Poll: Pizza claims top spot for comfort food

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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.

Pizza, anyone?

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:

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 10 Americans name soup as their go-to when they're sick, with nearly four in 10 (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 more than two in 10 (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%).

A Time for Comfort

So when do Americans turn to their favorite comfort food? Over four in ten say they need an edible pick-me-up when they're stressed (45%) or after a really bad day (43%). One third (33%) indicate they turn to a comfort food when they're depressed.

However, not everyone needs to be down in the dumps to dig into their favorite comfort food. Nearly four in 10 indicate they'll turn to their tried and true dish after a really good day (38%) or on their birthday (37%).

More distantly, 13% indicate they eat it after a break-up and, among those 21 or older, 9% each say they need that special dish either the day after or during a night of heavy drinking.

Demographically speaking, there are clear differences in the top reasons for needing some comfort food.

Food for thought

While most will agree there's no place like home, a vast majority of Americans (90%) are going one step further to say there's nothing like a home cooked meal. With that sentiment in mind, it likely comes as little surprise that more than six in 10 (62%) adults say their favorite comfort food reminds them of their childhood.

Though Americans may not feel guilty after indulging, more than four in 10 (41%) do indicate they'll sometimes work out longer or more intensely to justify eating a favorite comfort food. This is particularly true of Millennials, compared with their older counterparts (57% vs. 42% Gen Xers, 29% Baby Boomers, 22% Matures).

To see other recent Harris Polls, please visit our website, TheHarrisPoll.com.


This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between December 9 and 14, 2015 among 2,252 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

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