The United States covers some 3.8 million square miles. Turns out our taste in food ranges far and wide, too.
We partnered with Lifesum, a Stockholm-based digital health company with 30 million users, to find out what each state favors for dinner.
Not every state agreed on the same dinner plan, though. In fact, Vermont consistently remained an outlier each time. But for each group, six familiar faves kept rising to the top.
While you might eat chicken and potatoes differently from your neighbor, the way you cook it could have a drastically different effect on your health. So instead of focusing on the details of fried vs. baked or steamed vs. sautéed, we got back to the basics.
We focused on the most popular dinners and broke down each meal into three distinct combos of carbs, protein, and veggie.
1. Rice + chicken + salad
This combo tends to look different from state to state (juicy fried chicken in the South vs. grilled with salt and pepper on the coasts), but the basics are classically American: rice, chicken, and salad (or greens).
Chicken, in its leanest form, is one of the healthiest proteins. There’s no denial that salad (sans dressing) is great for the gut, too.
However, while rice has been controversial in the weight loss area, it’s not a bad carb to include, especially if you stick with non-white rice.
2. Potato + cheese + beans
Cooked taters are high in vitamin C and have more potassium than bananas, but they primarily consist of carbs (paleo dieters, beware). Cheese choices run the gamut, but mozzarella and feta have the lowest amount of fat. For beans, fresh is key. Keep the canned stuff at bay — it tends to be higher in sodium.
3. Bread + egg + bell peppers
They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and this combo certainly delivers from a balanced diet perspective — as long as you keep the bread to whole wheat and sprouted grains.
Ezekiel bread rules this perspective, as it has no added sugar. Just avoid it if you’re gluten-free. As for eggs, boil them, scramble them, do them sunny-side up. In the South, fried eggs are king, while fluffy egg sandwiches are popular on the East Coast.
4. Fries + beef + tomato
Here’s where the meat and potatoes come in. A Midwestern classic, the quality of this meal depends on the cut of beef. Porterhouse is considered the best because it’s actually two cuts in one — a New York strip on one side and a filet mignon on the other.
Then, of course, there’s regular ol’ ground beef (hello, burger night), popular just about everywhere. In the South, sweet potato fries are just as popular as “regular” fries. And that tomato? Well, it could be just be ketchup, but you’ll want to get the whole fruit for all its potassium, folate, and vitamins C and K benefits.
5. Quinoa + turkey + broccoli
Quinoa is fast becoming the grain of choice for diners looking for healthy variety. Likewise, turkey, being lower in calories and higher in protein than chicken, is now a go-to lean meat. And broccoli has long been the little green tree by any health-conscious eater’s side. Together, these three ingredients make for a delicious high-fiber meal and will look amazing in a bowl presentation.
6. Couscous + pork + spinach
From braised to roasted to barbecued, there are many ways to prepare pork. The main question remains: To sauce or not to sauce? In the South, you’ll find slabs completely slathered (North Carolina vinegar BBQ sauce is a legend). On the coasts, pork tends to be prepared more minimally, letting the meat speak for itself. That’s when its best suited for accompaniments like couscous and spinach.