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5 Reasons Why We Desire Comfort Foods

Comfort food is the food that makes us feel good – satisfied, calm, cared for, and carefree.” –

I can already smell and taste the warmth of a rich macaroni and cheese full of gooey cheeses, mashed potatoes rich in butter and milk, or a bowl full of chili topped with cheese and sour cream. My mouth is watering just thinking of a few of these comfort foods.

According to Psychology Today, these types of food provide short-term pleasure. There are five factors contributing to comfort eating:

  1. Feel Good – foods high in fat, sugar, and salt have a strong effect on our moods allowing us to feel so good.
  2. Self-medication – aka emotional eating. When we are feeling down, unhealthy foods become our coping mechanism (self-medicating).  
  3. The need to belong – certain foods remind us of family and friends and when we are feeling low, we turn to those foods for comfort.
  4. Nostalgic eating – the smell of foods can stir emotional memories of our past. For example, when I think of the word “fair” it immediately takes me back to deep-fried corn dogs, french fries covered in salt and vinegar and of course, an elephant ear topped with powdered sugar.
  5. Special Occasions – holidays and celebrations give us an excuse to eat unhealthy comfort foods.

As we crave these delicious foods how can we still enjoy them but in a healthier way?

  • Swap out ground beef for turkey or chicken – if you must use ground beef try using one less in fat.
  • Swap out chips for carrots with a yogurt-based dip; sliced apples; celery with peanut butter or lightly buttered popcorn.
  • Swap out pasta with vegetable-based noodles.

There are many ways to make our comfort foods healthier and the Internet is a great resource for finding substitutions. My husband and I are going to try some techniques to make mac and cheese healthier. What will you be trying to do?

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