How Many Vegetables Should be Served at a Meal?

pot roast slices, potatoes, and carrots on plateI never thought much about how many vegetables to serve at a meal until I read recommendations in a hundred-year-old home economics textbook, but my first thought was “the more the better.” That’s not exactly what the old book said:

Too many vegetables should not be served at dinner; the general rule of serving two is a good one to follow. Lettuce is usually served with any salad and would make the third. In choosing the two, it is better to select one starch and one green vegetable; the two being pleasing in taste when eaten together.Β Β 

Elementary Home Economics (1921) by Mary Lockwood Matthews

43 thoughts on “How Many Vegetables Should be Served at a Meal?

    1. That makes sense. When I make too many different types of food for a meal, I end up with lots of leftovers, and no one eats much of any one food.

  1. Thinking back, it seems that my mother and grandmother always served three: at least, if you count potatoes. We never thought of potatoes as veggies; they always would be accompanied by two others, like carrots and peas, or cauliflower and broccoli (sometimes with carrots thrown in).

  2. It is always fascinating to read the trends, Sheryl. Often, wisdom of the ages. And, other times, when you know better, you do better (was this Maya Angelou? lol). Have a great day! Happy New Year! πŸ™‚

    1. Similarly, I remember being told that meals were more aesthetically pleasing if the foods served were several different colors. An example of a meal that would not be aestically pleasing would be sliced chicken breast, cauliflower, and mashed potatoes.

  3. Here only one or two were standard, but that was a throwback to wartime days when there was rationing. I think for the generations who had lived or been been brought up during ww1 and ww2, ‘making do’ even with fresh produce, was ingrained.

    Sheryl, I’m going to be deleting my blog in a few days time (17th Jan). Let me know if you want my pdf file that’s got some of my posts in it. x

  4. A had to smile, reading this. Oh, the days when it was believed that a person had to worry about eating too many vegetables! Things have changed for the better. I wonder what they’ll be saying in another hundred years?

    1. It would be fascinating to know what they say about nutrition in another hundred years. I wonder if foods will be more processed. . .or less.

  5. I don’t think my mother counted potatoes as a vegetable, to her they were a starch and there always had to be a starch on the plate! She was big on having a green and a yellow vegetable on the plate, but certainly not consistent in this.

  6. My mom probably went by this; one hot side veggie and a salad, usually. And if we didn’t have potatoes, bread was served. I now eat almost ALL veggies and potatoes only as an addition to something like a stew.

    1. When I was a child, both potatoes and bread (white wonder-type bread with margarine) were served at most meals. I think that my father was the only person in the family who generally ate the bread.

  7. Hehe! I grew up with the rule of 3 – you must have 3 things on the plate. One must be a protein (egg, meat, cheese), one a starch (bread, potatoes, corn, beans) and one vegetable (green, leafy, orange). This was the dinner rule but was the minimum.

    1. That’s similar to the way it was when I was going up – though I think that my mother would have put corn in the vegetable group rather than the starch group.

  8. Reading the comments has made me smile as they echo most of my thoughts and the food habits of my family while growing up. My mother always served a meat, starch, vegetable, and a salad. Daddy liked a green vegetable with everything so that was usually standard fare – even when we had pizza!

  9. It was always a meat, a starch and a green veggie growing up. I think part of the reason was the cost. Except for holidays – Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter we had a buffet and ate way too much!

  10. We always had a main, a starch and a vegetable too in the 1950’s. I wonder when that idea originated. I tend to have a main and two vegetables and a starch, so I haven’t gone very far from my mother.

  11. I love veggies so just have plenty on the table even if it’s one kind.πŸ˜€ usually potatoes do the starch around here… English peas and corn are rare with green beans, greens or red beets common.

    1. Like you, I often serve potatoes. I also frequently serve green peas (are they the same thing as English peas?) and corn, as well as the other vegetables you listed.

      1. English peas are the same as green peas, in the south here we also have the zipper peas than look similar to green peas so we call them English peas.

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