When you think of comfort food what comes to mind? A big bowl of mac and cheese with extra cheese? Chicken and dumplings? Warm apple pie with ice cream? According to Webster’s Dictionary, the term comfort food refers to “foods consumed to achieve some level of improved emotional status, whether to relieve negative psychological affect or to increase positive.” You may feel really good while you’re feasting on that fried chicken, but how do you feel an hour later? Probably not so happy anymore and maybe even a little guilty.
Turning to foods to make you happy definitely isn’t the way to go. Instead you should really do something else that you enjoy. BUT if you really are craving some feel good foods, at least consider these options instead of the traditional “comfort foods.” The following choices are healthier foods to incorporate into your daily diet that can boost your mood, bring you more energy, reduce your stress level and even make your smile brighter.
- Salmon for happiness and healthy gums
Salmon contains healthy fats (omega-3s) that improve mood. These healthy fats also reduce the risk of gum disease if you eat them on a regular basis.
- Uplifting avocado
Avocados contain the neurotransmitter serotonin, a well-known contributor to feelings of happiness.
- Raisins for a sweet smile
Raisins are naturally sweet if you’re craving a treat. And researchers have found that the antioxidants that they contain helps slow the growth of bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease.
- Green Tea for stress relief and fresh breath
The antioxidants in green tea have been linked with relaxation and also destroy bacteria that cause bad breath and tooth decay.
- Beat depression and safeguard your mouth with yogurt
Probiotics in yogurt have been shown to help with depression. They also reduce inflammation of the mouth, lowering your risk of gum disease and oral cancer.
- Popcorn for a whole-grain mood boost
If you have carb cravings think about snacking on some popcorn instead. When you eat carbs in increases the levels of serotonin in your body (the feel-good chemical). So for the same effect of the pasta, break or sugary treat you were craving, have some whole-grain low-calorie popcorn.
Try these recipes for your new comfort foods!
Salmon Salad with Curried Egg
1 7.5-ounce can salmon
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon zest (1 lemon)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons minced shallot
freshly ground pepper
4 hardboiled eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
sprouts for serving
- Mix salmon and olive oil together. Stir in 1 teaspoon lemon zest, lemon juice, shallot and pepper. Spread onto sliced vegetables, endive leaves, rice crackers or spoon on top of a bed of mixed greens.
- Peel and slice the eggs and place a few slices on top of your salmon. Mix sea salt with the curry powder and sprinkle on top of the egg. Sprinkle the remaining lemon zest over the dish and top with sprouts.
Avocado Mango Smoothie
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons milk of your choice
ice to desired consistency
- Combine all ingredients in blender and puree to desired consistency.
Almonds, Ricotta and Raisins
1 tablespoon almonds
1/4 cup ricotta
1 tablespoon raisins
- Mix all ingredients together.
Green Tea with Lemon and Pomegranate
1 green tea bag
1 cup boiling water
1 thin sliced smashed ginger
1 lemon wedge
2 tablespoons lightly crushed pomegranate seeds
- Cover tea bags with boiling water, ginger, lemon wedges, pomegranate seeds and honey. Let steep for 2 to 5 minutes.
Pineapple Red Quinoa Yogurt Parfait
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
6 ounces plain Greek yogurt
1 cup fresh pineapple, cut into chunks
1/2 cup cooked red quinoa, chilled
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
- Fold cinnamon into yogurt. In a dish, alternately layer pineapple, quinoa and yogurt; garnish with almonds and serve.
Sweet and Salty Popcorn
extra-virgin olive oil or coconut oil
a handful of raisins
salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
- Cook popcorn on the stove. (1 tablespoon of oil per 1/4 cup of kernels in a large pan. Heat oil over medium heat, add a few kernels. When those kernels pop add the 1/4 cup and cook, shaking pan occasionally until popping slows, about 6 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 1 minute, covered)
- Toss the warm popcorn with the raisins, salt and pepper.