It seems as if whenever we are at a low point in our lives, we always search high and low for ways to make us feel better. One of the most popular ways we seek comfort is through food, and nothing says a comfort meal quite like a grilled cheese sandwich. April 12 is celebrated as National Grilled Cheese Day, so let’s look at the importance of allowing ourselves to indulge in these simple pleasures.
When people think of a grilled cheese sandwich, they often shy away because of how heavy it is on carbs, dairy, and fat. While it is vital to be aware of the health benefits of what we consume, sometimes, it is also important to let ourselves indulge in the foods we crave.
When it comes to the science behind foods, it has been proven that factors such as time, memory, and nostalgia all play into how we recognize certain meals as comforting as opposed to others. According to nutritional scientist Paul Breslin, our brains repay us for eating anything by releasing opioid-based feel-good chemicals.
When you link this reward system with notable past times — when we felt the safest or most comfortable — we tend to gravitate toward those cuisines when we feel unhappy.
Additionally, when we are young, the emotions we associate with food are amplified based on who prepares it. A meal made by a caregiver will always be more sentimental and have a larger effect on us than one cooked by a stranger or in a restaurant.
So, why is a grilled cheese sandwich such a common comfort meal? Studies have shown that in addition to the reward center and familial ties, foods higher in carbs and sugar increase our serotonin levels, making us associate them with less stress and more relaxation.
If you’re still concerned with making your comfort meal a bit more nutritious and filling, take a look at our tips on how to elevate your grilled cheese sandwich:
Think about the bread that you use
Whole wheat bread keeps your cholesterol and insulin levels more balanced as opposed to refined, white bread. Additionally, sourdough is an excellent source of antioxidants, acts as a prebiotic, and is easily digestible.
Add a protein
Making sure we add protein to our diets is not just important for ensuring we stay full longer, but it also helps regular bodily functions and aids in repairing muscles and tissues. Adding simple grilled chicken, turkey, or even pepperoni can level up your grilled cheese game.
See what veggies pair well with this sandwich
Some personal favorites are caramelized onions, mushrooms, and tomatoes, but have fun with adding veggies to amp up the number of vitamins and nutrients this meal can offer.
Play around with flavor combinations through spreads, dips, and sauces
A while back, there was a big trend in adding jam to your grilled cheese sandwich to introduce a little sweetness to the overwhelming saltiness. Try adding pesto sauce or garlic spread if sweet is not up your alley.
Don’t skip the sides
You can never go wrong with pairing a good old tomato soup with this cheesy goodness. If you want to keep the actual sandwich in its classic form, coupling it with a side of soup, fruit, or vegetables is a great way to ensure you get all your nutrients.