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NEW YORK — Tacos, steak, and bacon, oh my! There have been plenty of “bad days” over the last year, but one thing most people can agree on is that good food can put a smile back on anyone’s face. For over half of America, a new study finds something salty or something sweet can be an instant mood changer.

The poll of 2,000 Americans analyzed the relationship between our moods and the food we eat, with researchers finding it really is a complicated relationship to say the least.

Sixty-six percent of respondents said what they eat greatly depends on their mood. However, 65 percent also said the reverse is true – their mood can dictate what they eat that day. A quarter of respondents add they opt for salty treats on a bad day, while 31 percent prefer something sweet.

The tastiest bad day treats

America's Food MoodsConducted by OnePoll on behalf of meal kit company HelloFresh, the survey reveals the top foods respondents said they reach for when having a bad day include chocolate (46%), fast food and candy (36%), and chips (35%). Although the top food Americans grab on a good day is also chocolate (41%).

The results add fresh vegetables and fresh fruit rose in the ranks to 39 percent on good days. For comparison, just 30 percent and 27 percent, respectively, prefer these healthy foods on a bad day.

Researchers also asked people about the foods that can instantly put them in a better mood no matter what. Tacos top the list with 33 percent calling them an instant mood changer. Bacon and eggs (32%) and a nice juicy steak (32%) followed closely behind.

Deciding on what to eat for dinner after having a bad day is also the last thing 67 percent of respondents want to think about. Unfortunately, these food decisions end up making Americans feel even worse during a crummy day. In fact, 59 percent of respondents agree that when they eat bad or unhealthy foods, they’re more likely to feel bad later in the day.

Fresh and homemade meals make you feel better

America's Food MoodsThe key to having better days and better moods may truly be as simple as eating better. Two in three respondents agree they feel healthier when eating a home cooked meal as opposed to takeout or delivery. Sixty-five percent also shared they feel more energized after eating a well-balanced diet. Another 62 percent feel like they can take on the world after eating a healthy meal.

Respondents also reported a 37-percent increase in confidence when they eat a healthy meal and a further increase of 40 percent when they cook this meal from start to finish. After they successfully cook a healthy meal from scratch, 68 percent say they feel satisfied with themselves and 40 percent feel “very satisfied.”

“Whether you are a novice in the kitchen or a more experienced home cook, preparing a meal from start to finish can leave you with a feeling of pride and sense of accomplishment,” says Dana Murrell, Head of Culinary at HelloFresh, in a statement. “Every time you cook, you are either honing a skill or building a new one. Cooking with a meal kit helps to steer you in the right direction and ensure the finished dish is always delicious.”

The majority of the poll (65%) say cooking is often therapeutic for them. One in four add the best part of cooking is that it reduces their stress. The best parts of cooking, according to respondents, include experimenting with new recipes and techniques and bringing people together to share a meal is another favorite part of cooking. Overall, dinner ranks as Americans’ favorite meal to eat.

About Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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