BYU students turn to comfort food

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Ending a long, stressful day with a bowl of ice cream can make everything better.

Chocolate, cookies, cake and home-cooked meals all bring a sense of comfort, but students choose specific comfort foods based on how they deal with stress, rewards or how they have set up routines.

Shaundra Barney, a secondary education major from Orem, said she believes comfort food is an emotional panacea for her life. Whenever she has had a long day, she turns to chocolate milk.

“It’s kind of emotional,” Barney said. “I know chocolate milk will make me feel better.”

Buddy Valastro
Comfort foods become rewards for studying hard, as students turn to quick snacks for positive reinforcement. (AP Photo)

While some students turn to comfort foods to relieve stress, others choose specific foods because of memories of family.

Alyssa Shirley, a math education major from Orem, said she chooses mac and cheese as her comfort food because of family tradition.

“It was always the meal that I chose for my birthday growing up,” Shirley said. “So if I have had a tough day, I always go to macaroni.”

Paul Turner, a pre-business major from Las Vegas, turns to ice cream to relax after a stressful day, but said that regardless of his day, he usually has a big bowl of ice cream around four times a week.

“Every time I am stressed, I eat ice cream, but not every time (that) I eat ice cream am I stressed,” Turner said.

For some, comfort foods are foods that imitate the comfort given by a friend.

Evan Johnson, an undecided major from Freehold, N.J., said his comfort food acts like a friend.

“Cafe Rio is like one of my best friends,” Johnson said. “I can always go there when I am sad or stressed. If all my friends are busy, I can just go to Cafe Rio.”

College can be difficult, but food, specifically chocolate, is how one student likes to reward herself after a project or test.

Mallory Millett, a human development major from Lindon, said her comfort food is based on positive reinforcement.

“After a test, it’s a reward,” Millett said. “I deserve some chocolate. I don’t get depressed or sad really at all, so I wouldn’t say it’s emotional. When I have accomplished something, that’s when I give myself chocolate.”

Stress and rewards are both reasons that students choose comfort foods, but some students turn to comfort food based on routines.

Kjersten Ness, a neuroscience major from Missoula, Mont., says she eats her comfort food regularly.

“I usually drink hot chocolate three or four times a week,” Ness said. “I usually have one every Sunday because it’s a nice wrap up to the day after ward prayer.”

Cuddling calories

Rickelle Richards, assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food Science, said it’s not abnormal for students to turn to starches and fat for comfort.

“Looking at literature, you see that most people turn to high-calorically dense foods when they are undergoing stress,” Richards said.

Richards also said that turning to comfort food isn’t always a bad choice, but consistently turning to comfort foods could lead to weight gain.

“The occasional, ‘I did a great job, I’m going to have some ice cream or piece of cake,’ that occasional reward is not necessarily a bad thing,” Richards said. “Where we would get concerned, is where what you are adding to your diet as a comfort food is consistently increasing your calories a day, that is higher and above what you are expending through exercise.”

While comfort foods can be a good reward system, Richards warns that too much of a good thing could be a bad thing.

“The other concern I might have is if someone is consuming just their comfort foods, and not balanced diet or other foods, that might indicate that food is becoming a coping mechanism,” Richards said, indicating that food can become a crutch rather than a tool to intake nutrients to feed the body.

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