There is an important reason we crave it.
Food provides more than just vitamins and calories. It also provides other necessary nutritional components that help improve gut and brain health and can stimulate the production of feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin, GABA and more.
While the role of the gut (technically know as the microbiome-gut-brain axis) is important in regulating mood, some traditional comfort foods, like refined sugars, gluten and dairy, can trigger an inflammatory response which will ultimately defeat the purpose of the craving. Making minor adjustments, based on your body's unique sensitivities, can allow you to occasionally load up on your good mood from your favorite comfort foods without the negative side affects.
Below is one of my family's favorite comfort foods–a traditional New Mexican Green Chili Chicken Enchilada Casserole–showing the traditional and healthier, gut-friendly ialternatives.
With the growing variety of healthy alternatives on the market, you can experiament with one of your favorite comfort food recipes to find the right balance for your mood and gut health.
Green Chili Chicken Enchilada Casserole
This fast, easy recipe is made with authentic Green Chili from Hatch, New Mexico.
I prefer to use fresh green chili that I roast myself and prepare or in a jar. I am so tickled that I'm able to find Zia brand Hatch Green Chili in Fresh Market and Whole Foods and Southwest 505 in Costco here in Florida. In a pinch, I will use canned Hatch Green Chili, but it doesn't taste quite as good. I am careful not to use green chili grown outside of New Mexico because it just doesn't have the same, distinctive taste.
1 whole rotisserie chicken, shredded (healthy alternative: organic chicken)
1 cup Hatch green chili (use medium or hot based on your heat tolerance level...you can also add more to taste)
2 cans condensed cream of chicken soup (healthy alternative: Pacifico Gluten-free canned condensed Cream of Chicken soup or Vivian's Live Again gluten-free and dairy-free Cream of Chicken Soup and Gravy Mix)
2 cups Sour Cream (healthy alternative: Kite Hill Dairy-Free, Soy-Free Sour Cream)
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 cup chicken stock
2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt to taste
16 oz package corn tortilla (healthy alternative: gluten-free corn tortillas)
3 to 4 cups shredded cheddar or cheddar jack cheese (healthy alternative: 2 cups Violife Just Like Cheddar Shreds and 1 cup Violife Just Like Mozzerella)
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Combine the first 10 ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over med-high, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
- Spread 1 cup soup mixture in a 13 x 9-inch baking.
- Arrange 6 tortillas over the soup mixture.
- Spoon Soup mixture over tortillas and top with cheese.
- Repeat layers, ending with the cheese.
- Bake at 350° for 25 minutes (30 to 35 for dairy-free recipe) or until bubbly.
Note: Because the healthy alternatives can have a different moisture consistency, I balance out with more or less chicken stock as needed.