Why you love comfort food

Why you love comfort food

If you indulge in comfort foods like macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes or a slice of cake after a long day, blame the person who first made them for you.

Researchers at the University of Buffalo found that the reason people associate certain foods with comfort has nothing to do with the food itself. Instead, it is because they have a good relationship with the person who prepared it.

“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, a psychologist at University of Buffalo in a news release. “It can be understood as straight up classical conditioning.”

Individuals in the study found comfort in a wide range of foods from healthy items to foods high in fat or starch.

“Because comfort food has a social function it is especially appealing to us when we are feeling lonely or rejected,” Gabriel said. “The current study helps us understand why we might be eating comfort foods even when we’re dieting or not particularly hungry.”

Michelle Remkus, a dietician at the Good Samaritan Health and Wellness Center in Downers Grove, Ill., recommends people learn what triggers their comfort foods, so they are ready to say “no.” It is also a good idea to keep those types of food out of the house to prevent sabotage.

“Keep your kitchen stocked with healthy choices such as ready-to-eat fruit and vegetables, low fat yogurt, whole grains, nuts and seeds,” Remkus says. “Reach for these healthy foods when cravings strike.”

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  1. Rosemary Mueller
    Rosemary Mueller, MPH, RD, LDN April 16, 2015 at 2:51 pm · Reply

    Interesting study. For individuals who feel “stuck” in their weight management efforts, Advocate Weight Management can help: call 847 990-5770 or email us at advocateweightmanagement@advocatehealth.com

  2. Sorry, my mama was a great cook, but she worked at a profession and only cooked Sunday dinner; my gram was a very plain cook but made our dinners when we came home from school … prompting me to learn to cook at an early age and make my own dinner. So, no: mashed potatoes, macaroni & cheese, and other comfort foods were things I learned to make for myself so that I wouldn’t have to eat gram’s cooking (and I was much better at them, too). Now when I eat comfort food, it’s entirely about the food and the taste/content that makes me feel better, not any familial association. The problem with speculation such as that in the above article is that it tends to over-generalize, assuming that everyone’s family is more or less the same. In a multicultural society, that’s not necessarily the case. Ooops!

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.