebanon when things were reasonably calm there.

    Your Bible Diet post was spot-on. You might recommend to Meg one of my favorite reads, Daily Life in the Time of Jesus by Henri Daniel-Rops – easily available used via Amazon. It is a great chapter on food and other great chapters on family life, work, and so on – a very learned book that’s fun to read.

    Keep up the good work Rita,


    1. Rita Heikenfeld

      Thanks, Peter and thanks for sharing the information about the book. I’ll have to get it!

  2. Mario

    Alright Brianna, I’m coming out of ldurkom for this one. (I’m a missionary kid who was born in Ethiopia. I found your blog when my husband and I were thinking about international adoption. I dream about adopting a sibling group from Ethiopia.)Anyway, menu planning…Here’s what I do:1. Go to . (There are tons of recipes, a very helpful rating system, easy menu planning tools and it’s free!)2. Type in search terms in the search box (like “vegetarian”) or add more keywords to make it more specific (like “vegetarian beans”).3. Once the list comes up, click on “Rating” in the “sort by” menu. Now you’ve got the highest-rated recipes (i.e. the most-liked by the masses and therefore the best bets) at the top of the list. (By the way, is their list of vegetarian recipes, sorted from the highest-rated to the lowest-rated.)4. Once you find a recipe that sounds good, click on it.5. Now click on “Read Reviews” and then sort that list by “most helpful.” Now you’ll find reviews like “This was a good recipe, but be sure to double the sauce, otherwise it’s too dry.”There’s so much more…sign up for a free account and add recipes to your “recipe box” or add them to your “shopping list.” So, menu planning is simple. Just browse through the recipes in your recipe box, add the ones you want to have that week to your shopping list and print. Now you’re ready to go to the grocery store and you can print out the recipes you’ll need too. Easy peasy. I’m an internet geek…I live for free stuff on the internet!…hopefully I have not totally overwhelmed you. 🙂 By the way, I have no connection to allrecipes.com. It’s just a personal favorite.

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