There's really no debate that food can be a comfort. Whether stressed or depressed, almost everyone has a favorite go-to dish that seems to help make everything all better. Just over half (53%) of Americans indicate they eat more when they're stressed and two-thirds (67%) agree they use their favorite comfort food as a pick-me-up. But there's no shame here. As the ultimate food connoisseur, Julia Child, once said: "Everything in moderation... including moderation." Americans seem to hold a similar viewpoint, as two thirds (66%) indicate they don't feel guilty after indulging in their favorite comfort food.
So which food seems to do the trick? For Americans, pizza lands in the number one spot as the ultimate comfort food.
These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,252 U.S. adults surveyed online between December 9 and 14, 2015. Full results of this study, including data tables, can be found here.
Looking at comfort foods, pizza tops America's list of favorites. With a 15% slice of Americans hailing it as their number one, it gets more than twice as many votes as any other food choice. Chocolate and ice cream tie for second, at 7% each, while mac & cheese and chips round out the top five (5% and 4%, respectively).
Looking at favorites by various demographics – gender, generation, and geographic region – it seems as though pizza is number one for just about everyone, with the exception of Matures (those 70+), who turn instead to ice cream. However, some clear differences do arise for second and third choices:
Women turn to chocolate and ice cream as their second and third choices, respectively. Men, on the other hand, opt for ice cream and then chips.
Ice cream is the second choice for Easterners and Southerners alike, while Midwesterners turn to chocolate and Westerners prefer to dig into some mac & cheese. In third place, those in the South and West opt for chocolate, while those in the Midwest want a bowl of ice cream and the East is hankering for mac & cheese.
While chocolate is number two for Gen Xers, this treat is reserved for third place by all other generations. Millennials' second choice is mac & cheese, while Baby Boomers opt for ice cream and Matures reach for steak. Gen Xers name chips as their third place pick.
Comfort food has its time and place, however. When they're sick, Americans would much rather turn to soup, by a wide margin. Roughly six in ten Americans name soup as their go-to when they're sick, with nearly four in ten (39%) mentioning it more broadly and an additional 22% specifically mentioning chicken soup. Soups reign supreme as the top two under-the-weather foods across all key demographics. The top five foods eaten while sick are rounded out by ice cream (3%), toast (2%) and, yes, pizza (2%).
When it comes to celebrating a special occasion, Americans continue to have differing top choices as well. Steak has a strong hold on the number one spot, with over two in ten (22%) adults choosing it as their favorite special occasion meal, while 12% turn to cake. Americans across all key demographics cite these two as their favorite celebratory foods. Rounding out the top five celebratory dishes are pizza (7%), lobster (4%), and other types of seafood (3%).