Not all comfort foods are unhealthy - this is the conclusion reached by a University of Illinois researcher who studies food trends. "Most of the time, when people talk about comfort foods, we think of things that are really bad for you - cookies or chips, maybe," according to Brian Wansink, associate professor of business administration at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and director of the university's food and brand laboratory. CNN Food Center, reporting on the findings of the study, quotes the Illinois researcher saying that 40% of the time, "people choose foods that aren't necessarily bad, like chicken noodle soup, pasta and pizza. Things that, relative to ice cream, are good for you."The key findings of the study are that comfort foods are often distinct from typical "taste-good" snack foods. Women and men tend to choose different comfort foods and eat them for different reasons. Younger people prefer different comfort foods than older folks, "as food choice reflects self-image." The study also showed that people tend to eat comfort foods more often when they are feeling happy or want to celebrate, "but women are more likely than men to eat such foods when they are feeling down." Men have a preference towards comfort food that's a little more healthy, like meat, pasta and potatoes, whereas women choose items like chips, cookies, chocolate and cake.Both genders pick ice cream as their No. 1 comfort food, "though if we look at it from a dietary standpoint, a nutrition education standpoint, it's important for people to realise that if they're feeling really good or bad, they're much more likely to eat these kinds of foods," the researcher commented. He commented that "as we now know there are these cravings, we can satisfy them in another way - say with an apple or something more nutritious."