Family time, Food Facts & Lore

America’s Top 5 Comfort Foods

A simple question was the premise for this late January exploration: Do our comfort food preferences change with the seasons?

This is by no means a scientific analysis. We gathered our data by reading various articles, from Reader’s Digest to foodies’ blogs to the food segment of various national newspapers, and went with a gut feeling from there, as patterns became evident. The initial consensus would be that our favorite comfort foods remain constant throughout the year. A good New England snowstorm or uncommonly tropical summer day does not seem to sway our craving for the foods that sooth body and soul.

But, if we split preferences in three distinct groups – children, men and women – we find that while the same foods are time-honored regardless of age and gender, preferences are re-ordered. See if this resonates with you and your children. By the way, boys and girls seem more agreeable on their top soul-foods than adults. Their top-5 lists are almost always identical.

Pizza stands in a league of its own as it implies the possibility of take-out. This, if we’re going to look at it from a psychological point of view, provides the perfect escape, a welcome break from routine, a feeling of reward and freedom. As for the why behind our tendency to relate to certain foods with greater emotion, behavioral research suggests that there is more to it than the production of “feel good” hormones.

The rituals surrounding these foods play a significant role, even before the first bite. For most of us, all of them, almost without fail, are associated with the memory of a caring adult (the one who takes the time to make that spaghetti, for instance) or a sense of personal freedom (tonight we allow a hearty grilled cheese and chips). Pizza stands out as a the “sweet escape and no dishes” take-out option. Spaghetti is at the other end of that spectrum as an affordable twist on a classy restaurant dish.

Here then, are America’s top 5, all-seasons, favorite comfort foods in general terms, then split between men, women and children.

America’s top 5 comfort foods

  1. Pizza
  2. Grilled Cheese Sandwich
  3. Mac & Cheese
  4. Burgers
  5. Spaghetti & Meatballs

Men’s top 5 comfort foods

  1. Pizza
  2. Burgers
  3. Spaghetti & Meatballs
  4. Grilled Cheese Sandwich
  5. Mac & Cheese

Women’s top 5 comfort foods

  1. Mac & Cheese
  2. Pizza
  3. Grilled Cheese Sandwich
  4. Spaghetti & Meatballs
  5. Burgers

Children’s top 5 comfort foods

  1. Pizza
  2. Mac & Cheese
  3. Grilled Cheese Sandwich
  4. Spaghetti & Meatballs
  5. Burgers (but first, hot dogs)