Editor's note: Dr. Melina Jampolis, CNN's diet and fitness expert, is a physician, nutrition specialist and the author of "The Calendar Diet: A Month by Month Guide to Losing Weight While Living Your Life."
Q: Why do we crave comfort foods when the weather turns cold? And are there healthy substitutes?
A: This is an interesting question and one to which there is no simple answer.
There is considerable research showing seasonal affective disorder (SAD) - which affects 1% to 3% of the population - is linked to increased appetite and carbohydrate cravings, which are probably consumed in the form of "comfort foods." This is likely due to changes in brain chemistry brought about by the change in seasons and alterations in circadian rhythm, the body's biological clock.
People may also be less active and less social in the winter, which could increase anxiety and depression and lead to stress eating and overconsumption.
Comfort foods are generally sweet, fatty and calorie-dense, which may help temporarily improve mood and alleviate anxiety or stress. In other words, many people may be self-medicating with these dishes.