It’s Monday, 7:30 a.m., your alarm rings every few minutes tugging you out of bed. It’s a work day and you’ve got to sign in before 8:30. You engage into an arduous battle of snoozing of the alarm you’ve set every five minutes. It’s always hard to wake up in the morning.
You wake up cursing yourself why you stayed up late last night and why did you have to put your alarm on repeat for every five freakin’ minutes. You brew yourself a cup of coffee to put you out of the sleepy spell, change on some collared top, open your laptop, sign in on your first ZOOM meeting of the day and the week.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lifestyle shifting 180 degrees. Work is no longer done in offices where people communicate their fair share of the stress and the laughters. Many stories rolling in the internet have told of blurred lines of personal life and work which have brought people added stress and anxiety on top of the usual exhaustion from an 8 hour work shift. Emails come in at 2am because there’s nowhere left to go then people should be available, right? People struggle with the change in pace and method — suddenly everyone is forced into the virtual world because this is where we’re going to live for who knows until when.
The worst part isn’t even that yet. It’s the lack of social interaction. Being a homebody as a choice is fun but being a homebody because you’re locked down? Not so much and even introverts agree on that. We are used to ease out the stress by dining out and relaxing with friends, partying and drinking but now those choices aren’t available. They’ve been ticked off the list and we reach out for the next best thing: order in our comfort food, rest on the couch, netflix and chill.
What is Comfort Food?
Comfort foods are food that provide us a feeling of “everything’s right in the world” rooted from either a nostalgic or sentimental value. It is usually characterized as a high carbohydrate, high calorie diet and can be easily prepared. Psychological studies have shown that consuming this kind of diet triggers the reward system of the brain and gives us that temporary “high” — that sense of distinct pleasure and relaxation hitting us at the same time.
There were a lot of studies involved in deciphering the best comfort foods. Some argue it’s the classic chicken soup while some say it’s pizza. In a recent study by TreadmillReviews.net of 2,226 people across 50 states, pizza came out as the champion. Some trivia even said that in America, 350 slices of pizza are consumed every second!
Nevertheless, we’ve rounded up ten comfort foods that we’ll surely all agree on: Donuts, Fried Chicken, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Mashed Potatoes, Mac & Cheese, French Fries, Ice Cream, Pizza, Chocolate, and Grilled Cheese. (Everything sounds so yummy right now, I’m craving it!!!)
Is Comfort Food Healthy?
But this “high” of course comes in with a consequence. Comfort foods are usually unhealthy and in this state of the world, if you find yourself reaching out for it more times than you should, it could become an unhealthy habit and that is the last thing we want especially with what is happening now.
But how do you enjoy your classic comfort foods and prevent that bit about being totally unhealthy? Well, good for us in the 21st century, there have been numerous innovations to food as people shift towards the healthier lifestyle.
So here is how we can transform our favorites into healthy bits of snacks and meals. (Since we are transforming common unhealthy comfort foods into healthy snacks and meals, expect that there would be more time invested in the kitchen because we’re trying to refrain from store-bought. Fair warning!)
Ditch the deep-fried flour dough with a hole (well, usually) splashed with sugary confections on top. Instead, indulge into the new world of healthy donuts without the extra sugar! Here are some flavors you might want to explore:
- Coconut and Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread Doughnuts – As the name suggests, what makes this flavor super healthy is the presence of mashed bananas (rich in potassium) and coconut flour. This one is a fibre-rich doughnut where you can add in dark chocolate chunks (emphasis on the dark because this is the healthiest type of chocolate) and honey to add sweetness. You can also opt to throw in some almond and vanilla extract to add some more flavor.
- Paleo Donuts with Cashew Cinnamon Glaze – This recipe banks its healthiness on its dairy-free and gluten-free composition. Not only that, this nut-based doughnut mixes almond meal, coconut oil, and apple cider vinegar for a healthy flavor. You can also top it some with pecan and chocolate to add more sweetness and flavor.
