Mmmmmm, comfort foods….
OK, so we’re done talking about the cold weather, right? (last time I checked, it’s what happens about this time of year in these parts of the country). With that being said, -35F with wind chill is still flipping cold! To help us all deal with it a little better, I decided to write about some of my “feel better/warmer” cravings – those yummy foods I eat to feel better on cold days – and some to eat just because. -What some like to call comfort foods. As a foodie, my list is long, and very flexible – tomato soup (with crackers of course), mashed potatoes with hot gravy, steamy macaroni and cheese, or just out of the oven creamy chocolate chip cookies (pass the milk please). Getting hungry? Researchers tell us we’re mentally attracted to foods that not only warm us up, but also ones we associate with a positive social memory. For example, many of my favorite indulgences are often the very same meals Mom used to whip up when we were kids, like a 20 quart pot of hot chocolate (with those little floatie marshmellows) after being outside all day. Dad would make us ground meat on toast after church on Sunday mornings knowing we all loved the leftovers also! For fun, here’s info about our cravings, and some “feel better” recipes – special thanks to realsimple.com and shape magazine for the info.
When you’re jonesing for chocolate, experts say to stop and evaluate how your sleep has been lately. “When tired, many people crave carbohydrates for a quick energy boost, since carbs are our main source of fuel,” says explains Elizabeth DeRobertis, R.D., who practices in Westchester, New York. Simple carbs, such as sugar and white bread, are digested quicker than complex ones such as whole grains and beans, so the energy kicks in sooner. Unfortunately, that sugar “high” doesn’t last that long, and you’ll be back in the kitchen searching the pantry for more goodies.
A handful of nuts a day can be a healthy snack, but it can also hint to an inner frustration and irritation. “The act of chewing and cracking the food in your mouth can momentarily release that angst, but the problem is the second that the crunching stops, the frustration returns”—and too often we go back to eating more and more – (ever polish off an entire bag of chips? – only if there’s Dairyman’s French Onion dip with it, right?). A better way to release that tension is to punch a punching bag, do any kind of exercise, or put in your earbuds – several studies have shown that relaxing music really does relieve stress.
Dishes such as ice cream, mashed potatoes, and macaroni and cheese (must have pepper on top) are called “comfort foods” for a reason: “Craving them possibly points to worrisome thoughts, and what you really need is to be soothed.” These are also high-carb, high-fat foods. “Carbs boost the ‘feel-good’ hormone serotonin, and when you eat something high in both carbs and fat, it can trigger the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of pleasure and reward.” While a bowl of butter pecan may make you feel better in the moment, “usually the worries return when we realize how many calories we just consumed, and then guilt sets back in.” Instead of reaching for these fattening fixes, experts suggest trying a warm bath, a foot massage, or just enveloping yourself in soft, cozy clothing for instant calming.
Anytime the coffee shop or a soda machine calls your name, you’re likely more than just thirsty. “You may feel discouraged or dissatisfied with your job and reach for these ‘quick fixes’ to perk you up and get you through the day.” It could also mean you’re dehydrated. “Not drinking enough water leads to a lack of energy,” says DeRobertis. So instead of a latte, you may just need some H2O. “Picture a wilted plant that needs water,” DeRobertis says. “Shortly after you water it, it will perk back up. With people, it’s the same thing!”
While cravings for pasta, bread, and other carbohydrates can come from a number of physiological reasons, including a high insulin level or low blood sugar, DeRobertis says it’s more likely that you’re depriving yourself. “Typically, when someone is on a strict eating plan or has declared certain foods ‘off-limits,’ they will want them that much more.” All foods can fit into a healthy eating plan. Having a good time or rewarding yourself doesn’t have to come in the form of food: “Clear your schedule and go on a weekend trip by yourself or with friends. Don’t bring a watch and don’t be on a schedule; just get into the day and enjoy it.”
After learning about all of the reasons above, I also conducted my own really-really scientific poll of myself and my family. We have come to the conclusion that we love food- all kinds and are basically pretty happy folks!
25 Fun Comfort Foods to pick from this weekend.———> CLICK!!