Due to life getting a little busier of late I haven’t written a blog post in a while. I have also been enjoying my comfort foods and experimenting a lot with different recipes. This might conjure up images of me being unhappy, sitting around getting fat eating lots of sugary food. There was a time that image of me were true but not now. Nowadays I can enjoy comfort foods guilt free and with no negative impact on my health.
This comes from no place of research besides life experience but it seems a lot of people are fighting a battle with food. In my previous life, comfort food was a source of immediate pleasure to then feel bad about after. I used to love white toast smothered in margarine and honey or nutella. Or pain au chocolat, doughnuts – I could eat a lot of doughnuts! Flapjack, yum yums – mmmm! Or any number of chocolate treats…. Sometimes I just ate a lot of (as in multiple bowls of) crunchy nut cornflakes or fruit or knocked back a full bottle of fresh apple juice, not unhealthy right?
I am sure people reading this can relate to using food as a comfort for a whole host of reasons in a whole host of ways. From childhood we are taught food is a comfort. We are given ice cream or chocolate to help stop us crying or from being bored. We form a connection between food and ‘feeling better’ and as adults we continue this pattern of behaviour. However, just like with children, the poor food choice ultimately ends up making you feel worse, getting headaches, grumpy, easily angry, putting on weight, crashing after the sugar high. Sugary foods and foods containing wheat do not leave us feeling satisfied so we are left feeling full but wanting more. Sugar and wheat are both highly addictive (as are some chemicals that are now used in food flavourings) so combined with the lack of satiety the situation becomes much worse. The comfort and pleasure we should feel from food is outweighed by all the negative aspects of our food choices.
After several years of eating ‘clean’ I have established a much healthier relationship with food. Yet I still see food as a source of comfort and when I am feeling stressed/hormonal/in need of pick me up, I crave my old comfort food favourites. So do I try and fight 35+ years (in my case) of an association between food and comfort? No, I am all for an easy life! It is far easier to change the foods than to change the learned association. You see real food versions of the modern world comfort foods can be both nourishing AND a great comfort.
So what does a comfort food look like for me now?
- Homemade chocolate using real cocoa butter or coconut oil and cocoa and a small amount of natural sweetener.
- Sprouted oat flapjack using real butter, nuts and honey/banana/prunes or dates to sweeten it rather than sugar and syrup.
- Chocolate pots from avocado and real cocoa.
- Almond cake with almonds, eggs, coconut oil, lemon and apricots.
- Tigernut flour raw cookie dough balls….!
- If I fancy crisps I buy a pack of potato crisps cooked in coconut oil.
- If I just want chocolate quickly I eat Green & Blacks 70% or 85% chocolate.
- I might just eat a spoonful of almond/macademia/brazil nut butter straight from the jar…
- I sometimes still have a piece of toast but it is ABO bread smothered with unpasteurised butter from grass fed cows and some raw honey or homemade pate or raw cheese…
- I enjoy seasonal fruit (but not juiced), usually berries with a big dollop of double raw cream on the side.
- I make my own nuttola (paleo granola) so I can still have a bowl of ‘cereal’ when I want something quick.
- I like raw milk warmed up with a teaspoon of honey or macca powder or tumeric and ginger or cocoa as a nighttime drink
- Green banana flour pancakes with berries and organic maple syrup
Over time I have managed to set a new standard of what a comfort food is to me. It is of a high quality source (organic or grass fed for example) and contains healthy fats, some carbs and some protein. However just as importantly, it contains no chemicals, no processed sugar, no soy, no vegetable oil and no wheat/gluten.
These options still provide that immediate source of comfort but I do not get a nasty kickback later. They do not disrupt my blood sugar, the healthy fats mean I feel full and satisfied and it is impossible to overeat (healthy fats trigger our satiety). I don’t feel guilty/sick/headachey or experience weight gain.
It helps that I no longer have unhealthful foods in my house. I make sure I am fully stocked with the ingredients I need to prepare a healthful meal or treat. I plan ahead and have some comfort foods ready so I am not ever tempted to reach for that sickly store bought flapjack ever again! I no longer fuel a vicious cycle of stress/moods and eating foods that made those triggers worse. I now pour true love and comfort into my body through what I eat. I feel comforted not just in the moment I eat the food but the time I put in preparing it and the hours afterward, knowing it has actually done me some good (and at the same time avoided doing a lot of bad!). I cannot imagine my life without the pleasure I get from food. So I don’t fight it, I eat mood lifting foods guilt free and take comfort in the food AND the fact I am doing my body a service – win win!
I wrote this article in the hope that it will help someone reevaluate their relationship with food and plant a seed of belief that change is possible. I also hope it reaches parents who could look to use some of these healthier snacks/treats with their children. Please email me firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to learn more about how I can help you to establish a more healthful relationship with food.