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home : health : health November 19, 2018

10/23/2018 1:26:00 PM
Healthy comfort foods for fall
By Jodi Schneider

What comfort foods do you turn to when you're curled up on the couch on a cold evening?

Ranker recently conducted a survey to determine which comfort foods are the most loved by Americans, and the foods that top the list come as no surprise: Ice cream, chocolate, grilled cheese, pizza...

Comfort food is usually food prepared traditionally with a nostalgic or sentimental value. Many comfort foods have soft consistencies and are full of salts, butters and fats. It's simple, really: Whatever food comforts you the most is comfort food.

Why are comfort foods so comforting? A study published in the journal Appetite found that there is a "social" component to foods that provide us solace: Foods are comforting because of the memories they evoke, and the emotions and relationships that we associate with them. If your grandmother served you chocolate chip cookies as a child that may be why you make a pit stop at the bakery on your way home from the office after a particularly stressful day.

"Comfort foods are often the foods that our caregivers gave us when we were children. As long as we have positive association with the person who made that food then there's a good chance that you will be drawn to that food during times of rejection or isolation," said Shira Gabriel, psychologist at the University of Buffalo and co-author of the study. "The study helps us understand why we might be eating comfort foods even when we're dieting or not particularly hungry."

However, there are several other likely behavioral and biological components. Lighter, cooler foods like fresh fruits and vegetables were historically less available during the winter, so there may be an inherent preference for foods that are in season like starchier vegetables.

There is also considerable research showing seasonal affective disorder (SAD) - which affects 1 to 3 percent of the population - is linked to increased appetite and carbohydrate cravings, which are probably consumed in the form of "comfort foods." This is likely due to changes in brain chemistry brought about by the change in seasons and alterations in circadian rhythm, the body's biological clock.

Comfort foods are generally sweet, fatty and calorie-dense, which may also help temporarily improve mood and alleviate anxiety or stress.

A cool refreshing salad simply does not taste nearly as comforting as a hot bowl of soup on a cold autumn day! The good news is there are lots of healthy substitutes that can still taste fantastic. Soups and stews are a terrific idea in the winter, as long as they are not cream-based or loaded with high-fat meat.

Fulfilling that comfort craving and sticking to your healthy goals can be achieved.

If you crave potatoes, opt for sweet potatoes when you can to boost nutrition and satisfy your craving for starchy carbohydrates.

You can even top them with a little butter and brown sugar. Baked apples with cinnamon are a delicious fall dessert that you can top with a bit of yogurt or ice cream if you want to


Healthier versions of the top-10 comfort food favorites can be kept on hand for when you need a bite that will soothe the soul.

Topping the list of most comforting foods: Grilled cheese.

Sometimes nothing can soothe the soul quite like melted cheese sandwiched between two slices of crusty bread. Instead, simply make the bread whole grain, cut back on the butter and stuff it with your favorite roasted veggies such as sliced zucchini, red and green peppers and mushrooms.

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