Why Your Emergency Kit Might Be Missing the Most Important Thing: Comfort Food

When life throws you a curveball, where’s the first place we all go?

That's right, our favorite comfort foods! 

But here's the kicker: many of us don't have enough of these feel-good foods stashed away for emergencies. 

In this article, we're diving into why comfort food is a total game-changer during a crisis. We're talking about its power to soothe, connect, and distract (even for the kiddos). So buckle up, and let's make sure your emergency food stash is ready to do some serious comforting when the going gets tough!

Food Is ACTUALLY Stress Medication—Here’s How It Works

delicious bowls of emergency comfort food

In the midst of an emergency, our lives can feel like they've been turned upside down. The routines we rely on are disrupted, and the world around us can seem chaotic and unpredictable.

This is where THE POWER OF COMFORT FOOD comes into play. With its familiar tastes and smells, comfort food can provide a sense of normalcy and routine amidst uncertainty. It's a small piece of the everyday life we're used to, which can be incredibly reassuring in a crisis.

Want to know more about what makes a food comforting? Check out our article on Emergency Comfort Foods.

But why is this the case? Why does a bowl of mac and cheese or a slice of mom's apple pie make us feel better when things get tough? The answer lies in the complex relationship between stress and eating behavior.

When we're stressed, our bodies go into survival mode. This is a response that's been hardwired into our biology over thousands of years. In the face of a threat, our bodies release hormones that prepare us to either fight or flee. This is known as the stress response, and it involves a cascade of changes in the body, including alterations in our appetite and eating patterns.

Check out our selection of comfort foods to make sure you're fully stocked.

Your Body Holds the Key to Calm in Emergency—But You Need the Right Food to Activate It

One of the key players in the stress response is the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, a complex set of interactions among three glands: the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal glands. When we're stressed, the HPA axis kicks into high gear, leading to the release of stress hormones like cortisol.

These stress hormones can make us crave foods that are high in fat and sugar, also known as "hyperpalatable" foods. These are the foods that we often think of as comfort foods. They're typically rich, delicious, and hard to resist. And when we're stressed, our bodies crave these foods even more.

But why? Well, it turns out that eating these types of foods can actually dampen the stress response. When we eat comfort foods, our brains release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that's linked to feelings of pleasure and reward. This release of dopamine can help to counteract the effects of stress, making us feel more relaxed and content.

Let Food Be Thy Medicine

In other words, eating comfort food can be a form of self-medication. It's a way for our bodies to cope with stress and restore a sense of balance and normalcy. And in an emergency situation, when stress levels are high and the future is uncertain, the comforting power of familiar food can be more important than ever. For more on maintaining mental well-being during a crisis, read our article on Preserving Sanity in a Disaster Situation.

So, the next time you're packing your emergency kit, don't forget to include some of your favorite comfort foods. They might just be the key to keeping your spirits up and maintaining a sense of normalcy when things get tough.

Fostering Connection: The Social Power of Shared Meals

hands breaking bread in a disaster

In times of crisis, the importance of social connection cannot be overstated. Emergencies can often leave us feeling isolated and anxious, and it's during these times that we need each other the most.

When “Breaking Bread” Can Save Your Life!

One of the most universal ways of fostering connection and camaraderie is through the sharing of food. In an emergency, sharing comfort food can bring people together, strengthening social bonds and promoting cooperation. This can be especially crucial in group survival situations where teamwork is key.

But why is sharing a meal so powerful? What is it about this simple act that can bring us closer together, even in the most challenging of circumstances? The answer lies in the complex interplay of psychology, sociology, and even neurobiology.

When we eat together, we're not just sharing food - we're sharing an experience. This shared experience can foster a sense of unity and bonding, which is particularly important during emergencies when feelings of isolation and fear can be overwhelming. 

By sharing a meal, we can feel part of a group, providing emotional support and reducing feelings of anxiety or loneliness. In fact, it's been found that teams who eat together feel more cohesive and perform better as a group. 

Get comfort food you can share (or eat alone) at BePrepared.com

The One Time It’s “OK” to Eat with Your Mouth Open

Sharing a meal also provides an opportunity for communication. During an emergency, keeping lines of communication open is crucial to ensure everyone is informed and on the same page.

Real-life experience and even some scientific studies have found that conversations which naturally occur during meals can provide a distraction from the crisis at hand, offering a sense of normalcy and a moment of respite. Eating together can facilitate communication, cooperation, and socialization.

On a neurological level, sharing a meal can stimulate the release of oxytocin, often referred to as the "bonding hormone." This hormone can promote feelings of trust, empathy, and bonding within a group, which can be particularly beneficial during an emergency. Social eating leads to an increase in oxytocin levels, promoting social bonding.

So it really is true: sharing comfort food during an emergency goes beyond simply providing physical sustenance. It promotes social bonding, facilitates communication, fosters emotional connection, triggers beneficial neurological responses, and encourages cooperation.

All of these factors are crucial in managing and overcoming crises, underscoring the importance of including comfort food in your emergency preparedness plan.

