Why do we crave comfort food? For us, it’s mac & cheese, tuna, and peas

In my family we call this comfort food! I have been making this for my daughter since she was a little girl, now when she sees macaroni and cheese without the tuna fish and peas, she just thinks it’s weird!!!

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For me comfort food equates to a giant bowl of noodles in some kind of creamy sauce, it really doesn’t matter what kind. For some it might be something sugary and sweet, I think it would be safe to say that we all have some form of comfort food that we use to make ourselves feel better at times. 
There is an article in Psychology Today that lists five reasons why we crave comfort foods, I’ll just summarize each.
  • 1. It Feels Good Eating food high in fat, sugar or salt activates the brain’s reward system, things like chocolate have a strong effect on mood and can increase pleasant feelings and reduce tension.
  • 2. Self-Medication A phenomenon called “emotional eating”, when some people are in a bad mood they are drawn to foods that are sugary and fatty as a coping mechanism but the downfall is that you may feel worse later on because of guilt associated with eating unhealthy food and it might even last longer than your original “bad mood”.
  • 3. The Need to Belong Some of us may associate certain foods with members of our family and times where we were being taken care such as Thanksgiving and Holidays with the family. When we are feeling lonely we crave these foods for comfort and security.
  • 4. Nostalgic Eating The strong link between smell and emotional memory. You might think of Grandma when you smell cookies baking or the smell of deep-fried corn-dogs might bring back memories of childhood summers at the fair. 
  • 5. Special Occasions We often eat unhealthy foods like cake when celebrating things like Birthdays or eating lots of sugary goodies during the Holidays.

Why do we crave comfort food?


The Summary 

The summary at the end of the article basically said, if you are going to eat comfort foods then try to do it in moderation and if you fall off the horse one day, then get back on the next. I don’t want to speak for everyone but I think that is what a lot of us (including me) try to do every day.

We don’t eat Macaroni and Cheese, Tuna Fish, and Peas every day but when we do I justify it by saying that it includes a carbohydrate, protein, and a vegetable, I don’t think you can go wrong with that combination, right? You can make it as healthy and green as possible by getting the organic mac & cheese, the good solid white albacore tuna that is sustainably caught with a pole and line, that has minimal impact on other marine life and you can buy organic peas from a locally owned farm at the Farmers Market (make sure you used your reusable bag or it doesn’t count). Sorry, just a joke I had to throw in there. 

I have to say I learned a lot about the science of comfort foods, I know I have eaten comfort food for every one of those 5 reasons. What triggers you to go for your comfort foods, I would love to hear in the comments below. Now I need to go find a cookie, I’m craving something sweet. 


My source was Psychology Today, 5 Reasons why we crave comfort foods.


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