The Surprising Comfort Food 25% Of People Said They Would Give Up

When times get tough, the tough (and the not-so-tough) start stuffing their faces. And what do we eat when life gets stressful? Why, comfort food, of course. That's pretty much its sole purpose — to make us feel better when the world is doing its best to bring us down. So just what are we chowing down on when in need of the comfort that only a full belly can bring? The definition of comfort food varies from person to person, but most of us would probably agree that a true comfort food is nothing fancy, not too fussy, and not particularly difficult to fix -– so no filet mignon, no foie gras, and no macarons.

Also, for most of us, comfort foods must include at least a few of the basic food-we-actually-want-to-eat groups: salt, sugar, fat, and carbs. Needless to say, Brussels sprouts are right out, as is lentil-quinoa-tofu casserole. Basically, we want something yummy and not too healthy that can be easily nuked, stirred up on the stove top, delivered, or just eaten straight out of the fridge or freezer. We've all got our own favorites, though, and asking for a list of these would net almost as many responses as persons surveyed. Instead, we decided to go the opposite route: Mashed conducted a survey of 555 people around the country and asked them which of the main comfort foods they could manage to do without.

Not everyone loves mac & cheese

While it may seem as if mac & cheese is America's favorite comfort food, what with gourmet mac & cheese restaurants popping up all over and mac and cheese muscling in on items where it has no business being, such as pizza, tater tots, and burgers, not everybody's on board with this trend. Mac and cheese is pretty bland and mushy, after all, and it's also a bit more complex to make than is ideal for a comfort food — you've got to boil your pasta, cook it al dente, drain it, and then make a cheese sauce ... and these are just the steps if you're making it from a box. Things can get way more involved if you choose to make it from scratch.

Our survey found that, while 74.95 percent of the populace is willing to put up with mac & cheese despite its many drawbacks, a surprising 25.05 percent would gladly give it up. This brought mac & cheese in at the top of the list of comfort foods most would choose to forego.

Two more bland foods were next in line for the boot

The number two comfort food on our list of those easiest to give up was grilled cheese, with 23.42 percent of the votes. This is yet another food that's been having a moment lately, with grilled cheese food trucks popping up on every other street corner. Perhaps both mac and cheese and grilled cheese hit mass saturation at the point when some genius got the idea of marrying the two in a mac and cheese grilled cheese sandwich, thus creating a monstrous hybrid with way more carbs than flavor.

Coming in nearly neck-and-neck at an extremely close third was mashed potatoes, with or without cheese or any other type of add-in. While mashed potatoes may be a beloved holiday side dish, they're also a tad on the overrated side as a standalone comfort dish, or at least this is the opinion of 23.42 percent of our survey respondents.

Even super-popular foods have their detractors

Everyone loves ice cream, right? Well, maybe, but 13.69 percent of those we asked said they could somehow manage to live without it. Is it just that they don't like dessert? Perhaps, although it's also possible they were thinking they could sneak by on a technicality with gelato, sorbet, or frozen custard instead.

Coming in at last place, with only 12.07 percent of the vote, was what we've now definitively determined (well, as definitive as a random sampling of 555 people can be) to be the least-unpopular, and therefore best-loved, comfort food: pizza. Well, of course. Pizza, after all, is practically the perfect food. It's familiar and, yes, comforting without being bland (unless it's topped with mac & cheese), and while it's not that easy to bake from scratch, there are some fairly decent frozen ones available. Not to mention, unless you're way out in the boonies, you're usually only a phone call away from someone showing up at your door with a cardboard box of piping hot pizza in hand. (We're not sure what those 12.07 percent turn to when they get an urge to have something delivered, but for their sake we hope they live in an area with an ample selection of other options.)

There are always a few outliers

Of the people who answered our survey, 2.16 percent chose "other" as their answer, and several of them supplied their own candidates. One said "pasta with butter and grated cheese" (a more specific variant on mac & cheese, so should probably count as another vote for the top candidate), another said "flavored potato chips" (no word about the plain kind), while still others suggested "donuts," "M&Ms," and "chocolate."

One sad soul shared that "I'm actually allergic to all of the above so I avoid them," while a virtuous eater claimed "I could live without everything above." In the relatable answer category were those who said "I have no idea," "none," and "none." The straw man prize, however, goes to the person who answered "canned asparagus." Ha, yes, declare something that's fairly unpalatable to be a comfort food, then nobly offer to give it up. Now that's a sacrifice most of us could probably get behind!