Ok, I admit it. I have a small beef with “comfort food.” I am not talking about real comforting, nourishing foods. I am talking about the junk food that we have grown to label “comfort food.” Don’t think that emotions don’t play into this as well. Let’s look at some qualities of what most of us have come to think of as comfort food. Soft, mushy, usually warm (except ice cream), starchy, fatty, etc. Basically heavy, easily digestible, high-calorie fare. Is that the whole story though? More and more I begin to think there is a whole other side to this issue. Are we simply eating for nourishment or is it more as a buffer? What about the emotional side? When did we eat comfort food? Birthdays. Christmas. Thanksgiving. Hopefully happy times right? Cake, pies, cheesy potatoes, cookies, meatloaf, etc. It is pretty hard to take a break right? Let’s look at some traditional “nourishing foods” that serve the same purpose in the body.
FATS: Raw butter, raw or lightly cooked egg yolks, coconuts/oil, olives/oil, animal fats, raw nuts, bone marrow. These fats have been used for thousands of years. They are rich. They taste great. They nourish the body.
CARBS: Carbs are many people’s favorite “comfort foods.” At least we like to think that is the case most of the time. Is it really the carbs though? Or is the “gunky stuff.” The breads, the pasta, the cereals, lasagna, fried rice, etc. Ask yourself which it is? Nature has provided us with plenty of carbohydrates to choose from. Root vegetables are particularly useful. Parsnips, rutabagas, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc. Fruit can also be great. I am not one for “whole grains” but unprocessed and properly prepared grains are a hell of a lot better than the processed stuff.
PROTEINS: Protein is often included in comfort food as well. Favorites may include burgers with fries, fried chicken wings, meats on pizzas, cheese, fried steaks, and ribs. I can’t lie; ribs are pretty damn TASTY. So what are some good proteins? Lightly cooked animal proteins would include egg whites, wild caught fish, and free range poultry and ruminant animals. Healthy cooking options include crock-pots, baking, steaming, etc. Frying or high-heat grilling is not recommended.
Now that we have taken a look at things, I will ask the question again. Do we like the nourishment or do we use these things as a buffer? I will tell people to eat as much REAL FOOD as they want. Let’s compare a few nourishing meals versus fake food comfort.
PROCESSED COMFORT: Most of us don’t have to think too hard on this one. Pizzas, pastas, anything with pasteurized dairy, burgers with fries, cakes, donuts, cereals, pastries, latte’s, anything fried, etc.
NOURISHING COMFORT: Most of us have not been introduced to these foods in the modern world. Steamed sweet potatoes and broccoli with coconut oil. Parsnips and peas with raw butter. Lightly cooked eggs and avocado omelet with veggies. Crock-pot meals with chicken or lamb mixed with vegetables and olive oil as a topping. There are plenty of healthy treats as well.
So there you have it. Give yourself a test. Is it the calories and nourishment you are after? Or does “comfort food” serve some other function in your life? Looking at what types of comfort food it is hard to give up can tell you a lot about your internal state. Do you crave fried fats and foods? Or maybe for you it is the sugar. What are you buffering against? It is great to reminisce about high school or times in childhood but we need to learn to separate the “good times” from the food that is associated with it. After eating real food for a while, most cravings usually start disappearing if they are related to true nourishment. Our modern culture has skewed what food we think we need to function. So having said that, COMFORT FOOD MY ASS.