Does the idea of comfort foods conjure up a molten lava cake, ice cream sundaes, or three-pounds of salted peanuts?
In one of our studies, we found 40% of people’s favorite comfort foods are actually pretty healthy, meal-related foods –soups, steak, green bean casseroles, hamburgers, and so on. For most of us, there’s a small difference in how much we prefer unhealthy comfort foods compared to the healthier ones.
Indeed, we find people who ate these healthier comfort foods rated themselves as more comforted, happier . . . and less guilty than those who indulged in the bad ones.
Zapping a can of soup seems to go a lot farther than dishing up the mountain of ice cream.
Source: Wansink, Brian, Matthew M. Cheney, and Nina Chan (2003), “Exploring ComfortFood Preferences Across Gender and Age,” Physiology and Behavior, 79:4-5, 739-747.
For 30 years my Lab and I have focused on discovering secret answers to help people live better lives. Some of these relate to health and happiness (and often to food). Please share whatever you find useful.
This video of one of my post-docs gives a flavor of one type of research that we've done: