“We’re a ‘meat and potatoes’ family,” has to be one of the most common responses from new clients when I ask about their usual dinner fare. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with either meat or potatoes (unless you’re a vegan or vegetarian – do you, boo) the flavor and nutritional value of dishes like basic mashed potatoes and steak could stand to be improved. In this post, I’ll touch on the cultural significance of the phrase “meat and potatoes” and give you some tips to make your standard meal a bit more nutritious. Bonus – I’ll give you my favorite healthier meat and potatoes recipe!
How Did Meat and Potatoes Become the Default Meal?
The basic “meat and potatoes” plate dates all the way back to chophouses and steakhouses of 1800’s (if not before). Look around the room at any American restaurant or family dining room today and you’ll most see plates with a serving of meat, a starch, and a vegetable.
Past and current dietary guidelines encourage us to get a balance of food groups at each meal. The standard “meat and potatoes” plate I mentioned above fits the bill – it will be satisfying and provide you with all of your major macronutrients.
It’s worth noting that the phrase “meat and potatoes” has another implied meaning. When someone says they’re a “meat and potatoes” guy, they mean that they prefer straightforward meals without a side of pretentiousness. Sometimes the best meals are the simplest meals, but simplicity doesn’t have to come at the expense of good nutrition.
What’s Wrong with Meat and Potatoes?
Don’t get me wrong, potatoes and meats are both nutrient-dense foods. Potatoes contain plenty of carbs for energy and potassium for healthy blood pressure. As another example, meat like beef is a great source of protein and nutrients like B12, zinc, and iron. Here’s the thing – eating just meat and potatoes (especially habitually) can cause you to miss out on a lot!
I think we can all agree that portions at restaurants and at home can get out of control. For example, a New York Strip at Longhorn Steakhouse is about 12 oz, and the standard recommendation for a meat portion is about 3 oz (or the size of a deck of cards). That’s a lotta’ beef y’all…
With a such a big meat portion, there’s probably not much room left on the plate for anything else! Once you add a potato, veggies become more of an afterthought. A plate lacking in the veggie department will also be low in color, fiber, and antioxidants. Womp, womp…
Tips for Healthier Meat and Potatoes
- Pay attention to proportions. Instead of letting a big steak or a hefty chicken breast take up most of your plate, make veggies the star. Try filling half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables like a salad, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, mushrooms, onions, or asparagus.
- Don’t fear starch, but be intentional about your portion size. As a rule of thumb, fill a quarter of your plate with a starch like potatoes.
- Re-think your prep method. Instead of standard mashed potatoes, try a cauliflower/potato mash, roasted potato wedges, a small baked sweet potato, or another type of high-fiber carb like brown rice, quinoa, or farro.
- Try a leaner protein. Swap your usual NY strip or pork chop for sirloin, pork loin, chicken breast, or fish.
A Healthier Meat and Potatoes Recipe
I love these recipes because they both include a healthy dose of colorful veggies and each requires only one pan/pot to prepare. (Score!)
Try these recipes to convince the “meat and potatoes” people in your life that their favorite type of meal can be healthy, too. *wink*