Finding Solace in the Kitchen: The Distraction Power of Comfort Food

In the throes of an emergency, it's easy to become consumed by the chaos and uncertainty. The mind races, worries mount, and stress levels can skyrocket. It's during these times that we need to find ways to distract ourselves, to take our minds off the crisis at hand. One surprisingly effective way to do this is through cooking and eating comfort food.

Cooking Gives You a Mental Break

The act of preparing a beloved recipe can be a therapeutic activity, providing a much-needed mental break. According to a study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, engaging in creative activities like cooking can boost our well-being. In the midst of an emergency, the simple act of chopping vegetables, stirring a pot, or kneading dough can become a form of stress relief. It's a task that requires focus and attention, helping to divert our thoughts away from the crisis at hand.

PLUS, It Boosts Positivity!

But the therapeutic benefits of comfort food extend beyond the cooking process. Scientists have found that just the anticipation of a comforting meal can provide a beacon of positivity in challenging times. Just the anticipation of eating comfort food can trigger positive memories and emotions. In an emergency, looking forward to a comforting meal can provide a sense of normalcy and a positive focus, offering a light at the end of the tunnel.

Don’t Underestimate Your Nose…The Power of SMELL Is Calming

Cooking and eating also engage our senses, which can be incredibly grounding. The smells of cooking, the taste of the food, and even the tactile experience of preparing ingredients can all serve to keep our minds occupied and away from stress. In a situation where our senses may be overwhelmed by the unfamiliar and the alarming, the familiar sensory experiences associated with comfort food can provide a soothing counterpoint. 

You’ve Got the POWER!

Finally, cooking provides a domain where we can exert control in a situation where many things may be out of our control. We choose the ingredients, the recipe, and the pace at which we cook. This can provide a sense of empowerment and distract from feelings of helplessness. In the midst of chaos, the kitchen can become a sanctuary of order and control.

Clearly, the power of comfort food extends beyond its nutritional value. It can provide a welcome distraction during an emergency, offering therapeutic benefits, a positive focus, sensory engagement, and a sense of control. So, when packing your emergency kit, don't forget to include the ingredients for your favorite comfort food recipes. They might just provide the mental respite you need when things get tough.

The Power of Mac and Cheese: Why Comfort Food is a Must-Have for Kids in Emergencies

mac and cheese

In an emergency, the importance of comfort food takes on a whole new dimension when children are involved. Kids can be notoriously picky eaters at the best of times, and in a crisis, their food preferences can become even more pronounced. Here's why.

Kids Are “Gut-Eaters”—And That Doesn’t Change in an Emergency

Research suggests that our gut microbiota, the community of microorganisms living in our digestive tract, can influence our eating habits. A positive-feedback loop exists between our dietary preferences, the composition of our gut microbiota that depends on this diet, and our food preferences as influenced by these gut microbes.

This means that the bacteria in our gut can influence our food choices, including those of children. In an emergency situation, this could mean that children are more likely to eat comfort foods that they are familiar with and that their gut microbiota are adapted to.

Check out our selection of kid-friendly comfort foods here.

Stress can also significantly affect a child's eating habits. During an emergency, the stress levels of children can increase, which can affect their gut microbiota and, in turn, their eating habits. Psychological stress increases the circulating levels of certain hormones, which can affect bacterial growth in the gut. This can potentially influence the food preferences of the host, including children.

Little Ones Need Security—Food to the Rescue!

The emotional state of a child can significantly influence their eating habits as well. In an emergency, children may experience a range of emotions, including fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. These emotions can influence their food preferences and eating habits. For example, they may seek out comfort foods that they associate with safety and security.

During an emergency, the nutritional needs of children can change. They may require more energy-dense foods to cope with the physical and psychological demands of the situation. This can influence their food preferences and eating habits, making them more likely to seek out and consume comfort foods.

The environment in which a child is in can significantly influence their eating habits. In an emergency, their usual eating environment may be disrupted, which can affect their food preferences and eating habits. They may be more likely to eat comfort foods that are familiar and comforting in an unfamiliar and potentially distressing environment.

MOM…It Doesn’t Matter That Our House Collapsed—I STILL Only Eat Mac & Cheese!

A real-life example of this can be found in a blog post on the Be Prepared website, where a mother recounts her experience during an emergency situation. Her child, overwhelmed by the crisis, would only eat mac and cheese. The familiar, comforting dish was the only thing that could coax the child to eat in the midst of the chaos. This harrowing experience underscores the importance of including comfort foods in your emergency preparedness plan, especially when children are involved.

During an emergency, having comfort food for children is crucial because it might be all they'll eat. This is influenced by a variety of factors, including their gut microbiota, stress levels, emotional state, nutritional needs, and environment. So, when packing your emergency kit, remember to include your child's favorite comfort food. It might just be the key to getting them to eat when disaster strikes.

Comfort Food: The Most Important Thing in Your Emergency Supply?

Comfort food is more than just a tasty treat. It's a lifeline in times of crisis, a tool for connection, and a source of solace when the world around us is in chaos. So, when you're preparing for the unexpected, remember to pack not just the essentials, but also the foods that bring you comfort. After all, comfort food might just be the most important thing in your emergency supply.

Children preparednessEmergency foodEmergency food preparationEmergency food storage

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