Snack Stack: Follow the Hobbit Diet for Good Health. Really.
I don’t know about y’all, but the current decade feels like it’s being brought to us by the Four Horsepersons of the Apocalypse: War! Pestilence! Climate change! Betty White died!
Clearly, the only rational response to this ongoing avalanche of catastrophes that is the ‘20s is to become a hobbit.
Ok, so maybe not so much the hobbit wardrobe, but hear me out: in the tech world especially, we are caught up in deadlines and Jira tickets, standups and SLAs. We over-index on the work side of life at the expense of, well, the life side of life.
Hobbits are blissfully unaware of all of this. Instead, their days are focused around six daily meals, ale all day, and top-quality pipeweed. They place great value on creature comforts and the simple joys in life — especially those that involve food.
Six meals and ale all day? Sign me up.
Although this lifestyle sounds like the fast train to morbid obesity, somehow hobbits are able to enjoy a sextuple daily meal schedule while maintaining reasonably healthy BMIs. Although they’re definitely on the ample side, they’re rarely obese, somehow able to maintain a healthy body weight while downing not only the typical daily meals of breakfast, lunch and dinner, but also second breakfast, elevenses, luncheon, afternoon tea and supper — while enjoying the average hobbit lifespan of 100.
“And laugh they did, and eat, and drink, often and heartily, being fond of simple jests at all times, and of six meals a day (when they could get them).”
— prelude to “The Fellowship of the Ring,” “Concerning Hobbits”
3 Factors for a Hobbit Diet
How do they manage this apparent miracle? I see three factors:
- A “grazing” approach. Eating smaller, more frequent and planned meals throughout the day, instead of three large ones, has been demonstrated to be a sustainable way to maintain healthy body mass.
- An active lifestyle. Hobbits are not desk jockeys. They “love peace and quiet and good tilled earth: a well-ordered and well-farmed countryside was their favorite haunt. They do not understand or like machines more complicated than a forge-bellows, a water-mill, or a hand-loom.” All that manual labor evidently helps burn off the last meal while working up the appetite for the next.
- Joviality. Enjoying the companionship and camaraderie of being around the table with friends and family as much as the food. It’s not about simply shoveling in the calories and getting back to work. It’s about talking and laughing (and apparently, not infrequently, dancing on said dining table).
I truly believe hobbits are onto something here and, as human hobbits, we can follow their lead to a happier, more relaxed and even maybe longer life. You’ll have to come up with solutions for the joviality and physical activity parts of the program on your own, but I do have some helpful thoughts about the eating.
For any foodie, a hobbit dining table is a paradise on (Middle) Earth. Plump, golden roasted chickens, pillowy loaves of fresh-baked bread, whole wheels of cheese — hobbit food is guaranteed to be fresh and local.
This is not surprising, considering that when they’re not at the table or reclined under trees blowing smoke rings, the books and films show us that most hobbits spend their days gardening and farming, brewing and baking, or otherwise employed in making all the delicious everything.
Thus they have access to most any type of fruit, vegetable, dairy or meat product within a 50-league radius (yes, I checked the map of the Shire). Hobbits have got the fresh, local, farm-to-table thing nailed.
The Hobbit Meal Schedule
So what to eat when? Daily hobbit meals, as listed by a distraught Pippin soon after realizing that Aragorn would not be stopping for Second Breakfast as the nascent Fellowship scurries across the hills ahead of the Nazgûl, can be broken down as the following schedule.
Breakfast (7 a.m.)
Alton Brown’s overnight oatmeal is healthy, but so deluxe and satisfying that your inner hobbit will caper with breakfast joy. It’s seriously the best oatmeal I’ve ever had. Dried cranberries and figs sweeten it naturally, and steel-cut oatmeal lays a slow-burn whole-grain carb foundation for your day of labor in the Mines of Microservices.
Best of all you just dump everything in a slow cooker the night before so you can sleep a little later before waking to your delicious first meal. (Remember: eat in moderation, there are six more to come. Gotta pace yourself there, Frodo).
Second Breakfast (9 a.m.)
Second breakfast is all about protein after first breakfast’s complex carb loading. In “Fellowship of the Ring,” the hobbits are all set to fry up a second breakfast rasher of bacon, and of course, you can never go wrong with bacon. Hobbits are also talented at making new meals from leftovers or staples — cold sliced chicken, cheese, eggs, pickles, raspberry jam, and shelf-stable baked goods like seed cakes.
If, however, second breakfast time finds you at your desk and away from your larder, portable protein possibilities include hard-boiled eggs, cheese cubes or slices, a handful of almonds, some yogurt, or a protein shake.
Elevenses (11 a.m.)
Elevenses is just a snack to tide you over to luncheon. In Hobbiton, this is going to be along the lines of a scone, or maybe some bread with butter and honey, and a cup of tea.
My version is whatever baked good I have available, ideally these homemade King Arthur Morning Glory Muffins (after baking, I freeze them individually, pop ‘em in the toaster oven at 10:59 sharp) and a third cup of coffee. Tolkien never mentions java in any of the extensive Middle Earth canon, but my guess is hobbits would have been big fans of coffee. Especially with lots of cream.
Luncheon (1 p.m.)
“What’s taters?” a perplexed Gollum asks Sam. “Poh–Tay–Toes! Boil’em, Mash’em, Stick’em in a stew!” Or, in our case, slow cooker poh-tay-toe soup.
Whether staring across the wasteland of Mordor or Wednesday afternoon, this soup will give you strength for the journey. Serve fresh minced chives, crumbled bacon, and shredded white cheddar to top it off, and a roll of seed bread to soak up every last bit.
Afternoon tea (4 p.m.)
Something sweet for a late afternoon pick-me-up. These Ranger Cookies are tasty and simple to make. The nifty thing is you measure the ingredients using a single one-cup measuring cup, because Strider has to travel light and simply doesn’t have room in his pack for a bunch of kitchenware.
Dinner (6 p.m.)
Time for the heartiest meal of the day. Balin’s Spiced Beef Roast is a pot roast loaded up with carrots, onions, and of course plenty of po-tay-toes that will satisfy even the most curmudgeonly of dwarves.
Mrs. Maggot’s Cottage Pie, the dish Farmer Maggot’s wife served to Sam, Frodo and Pippin after they inadvertently trespassed there on the way to the Buckleberry Ferry, is another eminently satisfying hobbit dinner option. No matter what is on the dinner table, now is the time to bust out the ale pots if you haven’t yet already.
Bonus: Supper (8 p.m.)
This one is optional. In the LOTR books, dinner and supper were interchangeable as the evening repast. In the film version of “Fellowship of the Ring,” however, they were referred to as two separate meals. Who am I to deny a reason for a seventh meal, my fellow hobbits?
Supper can (and probably should) be lighter than dinner, and seems like the perfect opportunity for a charcuterie board. Hobbits basically invented the charcuterie board, since they are all about cheeses, sausages, pickled things, preserves both sweet and savory, and of course yet more crusty bread. Consider adding in finger-food-friendly sliced fruits and grapes, or veggie snacks like artichoke hearts, olives or crudities.