Take Comfort

com·fort (kum′fərt) – a state of ease and quiet enjoyment, free from worry, pain, or trouble.

We all want to look and feel healthy all year round so why is it so difficult to stay committed to a healthy eating and exercise regimen in the winter?  Have the short, cold and dark winter days ever caused you to habitually overeat? Maybe it’s the fact that you get out of bed in the morning freezing in the pitch dark and can look forward to the same when get out of work. Many of us then feel less motivated to exercise and more inclined to eat high calorie “comfort” foods at this time of year. Here’s some advice and inspiration.

Certain foods impart a feeling of warmth and coziness. They are the culinary equivalent of a warm fire, flannel pj’s, hot bath or curling up on the couch watching a movie with the family immersed in blankets. Subconsciously the aroma, texture and heartiness can bring you to a zen type moment that stirs up happy memories. There is such diversity of what is considered comfort food because it’s so personal. For many of us, dishes like macaroni and cheese, meatloaf, mashed potatoes fit the bill and for others it’s eggs, soup or sweets. It is all about how it makes YOU feel. This is a good thing but comfort foods can do a number on your waistline if not consumed wisely so here is what you do. Identify whether you are eating for hunger or comfort. If it’s comfort then try a distraction like a warm bath or a long walk. I know it is easier said then done but being conscious of what is going on will have you making better choices in no time. In this situation I stop and ask myself if this is the best choice I could be making right now. If it isn’t then I try to just have a small amount and let my intelligence outwit fleeting cravings. Most times this works but believe me there are many (and I mean many) times that I just go for it but at least I thought about it. Right? Doesn’t matter if you make the best choice all of the time but some of the time is better than none of the time and fifty percent of something is better than fifty percent of nothing. There you have my insipirational cliches for the day 🙂

After conducting my own informal poll of what people consider their favorite comfort foods there was one resounding similarity in the responses:  Comfort foods are those that evoke thoughts of home, family and security.  I asked my son what his favorite comfort food is and he responded with “mashed potatoes and hot chocolate”.  To clarify, I asked what he thought “comfort food” meant and he said “food that makes you feel good when you don’t feel good”.  Hmm…Is comfort food a mood enhancer?  Can these foods actually make us feel better?

Research has shown that high-fat, high-carbohydrate comfort foods stimulate the release of “feel good” chemicals in the brain and cut the level of stress hormones.  Food is connected to our emotions and there are actually chemicals produced in the brain and body that control mood and food cravings.  The stress hormone cortisol triggers appetite-stimulating neurotransmitters that decrease a hormone called serotonin in the blood. The result is a craving for carbohydrate rich foods or “comfort” foods.   Once you satisfy that craving with some type of carbohydrate (healthy or not-so-healthy) you feel better because your serotonin levels increase. The problem is that it is a short-term solution.  Once your body utilizes these foods, you feel just like you did a few hours earlier – tired, lazy & blah scavenging for junk food.

Deprivation leads to overindulgence so enjoy your favorite decadent comfort foods on occasion but be conscious of portion sizes. Planning, preparation and education are the key to preparing better-for-you comfort foods. Cooking should be uncomplicated, enjoyable and make you feel good doing it. Take the time to try out these and more delicious recipes here on the site. Treat yourself to good healthand goodfood ~ doneright™!  Enjoy!

Please share your favorite comfort food ideas, recipes, stories, cooking tips and nutrition nuggets HERE  🙂

Chicken & Dumplings

Spaghetti Squash Hash Browns

Hearty Mac-n-Cheese

Turkey Chili

Mouthwatering Meatloaf

Baked Apples

Peppermint Bark

Beef Stew

Chicken Chile Rellenos