By Quentin Fottrell, MarketWatch
Don’t knock meatloaf. It’s gotten a bad rap.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his wife Mary Pat had lunch with President Donald Trump on Valentine’s Day and, according to Christie, Trump made him have the White House meatloaf. “This is what it’s like to be with Trump,” Christie said during a guest host spot on a radio show on Thursday . “He says, ‘There’s the menu, you guys order whatever you want.’ And then he says, ‘Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.’” According to Christie, Trump said, “I’m telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous.” (He didn’t say what made it taste so good.)
It’s no surprise this onetime American staple, originally an inexpensive European comfort food, has fallen out of favor. It’s sometimes served to prisoners who are violent or throw food. But meatloaf doesn’t need to taste bad or, indeed, even be bad for your health.
Few people could blame Christie for eyeing other items on the White House menu. Meatloaf may not be the menu item of choice for many Americans in 2017, but it doesn’t need to taste bad and, eaten in moderation, it need not even be bad for your health.
A large slice has between 180 calories and 294 calories , 23 grams of protein and 27 grams of total fat. Compare that to a Chipotle burrito /quotes/zigman/395806/composite CMG -0.61% , which has twice the calories of a McDonald’s /quotes/zigman/233369/composite MCD +0.53% Big Mac (530 calories). In fact, a burrito has nearly a full day’s worth of calories: a burrito with chicken, white rice, black beans, fajita vegetables, tomatillo-green chili salsa, guacamole and cheese with a side order of chips is 1,695 calories.
One reason it’s not popular: Nearly 40% of consumers say they have cut back on red meat, citing health reasons, a study by market research group Mintel found , even as prices have declined by 19% over the last two years to $3.62 a pound.
Meatloaf and other traditional recipes have also fallen out of favor, nutritionists say, because they take longer to make and people don’t have the time (or inclination) to cook from scratch and it was not always (or often) made with prime beef. What’s more, these old-fashioned recipes are not being passed down from generation to generation.
Meatloaf is not a fashionable dish
This onetime American staple, originally an inexpensive European comfort food, is often made with leftovers. It’s sometimes served to prisoners who are violent or throw food, according to National Public Radio.
“Prisons and jails are allowed to come up with their own version, so some resort to grinding up leftovers into a dense mass that’s reheated,” NPR reported . “Other institutions make loaves from scratch out of shredded and mashed vegetables, beans and starches. They’re rendered even more unappetizing by being served in a small paper sack, with no seasoning.”
Why has it lost popularity while other foods like, say, mac and cheese are still as popular? Some food bloggers blame the word ‘loaf’ in addition to the current aversion to red meat. People don’t have time to make food from scratch. And many of these old-fashioned recipes are not being passed down through generations.
Why has it lost popularity while other foods like, say, mac and cheese are still as popular? Some food bloggers blame the word “loaf” (in addition to the current aversion to red meat).
The PioneerWoman.com is one such blog trying to bring it back into fashion: “Pretend the title of this dish does not contain the word ‘loaf.’ Focus, instead, on the simplicity of the ingredients: a beautiful meat mixture bound together with bread and eggs and made delicious with Parmesan and seasonings.” (Others have combined mac and cheese, and meatloaf to create one epic comfort food dish.)
There are ways to make meatloaf healthier
It’s likely the White House used the best (and leanest) prime beef in its meatloaf. “There’s nothing wrong with making a traditional meatloaf, but I recommend using a leaner cut of ground beef,” says Elizabeth DeRobertis, head dietitian at the Scarsdale Medical Group in Scarsdale, N.Y.
“There are lots of recipes out there for turkey meatloaf, some even hiding vegetables within the recipe. If the meatloaf is paired with mashed potatoes, yes it’s a higher calorie, higher fat meal. But a turkey meatloaf with two vegetable sides is perfectly healthy and fine.” Also, use sea salt and spices to cut down on sodium.
A ground meat labeled 90% lean or higher is a good choice, says Jill Weisenberger, a Yorktown, Va.-based registered dietitian nutritionist and author of “ The Overworked Person’s Guide to Better Nutrition .”
Instead of white breadcrumbs, she suggests adding whole wheat crumbs or rolled oats. “Some people even like to bulk it up with shredded zucchini or other vegetables,” she says. “Think about what else you are eating at the meal. Try to eat at least a cup of health-boosting, low calorie non-starchy vegetables like green beans, broccoli, spinach, carrots, cauliflower and the like.”
Health advocates recommend that you eat no more than 500 grams (18 ounces) of red meat a week, MarketWatch recently reported. Harvard Health, a blog published by the Harvard Medical School, recommends that red meat should only make an appearance in your diet only every “now and then,” and you should eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans nuts and seeds each day, along with small portions of cheese, yogurt, fish poultry or eggs each day.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if meatloaf makes a comeback in the near future,” says Tanya Zuckerbrot, a registered dietitian in private practice in New York City and the founder of the F-Factor Diet. “Just like fashion, retro dishes are always coming back in style.”
The good news: Chris Christie ate the White House meatloaf, he told the New Jersey radio show, and didn’t have any complaints.