“Comfort food is the food that makes us feel good – satisfied, calm, cared for, and carefree.” – nofusskitchen.com
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:
- Feel Good – foods high in fat, sugar, and salt have a strong effect on our moods allowing us to feel so good.
- Self-medication – aka emotional eating. When we are feeling down, unhealthy foods become our coping mechanism (self-medicating).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?