By Zoya Gervis // SWNS
In 2020 – the year of quarantining and social distancing – many of us have chosen to eat like a kid again, according to new research.
A poll of 2,000 Americans found that two in three are reverting to childhood food favorites — comfort food. That includes an uptick in such favorites as pizza (55%), hamburgers (48%), ice cream (46%), French fries (45%), mac & cheese (38%), spaghetti & meatballs (32%) and others.
Comfort food has made perhaps the biggest comeback of all time.
In times of uncertainty and stress, it’s no secret we’ve all sought solace in food.
Cooking, sharing, experimenting and reviving old family or classic recipes have brought small joys to our lives and extended time at home.
The study, conducted by OnePoll in conjunction with Farm Rich, looks at the eating habits of Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic and discovered that the average person found themselves enjoying comfort meals at least five times a week.
But they aren’t just indulging in comfort meals. Turns out, the average American enjoys comfort snacking much more while being stuck at home (six times a week).
So naturally, respondents (85%) reveal they’ve also gained a few pounds. An extra six pounds on average to be exact.
Millennials are spending more money on these feel-good food items during lockdown — averaging nearly $71 a week. And it’s no surprise that America is cooking more…a lot more. Roughly 30 more minutes are spent each day cooking in the kitchen compared to the same time last year.
When it comes to cravings, age plays a factor, with 75% of those between the ages of 26 and 56 gravitating toward comfort food more this year than last. In the 18-25 age bracket, that number was 54%, while 57% of those ages 57+ reported an increase.
When asked what they’d rather give up for a year, 67% would rather give up alcohol instead of their favorite comfort food dish, and 67% would also give up social media over having to be without their go-to indulgent dish for a year.
And respondents are sure showing off their crave-worthy plates on social media.
Nearly half (49%) of those aged 26-41 have posted a picture of a meal on social media while in lockdown, with men sharing two times as much as women. Almost everyone is turning to the web and social media for food inspiration with all this time at home – over 90% say their online and social searches for food inspiration have increased during the pandemic.
More time at home also means more time spent around the family dinner table. Two-thirds of respondents reveal they’ve been spending more time eating meals together around the kitchen or dining room table since March.
And it’s been a welcome change. Seven in 10 respondents say they’ll genuinely miss all the time they got to spend around the family table once the pandemic is over and things get back to normal.
“When things are uneasy, it’s the little joys that get us through, whether that’s FaceTiming with friends or stronger family bonds made over homecooked meals,” says Ciera Womack, Farm Rich Senior Marketing Manager. “And as these responses show, sometimes it’s seeking comfort in certain foods to provide us more relief.”
According to the poll, 41% say they reach for comfort foods because they bring them happiness while a further 39% say these types of foods provide them with something to look forward to in these uncertain times, and 33% say that it offers ‘stress relief’.
Three in four say comforting foods made a positive impact on their lives in 2020 and during the pandemic as they spent more time at home. Most don’t plan on that changing: 69% stated they would continue to enjoy the same amount of comfort food that they are now, post-pandemic.
Americans hold such a special place for comfort foods and nostalgic childhood dishes that they would even name their kid after their favorite for a lifetime supply of it. Thirty-five percent would name their kid ‘Pizza’ for a lifetime supply of it, 28% would name their kid ‘Mozz Stick’ and 27% ‘Ice Cream’.
When asked about what makes meals or snacks comforting, 47% associate these foods with great taste, while 36% say foods that enhance one’s mood or make them feel better are what makes something a ‘comfort food’. And 34% associate comfort food with indulgence.
No matter the day — whether stressful or happy — 38% find themselves reaching for indulgent food as a reward or treat.
As more restaurants open back up for business, the comfort food meal everyone is most looking forward to enjoying at these establishments is STEAK (top spot at 30%), followed closely by burgers (27%) and pizza (26%).
“Food is a common denominator in what gives us comfort during these stressful times, and this survey shows the positive impact comfort food is having in our lives right now,” Womack adds.
TOP 15 MOST DEVOURED COMFORT FOODS OF 2020
Ice cream 46%
French fries 45%
Mac & cheese 39%
Potato Chips 39%
Fried Chicken 34%
Spaghetti & Meatballs 32%
Mashed Potatoes 32%
TOP 5 REASONS AMERICANS REACH FOR COMFORT FOOD
Tastes good 48%
Brings happiness 41%
Something to look forward to 39%
Sense of comfort in uncertain times 38%
TOP 5 COMPONENTS OF COMFORT FOOD
Great taste 47%
Food used to enhance mood/feel better 36%
Simple preparation 31%
TOP 10 COMFORT FOOD SNACKS
French fries 38%
Mozzarella sticks 31%
Chicken nuggets 27%
Peanut butter 26%