“Comfort” food may not be nutritious, but it sure is popular

Let’s face it: we love our comfort food here in the South. Perhaps it’s the way we were raised, with many of us just a generation removed from the farm (or not removed at all). In the past, as people worked hard, they consumed a lot of fatty, salty food. Unfortunately, with many of us living a sedentary lifestyle these days, we get too many calories and too little exercise.

You may recall that, a few weeks ago, I wrote about an initiative to highlight locally-grown produce. There are indeed more healthy choices than ever before. But, when that tired and hungry office worker is confronted with the seductive power of a box of cookies at the grocery store, it takes a massive effort of will to opt for the celery stick. As for myself, I have a very demanding sweet tooth, and although getting older makes it more imperative to eat better; it’s a challenge not to err on the side of comfort.

Marketers know what buttons to push when you’re perusing the supermarket aisles. They’ve had decades to learn, have spent untold millions trying to get inside your head, and do a pretty good job of making you – and your kids — want the stuff they’re selling.

Now, there’s proof that comfort foods are on the rise, and those millions are paying off. A company called Instant.ly has developed a research tool that samples consumers quickly after new products hit the shelf, to determine what they call the “Intent to Buy”.

The Instant.ly Shelf Score Index just released their August figures, and – surprise – it was dominated by fatty, salty comfort foods such as Eggo’s new blueberry cobbler waffles.

The rest of the list is interesting, though, and points to some emerging trends, such as the “kit” trend, in which you have all you need to make a meal in one box. But there is some reason to believe people are at least trying to eat healthier; Among the list were a couple of yogurt choices, along with a veggie potato chip brand.

And the deck is just stacked against us. This week, a British restaurant called the Bear Grills Café introduced what’s being called a “monster” breakfast: the 8,000-calorie “Hibernator Challenge”.This humongous meal comes complete with eight sausages, eight slices of bacon, four hash browns, four fried eggs, a four-egg cheese omelette, four waffles, four black puddings, beans, tomatoes, mushroom, fries, four pieces of plain toast and four pieces of fried bread (plus butter). All that is topped with a 32-ounce strawberry milkshake topped off with a giant dollop of whipped cream.

To try it, you’ll need to ante up £19.00 (about $31.00) for a chance to win about $162. One rule: you have to sign a waiver that you won’t sue the restaurant when you go into cardiac arrest. Of course, we have our share of “mega-meals” here in America, too: just about every town has at least one restaurant with its own version of the “we-dare-you-to-eat-everything” challenge. (Remember the “Old 96er” in The Great Outdoors?)

Eating right has always been a challenge for most people, and it’s just not getting any easier.

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