It’s 10pm on Friday night after a shocking week at work. You’re slouched on the couch with a tub of double chocolate chip ice-cream. The sugar/fat hit will pick you up for now, but will you still love yourself in the morning? Shouldn’t you choose something “sensible”, like celery sticks or lentil soup, instead?
Jay Rogers, cook and creator of recipe blog Moodie Foodie ([http://www.moodie foodie.com.au|www.moodie foodie.com.au|target=_blank]), says no. “If you don’t eat what you really feel like, you’re going to keep eating until you do,” she points out. “That means eating a make-do chicken salad and then also the lasagne you initially wanted because you still don’t feel satisfied afterwards. Emotional eating isn’t bad – it’s just emotional. And if you listen to your food mood and make good choices, you’ll be happy inside and out.”
In fact, comfort eating can physiologically improve mood. In 2011, Belgian researchers found that fatty acids significantly alter the brain’s response to sadness. A 2005 Canadian study showed that sugary and fatty foods help alleviate negative feelings (while low-kilojoule foods boost positive ones).
Is there a way to comfort eat and not regret it afterwards? Yes, insists Rogers. Just be smart, without losing the enjoyment. Here are some of her delicious recipes that contain the right mix of naughty, nice and mood-boosting...
If You're Stressed...
SWAP fatty lasagne for this soothing, filling pie.
Why? “Carbohydrates [like those in potatoes] stimulate the release of serotonin in the brain, which not only makes us happy, but also soothes frayed nerves,” notes Rogers. And the salmon? A 2003 study showed that omega-3 fatty acids help control stress hormones†, while research from the University of Pittsburgh in the US found that those with high levels of omega-3s have more emotion control in their brain.
Creamy salmon, potato & leek pie
3 large potatoes, peeled and diced
150g baby spinach
Olive oil spray for greasing
2 leeks, pale section only, sliced down middle, washed and thinly sliced
Zest of ½ lemon
400g can light evaporated milk
¼ cup chicken stock
Pinch of white pepper
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
850g skinless salmon fillets, sliced
1 teaspoon capers, roughly chopped
¼ cup light cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 220°C. Cook potato in a saucepan of salted boiling water for 10 minutes or until soft, but not mushy. Steam spinach in a vegetable steamer or colander above the boiling potatoes for about one minute. Remove and when cool enough to handle, gently squeeze moisture from spinach, then set aside. Drain potato then mash. Next, lightly spray a deep-sided frypan with oil and place over a low–medium heat. Add leeks and a pinch of sea salt and cook, stirring regularly, for 10 minutes, or until leeks are tender. Add lemon zest, 250ml light evaporated milk and chicken stock. Stir to combine and bring the mix to a gentle simmer. Remove from heat and season with sea salt and white pepper. Add remaining light evaporated milk along with nutmeg, a pinch of sea salt and ground black pepper, and stir through. Lightly spray an ovenproof dish with oil, add salmon, spinach and capers and pour over creamy leek sauce. Top with mashed potato and sprinkle with cheese. Place in the oven for 25 minutes, or until potato is golden. Serve with a green salad.
If You're Sad...
SWAP a decadent chocolate dessert for an uplifting mocha yoghurt ice-cream.
Why? This option’s lower in fat, contains live cultures, which are beneficial for digestive health, and doesn’t contain preservatives or colourings.
“High-quality cocoa contains phenylethylamine, which makes your brain release feel-good endorphins – similar to how you feel when you fall in love,” explains nutritionist Michele Chevalley Hedge.
Mocha Yoghurt ice-cream
¼ cup strong espresso
½ cup caster sugar
2 tablespoons Dutch cocoa
750g low-fat Greek yoghurt
Place espresso and sugar in a small saucepan and gently bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 4 minutes, until sugar dissolves. Set aside and allow to cool. Combine with cocoa and yoghurt, and place in ice-cream maker, and prepare as per the machine’s instructions. If you don’t have an ice-cream maker, place ingredients in an airtight container in the freezer for 2 hours. Remove container from the freezer and place yoghurt mixture in a food processor. Process until smooth, then return mix to the container and freeze for another hour or until set.
If You're Frazzled...
SWAP two slices of frozen pizza for this galvanising gourmet delight.
Why? “There are lots of essential nutrients [in this pizza], minimal processed ingredients, and it’s quick and easy to prepare,” says naturopath Russell Herron. Walnuts are also high in energy-boosting protein to help you get through your to-do list, and loaded with omega-3 oils, which
help mental clarity, he adds.
Pear, walnut & rocket pizza
1 small ripe pear, cored and finely sliced
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
¼ teaspoon sesame oil
Pinch of allspice
1 small wholemeal pita bread
Olive oil spray
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
2 cherry bocconcini, sliced
1½ teaspoons walnuts
Handful rocket leaves
Preheat oven to 200°C. Mix pear with balsamic vinegar, sesame oil and allspice until well coated. Lightly spray pizza base with oil and add half the parmesan and cherry bocconcini. Arrange pear slices over, add remaining cheese and sprinkle with walnuts. Bake for 12–15 minutes until base is crispy, cheese has melted and nuts are golden. Remove from oven and top with rocket.
If You're Hungover...
SWAP a cheese burger and french fries for a turkey burger with oven-baked chips.
Why? “Turkey has high levels of the amino acid tryptophan, which converts to feel-good chemical serotonin, especially when combined with vitamin B [in the bun],” says nutritionist Chevalley Hedge. “Turkey also helps re-establish blood sugar levels with its high protein component, which is what you need the day after drinking because alcohol breaks down into sugar and can create blood sugar swings,” she adds.
Turkey burger & baked chips
4–5 desiree or sebago potatoes, washed, dried and skin left on
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon sea salt
500g turkey mince
1 egg, lightly beaten
¼ cup teriyaki sauce
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Olive oil spray
6 wholegrain bread rolls
1 tomato, sliced
1 cucumber peeled into long, thin strips
Handful lettuce leaves
Preheat oven to 200°C. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper. Cut potatoes into chips and place in a bowl with oil, thyme and salt. Toss and divide chips between trays and bake for 45–50 minutes, turning occasionally. Mix together mince, egg, sauce, onion, garlic, sesame oil, breadcrumbs and season with ground black pepper. With wet hands, form into 6 patties about 1½cm thick. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Heat a frypan over a medium heat, spray each patty with oil and cook for 3 minutes on each side. Allow to rest, then spritz with lemon juice. Spray each bun with oil, and add patty and salad. Serve with chips.