War in Iraq drives "comfort food" trend

April 21, 2003 in Food Companies, Manufacturing and Trends

War in Iraq drives "comfort food" trend

The war in Iraq is changing not just the way people travel or watch TV, but also what they eat.

Restaurants and chefs around the U.S. are reporting unusually high demand for high-calorie foods, from hamburgers and macaroni and cheese to prepared foods that are easier to take home and eat in front of the news.

The tendency to cope with national crises by indulging in food is becoming a pattern. During the first Gulf War and immediately after the 2001 terrorist attacks, Americans ate more take-out -- and consumed more fat and calories -- according to several studies.

And while it's still to early to have national statistics on food sales over the past few weeks, diet companies say they are already seeing warning signs. Nutricise, which does diet counseling by email, says that of the 4,000 of it members who responded to a recent survey, 70 percent are eating as much as 20 percent more calories and fat since the war began. They are eating "mostly sweets and cakes and cookies," says Charles Platkin of Nutricise. Weight Watchers' support groups are buzzing with talk about the siren call of "comfort food."

And the American Institute for Cancer Research is worried enough about the effect of war on eating habits that it recently published a brochure, "Comfort Foods," aimed squarely at nervously snacking Americans. The booklet, available at www.aicr.org, gives advice on how to cook healthier versions of familiar treats. Hopefully that includes cupcakes.

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