Why there’s nothing wrong with meat and potatoes

When a new client decides to start working with me I have them fill out a detailed health history and a 3-day food journal. During our first meeting we review all the forms and the food journal is the last thing we go over. More often than not, as soon as I flip to that page my client will say apologetically, “I grew up on a meat and potatoes diet. I know it’s terrible, but it’s what my family and I are used to.

They are always shocked to hear me say….

“I have no problem with a meat and potatoes diet.”

Let me explain.

When we think of a typical American meal often the poor meat and potatoes diet gets dragged out from every 1950’s home kitchen and given the old dunce cap like a child who misbehaved during math class. In the 80’s and 90’s this typical meal was considered retro and you would get sideways glances if you dared to consume that starchy white potato. Gasp!

To pursue great health we were told to fill up our grocery carts with low fat and fat free yogurts, milk, cookies, cakes, crackers and cereal. Food companies had a field day and we started eating a lot of fat free cookies (myself included) hoping that it would save our hearts and keep our waistlines trim. We’ll take out the fat and all our problems will be solved!

Well, clearly that was the wrong approach. We became fat phobic and started eating loads of processed carbs. Instead of getting healthier, people got sicker. Diabetes, obesity and heart disease rose at alarming rates and it doesn’t look like they will be slowing down anytime soon.

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Let’s pretend we’re Marty McFly in Back to the Future and we take Dr. Brown’s DeLorean back a few thousand years (Great movie! Am I right?) to visit the cavemen. If we sat down to dinner with them they would be chowing down on meat and foraged greens, berries, roots and some starchy vegetables. If we then fast forward to the 1930’s we could join dentist and researcher, Weston A. Price. He spent many years studying traditional diets around the world to find that these diets were rich in protein, healthy fats and a variety of vegetables. And, if we visited the Kitavans in Papua New Guinea we would find that starchy tubers are a staple in their diet and these people are free of heart disease.

Let me take a moment to say that there is no one-way of eating that is right for everyone. Some people need a regular intake of meat while others need less or none at all. Each person’s current state of health and nutritional needs are completely individual and change during their lifetime.

When trying to heal and achieve better health it is important to identify what foods are working for you and which are working against you. I have found that weight gain, fatigue, digestive issues and other symptoms are not usually caused by meat and potatoes. Instead, they are caused by too much sugar and highly processed carbohydrates and not enough nutrient dense veggies. Meat and potatoes are not the problem. The problem is that vegetables, leafy greens and seasonal fruits have been replaced by loads of bread, cheese and sugar-laden dessert.

Your meat and potatoes need a makeover….

You might be surprised to learn that the meat and potatoes combo makes it onto our dinner table at least once a week, sometimes twice if there are leftovers. We put the spread right on the kitchen-island and pretty much eat directly from the pots and pans. You know, caveman style 🙂 But, there are a few rules that I follow to keep our caveman meals healthy and Mr. Wes happy!

Typical dinner on the homestead. Chicken drumsticks, salad, garlic scapes and roasted white and sweet potatoes.

Typical dinner on the homestead. Chicken drumsticks, salad, garlic scapes and roasted white and sweet potatoes.

Here are 5 ways to makeover your meat and potatoes diet….

1)   Eat healthy meat: If you eat meat it is important to be informed about where your meat comes from. Animals raised in CAFO’s (confined animal feeding operations) are fed pesticide-laden feed and are hopped up on hormones and antibiotics. Guess what? You get a dose of those meds when you eat their meat! Search out local meat producers who can provide you with organic, grass fed, healthy meats without all the drugs. Check out www.localharvest.org to find a farm near you. If you are in in Central PA check out the meat CSA program from North Mountain Pastures. I LOVE getting a monthly bag ‘o meat from them.

2)   Mix up your starches: Mr. Wes LOVES roasted potatoes! I am not exaggerating when I tell you that he would eat them every. single. day. Now, I don’t make them every day but when I do I mix white potatoes with sweet potatoes and load them up with fresh herbs before serving. The sweet potatoes are loaded in antioxidants, keep blood sugar more stable and we’re getting some sweet taste in which can curb cravings for dessert later. If you are a baked potato lover consider making sweet potatoes instead.

3)   Make extra veggies: I don’t really consider the potatoes of our meal as a vegetable. So, I usually will make an additional green vegetable. Since the oven is already going I might throw in some broccoli, cauliflower or beets to roast. Or, I’ll sauté some greens or boil green beans. I always make extra because cold veggies are great for a snack, mixed with lunch or re-heated for tomorrow’s dinner.

4)   Load up on salad: Every meal in our house is accompanied by a HUGE salad. My goal is to make the salad bigger than the rest of the meal and even then we are usually fighting over who gets the last bite. Need some salad inspiration? Check out these delicious salads that are always a hit in our house.

Raw Kale Salad with Toasted Nuts
Cabbage and Greens Salad
Beet and Horseradish Slaw

5)   Skip the bread basket: We never have bread with dinner. I usually don’t have it in the house and I can honestly say Mr. Wes has never said, “where’s the bread?” When people come over for dinner it’s never missed. Bread is just a filler and doesn’t provide essential nutrients like vegetables do. Just skip it and before you know it you won’t miss it. Trust me.

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