If it makes you feel good, it's comfort food (2024)

Lisa Waas| Florida Times-Union

In an informal poll of Facebook friends asking about their favorite comfort foods, there was a wide range of answers. It seems everyone has something that makes them feel better when they eat it.

And that's not entirely psychological. A 2011 study by doctors at Laval University found that biological changes happen when we consume saturated fat. Comfort foods, the study found, actually do make us feel less sad.

So what were the top seven items on my poll? Mac and cheese hit the No. 1 spot, followed by beef stew, apple pie and ice cream, chicken and dumplings/chicken pot pie, meatloaf with mashed potatoes, bread pudding and fried chicken.

My comfort foods are homemade chocolate chip cookies, potato chips and onion dip and chicken and dumplings. Even though mac and cheese, meatloaf and apple pie are lovely dishes, I don't have emotional connections to those foods. There are memory, texture and flavor considerations behind my choices, and probably for yours as well.

My dad always had chicken and dumplings for his birthday dinner. It was so rustic and comforting; there was something about the smooth dumplings, the salty broth and my dad being so happy to have his favorite dish. For the chips and dip … frankly, it always feels like a party when I eat it.

When my parents made chips and dip for a party, I used to sneak downstairs and eat it when they weren't looking. To this day, I serve chips and dip at every party I throw.

Chocolate chip cookies were the first cookie that I made with my mother.

Hot out of the oven, when the chocolate chips were still soft, I would eat them off a paper towel while we put spoonfuls of the dough on a new cookie sheet. She used a Betty Crocker recipe that I still use today. Her notes next to the recipe say "Delicious, Superb."

These are the same cookies that my daughter made the first time she baked on her own. It almost brings tears to my eyes when I bite the first one. And in my house, we always eat the first ones hot, usually with a glass of cold milk.

Macaroni and cheese was the No. 1 pick among respondents to my poll. This was not a surprise; whenever I bring it to a party, there is always moaning involved after the first bite. Yes, moaning. There has to be more than flavor involved to have that kind of response to food.

In the Times Union in August 2012, I shared my favorite mac and cheese recipe from Cooks Illustrated.

It is creamy, smooth, easy to make and has a bite of flavor and tons of cheese. It is not for the Weight Watcher crowd, but it is a crowd pleaser. For those of you who missed that article, I am sharing the recipe again.

First runner-up was beef stew. This hearty beef stew recipe is easy, flavorful, tender and colorful.

Perfect for this cooler weather, I made it ahead of time and served it to my family two days later right when the weather turned chilly.

I served it with big pieces of whole grain bread. I used homemade chicken broth with no salt and had to liberally salt the stew. I also used an inexpensive red Zinfandel for the wine and found it worked well. The meat can go from underdone and chewy to perfect in 15 minutes to overdone and dry in another 10, so make sure you are checking the meat often toward the end of the cooking process.

At No. 4 was chicken and dumplings/chicken pot pie. Pot pie is a perfect comfort food with its veggies, meat and rich sauce topped with a buttery crust. The recipe seems complicated, but it is really straightforward so please give it a try.

Just remember, it is best for a weekend night as it has to cook for 45 minutes in the oven after all the ingredients are assembled. If you are in a real rush, you can substitute a frozen pie crust for the top. Just follow the directions on the box and roll it thin.

And just because almost everyone loves a chocolate chip cookie, I have included the simple recipe I have used for more than 40 years. The "delicious and superb" chocolate chip cookie recipe from Betty Crocker is a mood lifter every time.

Whatever food you find eases your mood, makes you feel fondly about home or brings memories of loved ones is your own comfort food.

The stories that accompany your comfort food are worth sharing. Next time you cook that favorite food, share your story. What makes you happy makes others happy. And if you make cookies, bake enough to share.

If it makes you feel good, it's comfort food (2024)


What's your go to comfort food best answer? ›

Fried chicken: a classic comfort food because of its crispy texture and the positive memories of picnics and gatherings. Mac and cheese: macaroni noodles in cheese sauce are simple to cook and perfectly balance carbs and proteins. Kebab: meat, veggies, spices, sauces — all mixed on a plate or rolled in a flatbread.

Does comfort food really make you feel better? ›

Comfort food activates dopamine. This is a chemical in the brain that makes you feel good. It also makes you want more of the same thing. For example, maybe you're worried or anxious.

What comfort food makes you feel good? ›

Comfort foods, the study found, actually do make us feel less sad. So what were the top seven items on my poll? Mac and cheese hit the No. 1 spot, followed by beef stew, apple pie and ice cream, chicken and dumplings/chicken pot pie, meatloaf with mashed potatoes, bread pudding and fried chicken.

What is the psychology behind comfort food? ›

But what exactly makes them so irresistible? According to research, our cravings for comfort food are deeply rooted in psychology. These foods often trigger feelings of nostalgia and emotional comfort, providing a sense of security and familiarity in times of stress or sadness.

Does comfort food reduce stress? ›

They have several functions, one of which is to produce a sense of well-being. When you eat comfort food, your brain releases endorphins, which help improve your mood and reduce stress levels.

Why is comfort food addictive? ›

These foods trigger the brain's pleasure centers and reward system, which boosts your mood short-term. Registered dietitian Kate Ingram explains, telling Yahoo Life: “Research is mixed, but it looks like comfort foods — particularly highly processed foods — may improve mood for an hour or two after consumption.

Why do we crave comfort food when stressed? ›

“When we experience stress, our body releases stress hormones like cortisol. Cortisol can increase our appetite and drive cravings for calorie-dense 'comfort' foods, particularly those high in sugar and fat,” said Dr. Johannes Uys, a General Practitioner at Broadgate General Practice based in London.

What foods make you feel energized? ›

10 Foods to Energize Your Afternoon
  • Nuts. In addition to energy-extending protein and fiber, nuts are full of additional nutrients to refuel your electrolyte supply. ...
  • Fruit. Soothe your sweet tooth while also boosting energy with the complex healthy carbs in fruit. ...
  • Yogurt. ...
  • Dairy. ...
  • Edamame. ...
  • Whole Grains. ...
  • Beans. ...
  • Lentils.

What are the best foods to make you feel full? ›

What are the most filling foods?
  • Boiled or baked potato.
  • Pulses.
  • High-fiber foods.
  • Low-fat dairy products.
  • Eggs.
  • Nuts.
  • Lean meat and fish.
  • Summary.

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