There are times when relaxing is required, like during the first couple weekends of a new semester. For most of us, relaxation aligns with our favorite comfort foods. Maybe it is not as difficult today as it was a few years ago for people to find healthy alternatives for their favorite snacks, such as low sodium, sugar-free or even vegetable substitutes. There are many different kinds of comfort foods people love. From baked macaroni and cheese with bacon bits to fresh vegetables, there are snacks that can be considered comfort foods when an itch of stress needs to be scratched. Comfort food is food that provides consolation or a feeling of happiness. Each of us has our own unique go-to comfort food.
For me, I love sweet and salty comfort foods. Even though I love a gooey macaroni and cheese, I find that most of my comfort foods are ones I can gnaw on continuously with ease and little mess. Popcorn with extra butter and salt is delicious. I typically have air-popped or stove-popped popcorn on special occasions, although I would like to more often, but it takes more effort than using the microwave. I usually pop about two or three bags of popcorn and settle into my sofa to watch my favorite movies or read a book. I think the fluffiness of popcorn and its ability to hold flavor makes it a special snack for me when times get tough. I am notorious for popping my own bowl of popcorn separate from others because I enjoy tons of melted butter.
Another comfort food of mine is dark chocolate. When I say dark I mean 85 percent cacao or higher. The darker it is, the better it tastes. I only get one bar at a time, but I am always willing to spend up to $5 per bar if I know it is worth it. I love to break off a square every once in a while when I need to take a moment to gather my thoughts between homework loads. I prefer to savor the chocolate pieces so the one chocolate bar lasts longer than a box of candy. I enjoy the bittersweet taste that lingers in my mouth, and every once in a while I will get a bar with coconut flakes, coffee or sea salt.
My favorite comfort food I save for last and only eat in dire circumstances, usually around finals or after a double shift at work, are salt and vinegar potato chips. There are many different kinds of potato chips, and kettle-cooked are the best. I prefer salt and vinegar because I love a kick and dislike bland potato chips. I have tried over five different brands of kettle-cooked potato chips and I found my favorite one, only to never return to regular, thin chips. In addition to salt and vinegar chips, potatoes make up so many of my favorite foods, like mashed potatoes, hash browns and tater tots just to name a few. Plus, I was raised in a “meat and potato” kind of family where almost every meal had potatoes and meat in one form or another.
A new semester with a new class schedule and routine always encourages me to take a breather and relax when I have a couple hours. Yes, I have a dark chocolate bar on my desk next to my stack of textbooks, a backup supply of my favorite potato chips and popcorn stashed away. It’s perfectly normal to have a few comfort foods, healthy or not, ready just in case. As long as you have an awareness of moderation and regular eating habits, having a comfort food every once in a while is a must.