What Nutrition Experts Eat for Comfort Food
Every single one of us has a go-to food we indulge in when we’re a bit down or stressed from a long week of work.
For me, it’s a big bowl of ice cream filled with chocolate, clusters of nuts, and some extra peanut butter thrown in for good measure. I’d never admit this to my diet expert pals because, well, it’s not exactly something that should be a part of my daily diet. But, we have to wonder: Do diet experts turn to the same kind of comfort food — or do they always keep it 100 percent clean, even if that means abandoning their favorites?
We asked dietitians to dish about their favorite comfort foods, and the results were as diverse as the experts themselves. Some go all-out, others turn to favorites from their childhoods, and a few embellish healthy ingredients with small amounts of decadent ones such as cheese or chocolate.
8 Registered Dietitians’ Favorite Comfort Foods
“Some of my favorite memories growing up are the days when my mom would put the biggest pot we owned on the stove, start chopping vegetables, and make her tomato sauce. I now work near my parents and I love coming around a corner to see her waiting there with a big cooler bag. I know exactly what’s in there waiting for me.”
—Ann Marion Willis, R.D., Nova Scotia, Canada
“Depending on the season, and what is going on, I have a range of comfort foods. One of my all-time favorites is a bowl of basmati rice topped with Rajma (kidney beans cooked in an Indian spicy sauce). This was a meal that I looked forward to as a child, and whenever I enjoy it now, it brings back fond memories of my Mom. It evokes fond childhood memories of home, childhood, and innocence.”
—Vandana Sheth, R.D., National Media Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
“I love dark chocolate mini Trader Joe’s PB cups, frozen. I love the combination of chocolate and peanut butter, and of sweet and salty. Most would not consider this food to be healthy, but I do believe that all foods can fit in, especially when consumed mindfully. Including some fun foods can help minimize sugar cravings, prevent overeating, and keep you happy.”
—Wendy Sterling, R.D., Owner of Sterling Nutrition
“My favorite comfort food is Indian khichadi or khichari; it’s a simple, porridge-like blend of mung beans and rice with spices. It reminds me of my childhood, school vacation, coming back home from vacations, healing, and my grandmother. She cooked it in a slow-cooker using a traditional stove called chulah.
“It’s a healthy combination for people who are not allergic or sensitive to rice or mung dal. In Ayurveda, it is known for the ability to restore balance and healing. It is an ideal food of choice during times of stress — such as illness, periods of overwork, or change of seasons.”
—Aarti Batavia, M.S., R.D., the Institute for Functional Medicine certified practitioner
“My favorite comfort food is pizza because it tastes so, so good, is satisfying. I believe that all foods can fit into a balanced, healthy lifestyle unless of course someone is allergic to a food.”
—Chrissy Barth, R.D., Live, Breathe Nutrition
“I don’t really have a comfort food! I work really hard to fuel [my body] when I am hungry instead of eating due to boredom, stress, happiness, frustration, sadness, and procrastination. I think being mindful with our eating and being more aware of why, when, and what we eat can help work through emotional eating.”
—Abby Black, R.D., AB Nutrition Solutions
“My comfort food seems to change over time. When I was younger, ice cream was my favorite comfort food for sure and I still enjoy it, but I don’t eat it daily for obvious reasons. Next it was crunchy raisin bran with almond milk. And now it is either homemade chocolate chip granola bars or homemade peanut butter oatmeal bites.
“I wouldn’t say these items are as healthy as a bowl of broccoli but they are not unhealthy. There are many ingredients in both recipes that are beneficial to our bodies. Oats, peanut butter, and chia seeds are all healthy foods. Chocolate and honey have to be eaten in moderation but are fine to be eaten occasionally. Both recipes have a balance of carbs, fat, and some protein, which helps kick cravings and contribute to helping keep me full instead of going back for three helpings.”
—Lauren Schmitt, R.D., Healthy Eating and Training, Inc.
“If I had to pick a food that is comforting, it would be short grain brown rice with salmon and spinach, topped with Parmesan cheese and a small amount of butter. It’s warm, nourishing, and also feels a little indulgent with the cheese and butter. In all honestly, I don’t use food for comfort and, as a registered dietitian, I encourage my clients to turn to non-food activities for comfort.”
—Sarah Mirkin, R.D., C.P.T., Kitchen Coach