Why it’s time to stop feeling guilty about eating comfort foods

While I don’t feel that the term guilt ever belongs anywhere in a discussion about food, I also know that many people feel badly when they opt for foods that are less than nutritious.

It’s time to stop.

While healthy eating is definitely about choosing foods with top notch nutrition, it’s also about pleasure. Though delicious tasting fare can certainly be pleasurable, there’s more to what food can provide.

It can be good for the soul. Tastes and aromas can evoke memories and offer comfort, something especially important during this strange year of 2020.

For me, this time of year, Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year and High Holidays, is all about tradition. It’s about making and eating traditional foods and while it can make me sad thinking about family members who are no longer with us and also being unable to celebrate, as we usually do with all my family, those foods do have a special place.

This year, as one of my daughters and I made kreplach – a meat-filled dough somewhat like ravioli or wontons that we put into chicken soup- we reminisced about my late mother who made them for many decades – never using a recipe as she always knew how the dough should feel. She was the centre of our conversation as we worked filling each square of dough. I remembered how she thought it was bad luck to count them. As we finally got to savour them, holidays past were spoken of.


Sometimes dishes may change slightly as new recipes tempt. As apples and honey are another New Year tradition I made the same apple cake for a decade or more and then one year, I was tempted by a photo on Smitten Kitchen and a new tradition was born.

Here’s my apple cake.


Simple everyday foods can also provide comfort. And when you’re feeling stressed, enjoying selections that bring back memories or choices that simply taste good can actually change your brain chemistry – something we can all use these days. Boosting chemicals in the brain – neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, can make us feel good. (Carbs are especially good at this.)

While it’s not the healthiest for you to depend only on your food choices to bring you pleasure, its soothing effects can certainly be welcome these days.

Being on a strict eating regime, where you deny yourself all your favourites, can actually raise the level of stress hormones in your blood – something that’s not great for your health. It’s not great at anytime but when we’re all under the stress of 2020 and Covid, you don’t need your food choices to add to your stress.

Take the time to consider what foods bring you pleasure. They could be simple ones that you enjoyed as a kid – maybe some KD or a homemade mac and cheese or just a peanut butter and jelly sandwich – or it could be a decadent delight.

Whatever your choice, make room for some pleasure and give yourself a break.

Tags: , , , ,

Categories: Holidays

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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