Cookies and other 'comfort foods'

Comfort foods may be all the rage these days, but some people still aren't sure how to define them. Think of Mom's home cooking - meatloaf and mashed potatoes, chicken soup, pot roast, or warm and gooey chocolate-chip cookies. They are simple, honest foods with tastes and smells reminiscent of more carefree times, which may account for their spike in popularity within the past few months.

According to researchers at the University of Illinois Food and Brand Lab, who recently conducted a trio of surveys about America's beloved comfort foods, some of this country's favorites are potato chips, ice cream, cookies, and candy. But snack foods bring only so much comfort. Forty percent of comfort foods fall into the category of "homemade and natural," such as soup, main dishes, and vegetables.

Gender affects preferences, the surveys also revealed. Women gravitate toward sweets such as chocolates and cookies, and men toward hot foods such as pizza, pasta, and soup. Both sexes picked ice cream as their No. 1 choice, and said that soup is the one food in the group that "makes you feel good about yourself."

Other findings show that people are more likely to seek out comfort foods when they are feeling jubilant (86 percent) or want to reward themselves (74 percent) than when they're feeling down (52 percent). And when Americans are bored, they are most likely to reach for a bag of potato chips.

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