Of course, if I might dare say: Chicken is life – crispy fried, fillet, or nuggets. Fried Chicken is definitely one of the classics when it comes to comfort food. Admit it, you’ve gotten yourself a bucket of chicken to ease all your worries and burdens. To make it healthier so that we can indulge in a little bit more, we can try these two recipes:
- Light Chicken Parmesan – This recipe by Martha Stewart is a light healthy mix of the usual chicken with its whole wheat breadcrumbs alternative for the white while the egg whote acts as replacement for a whole one. Adding in mozzarella and parmesan into the dish will surely make it more appetizing.
- Baked Chicken – If we’re looking for something with fewer steps, enjoy some baked chicken. All you have to do is put the chicken parts on a baking pan, rub some olive oil, and put in some vegetables you’d like. Bake it until brown and you’re in for a healthy treat!
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Best served with milk or coffee at any given time of the day, chocolate chip cookies are the best way to indulge your sweet tooth. These are staple comfort foods that can get you through anything bad in the world. You can explore a healthier type of sweets with these two:
- Greek Yogurt Blueberry Pancakes – Blueberries which are rich in antioxidants partnered with some Greek yogurt (plain, 0% fat) surely put the healthy into the recipe. You can play with this recipe by adding more ingredients just like… chocolate chips or chunks to recreate the whole choco chip cookie vibe!
- Healthy Oatmeal Cookies – Baked goods are now getting tweaked in many recipes using equal parts of whole wheat and all purpose flour which gives you that healthy feeling without losing any of the flavor or texture of an ol’ classic cookie.
Mashed potatoes when done right is one of the best snacks to temporarily give you happiness but with the extra carbs. You can still enjoy this by making this instead:
- Shepherd’s Pie with Healthier Mashed Potatoes – This recipe makes use of low carb cauliflower as an alternative to potatoes which can fool even the master of potatoes by adding in the shepherd’s pie filling. If you are not into going full blown healthy, you can try and get a mix so you still get some cauliflower nutrients.
Mac and Cheese
Who doesn’t love some mac and cheese? Raise your hand and you’re out. Just kidding! I think everyone enjoys this treat be it kids or adults alike. Since we always want this on our menu, we can switch up to something healthier like:
- “Healthified” Mac and Cheese – I know, the recipe title is genius. It’s not like we are just doing it for show but for the healthified version, we can try and swap the butter for some yogurt or cheese and then throw in a few vegetables like cauliflower or carrots.
The staple take out order along with some burgers, fries definitely complete the meal. But of course if we’re consuming this everyday, we will definitely end up in some hospital so why don’t we switch it up a bit?
- Baked Fish and Chips – If you’re looking for a healthy snack imitating fries, then this is your best bet. This is a healthier version of your salted fries from the fast food down the street. Adding in some baked fish also adds some additional flavor and texture to your snacks.
- Baked Garlic Fries – The main difference between this and your fries is that it’s baked not deep-fried so you’re not using oil.
This is a tough one since no one can really say no to ice cream. If you’re choosing for a healthier version of this, go for a low-calorie and high protein. Although if you really want to refrain from ice cream, stick with yogurt instead. It does not really have the same feeling but yogurts are as yummy as well!
Oh yes, good old pizza. An alternative to any meal especially if you’re too lazy to cook for yourself. Pizzas are easy to tweak into healthier versions.
- Kale Pesto Pizza – This is converging the taste of healthy pesto into pizza which is a good change in pace with the hawaiian and meaty pizzas we always have! You can also add in some cheese for contrasting flavors. If you don’t have any pizza dough available, you can also use tortilla.
Just go dark and you’ll be fine but everything in moderation. If you want a bit of variety you can try the low fat chocolate pudding using fat-free milk, semi-sweet chocolate, and unsweetened cocoa!
For me, I actually don’t have any qualms on grilled cheese so… GO GET YOUR FIX!!! Grilled cheese is heaven so don’t let anyone deny you of this really good snack.
Life is more happy with a healthy snack of your comfort food. Taking care of your health does not mean you have to sacrifice the goodness of life!