What is comfort food?
Why do we love it so much?
Read on for all the answers!
What is Comfort Food?
Ever feel down and immediately reach for your favorite unhealthy snack? You were seeking comfort food(1). These are types of food that make us feel good but are generally unhealthy.
There are plenty of reasons for choosing to eat these non-nutritious delicacies when we feel a little off our game(2). This blog is going to explore what comfort food is and why we eat it.
Childhood Food Favorites
The comfort food you eat will vary depending on where and how you were raised(3). Some common American comfort foods include pizza, grilled cheese, and tomato soup. The Germans may prefer bratwurst while Koreans may prefer gamjatang, but every country has its own comfort food.
Comfort food is often associated with your own culture or ethnicity(4). After all, you grew up with this food, so most likely, it’s also food that your family made for you growing up. My grandmother cooked some awesome French and American food, but there was no way she was going to whip up any Asian cuisine, so I had far less exposure to it as a child.
While we all grew up eating fruits and vegetables, comfort food is typically less healthy. It’s usually higher in fat and sugar, so something like poutine or dumplings are more likely to be a comfort food than grapes or carrots.
So, now that we understand comfort food, let’s learn the reasons why we gravitate toward it.
Nostalgia(5) is a powerful feeling that tends to skew how we look at the past. It causes us to remember things being far better than they actually were—like 90s CGI being amazing.
We tend to think that moments in our past were happier times, and food is often connected to these fond memories. Summer barbeques as a kid? Your semester abroad? Pizza parties at school? All these great memories contribute to us linking this food we ate with the best moments in our lives.
Studies suggest that happier people tend to eat healthier food. On the contrary(6), it’s the people who are less happy, less rested, and stressed out that tend to crave the sugary snack or a carb-dense meal.
When we get emotional, we seek comfort. We want to feel good again, we want to be able to cope with negative feelings. This is why comfort food is so delicious when we don’t feel well.
If you want to counter this instinctive(7) behavior, you have to become aware of your bad eating habits. Pack healthy snacks for the day, recognize when you feel bad, and start to try to build healthy eating habits.
Eating certain food allows us to fit in with different social groups. Imagine a situation where all your friends like to eat sushi every Friday night after work, but you can’t stand raw fish. That is one social gathering–and potentially an entire social group–you won’t be able to join.
Think about each social community you are involved with. What do you guys eat together? Comfort foods remind us that we are a part of these different communities, that we belong somewhere, and that we aren’t alone.
Birthdays, holidays, graduations, achievements; think about all these occasions. These celebrations are often an excuse to gorge(8) ourselves on delicious, unhealthy food and drinks. They’re a popular time to enjoy comfort foods for a lot of people, and this can be a lot of fun, as long as you don’t do it too often.
Comfort Food isn’t Just About the Past
Comfort food plays an important part in all of our lives, especially when we are going through tough times. It connects us to our past and to our own social groups, and we can also look forward to a little indulgence(9) when we accomplish something big in our lives.
Of course, eating too much comfort food can be unhealthy and actually make us feel worse, but fear not: you can still create new comfort foods (and healthy ones at that) by trying to experience new things and chasing your goals. New memories will form(10) alongside new comfort foods. Check out podcast #15 Getting Food Cultured by Ride the Vibes for a more extended conversation on food culture.
Are you a foodie? Check out another one of our blogs on how to eat green!
1. comfort food (n.)
Def. food prepared in a traditional style having a usually nostalgic or sentimental appeal
Ex. Cheeseburgers are my favorite comfort food since they remind me of having barbeques as a kid.
2. off one’s game (phr.)
Def. more removed or distant
Ex. He seems a little off his game today. He can’t even seem to score one point.
3. raise (v.)
Def. grow, cultivate
Ex. Nobody really knows how to raise a child before having one.
4. ethnicity (n.)
Def. ethnic quality or affiliation
Ex. A lot of official documents require you to state your ethnicity.
5. nostalgia (n.)
Def. a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition
Ex. So many people have nostalgia for 90s music.
6. contrary (n.)
Def. a fact or condition incompatible with another
Ex. Contrary to what you think, I did finish all my work.
7. instinctive (adj.)
Def. prompted by natural instinct or propensity
Ex. It was instinctive for the bear to try to attack the hunter.
8. gorge (v.)
Def. to eat greedily or to repletion
Ex. We all gorged ourselves at the buffet, and now none of us want to move.
9. indulgence (n.)
Def. the act of indulging in something
Ex. Using your computer, TV, and smartphone at the same time is an utter indulgence.
10. form. (v.)
Def. to give form or shape to
Ex. The children tried to form the clay into different animals.