Comfort Foods

Life continues to move forward even in the face of this raging pandemic. With Thanksgiving and Christmas looming around the corner, people are probably thinking about past holiday traditions and rituals. Those joyous occasions shared with loved ones and friends where festive foods and gatherings were celebrated. With COVID-19 running amok in various communities, people are seeking solace, a way to feel good while dealing with pandemic precautions and altered routines.
How do many people deal with troublesome stress and worry? Some folks exercise while other clean house, play games or watch movies. A number of people enjoy easing their cares with comfort foods. Through the years, experts and therapists have provided rationales for our craving certain foods typically called comfort foods. But what exactly are comfort foods? The Oxford Dictionaries defined comfort foods as “food that provides consolation or a feeling of well-being, typically any with a high sugar or other carbohydrate content and associated with childhood or home cooking.” I believe we turn to comfort foods because of their nostalgic, sentimental or sensory appeal or value.

Charles Spence in his 2017 review article on comfort foods shared “there is a strong link between scents and emotional memory. The smell of foods can evoke vivid and detailed emotional memories of our past (Reid, et al., 2014). Our learning history predisposes us to enjoy certain foods.” Spence and others linked our comfort foods to favorite foods shared with a certain person, like a mother, grandfather; a place like a wedding, birthday celebration or an pivotal point in time like a family reunion, graduation, wedding, etc. Comfort foods gives us a momentary escape from our surrounding negativity and disappointments by allowing us to recall those positive memories where we felt a step closer to a beloved person or place of significance.

What makes comfort foods so appealing? Eating these foods tap into our sensory system, that is, how we interact with our environment by way of our innate senses like smell, sight, taste, hearing and touch. Our senses help us interpret and adjust to responses like food texture, temperature, spiciness, state of liquidity, etc. Sami Grover in his 2016 article suggested a link between the outside temperature, our caloric needs and our selection of comfort foods. Additionally, our stress level, mood and anxiety might influence what foods we choose to enjoy. In warmer weather, we tend to choose cooler foods with less preparation time.

When comparing and contrasting what foods are comforting, we have to recognize how culture, traditions, gender and dietary habits influence our comfort food choices. Comfort foods high in heavy in fats, sugars and calories over time can wreck havoc in controlling our blood glucose, blood pressure or heart health. Enjoying comfort foods means learning how to eat them in moderation to prevent adding unwanted inches to our waistlines or placing our cholesterol or blood glucose levels outside of normal ranges. Taking care of our bodies by controlling our food intake requires us to make intentional food choices. God’s word reminds us in First Corinthians, Chapter six, verses 19 and 20: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

During Thanksgiving and Christmas session, consider these options: (1) cut back on how often you eat comfort foods, (2) eat smaller portions, (3) avoid eating within 4-5 hours of sleep time, (4) try lower calorie versions and (5) substitute olive oil, liquid egg whites, mashed vegetables for some of the prep ingredients. Go on, enjoy in moderation your macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, potato chips, French fries, chocolate morsels, pizza slice, fried chicken, grilled cheese sandwiches, etc. Happy Thanksgiving!

Prayer:  Dear God, thank you for providing food to nourish our human tents. Allow us to be good stewards by guarding us against gluttony and over-indulgence. Help us to use meal times to glorify you and to show our gratitude for our earthly provisions. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen!