Pizza, bacon sandwiches and beans on toast dominate the list Britain’s favourite comfort foods, according to new research. 

Bread-based meals – including egg and soldiers, and burgers – account for eight of the top 20 foods Brits reach for when feeling stressed, sad or ill. Poached egg and avocado on toast also feature.

And, with the clocks about to go back, 40% of consumers are opting for comforting or nostalgic meals, with the average adult tucking in twice a week, according to the survey, conducted by OnePoll for egg brand Clarence Court.

“Simple meals which transport us back to childhood can really cheer us up, and help remind us of less complicated times,” psychotherapist Christine Webber explained. “We are leading increasingly stressful lives, so it’s vital for us to access some comfort when we need it – and what better way to find it than by cooking and eating something simple that Mum used to make.”

Bread features heavily on the list for a number of reasons. Oxford University psychology professor Charles Spence, who teamed up with Dawn Foods to understand why consumers buy bakery items, believes it’s a multi-sensory decision.

“One of the most interesting things about comfort foods is the importance of smell and warmth in the hands, both attributes of freshly baked goods,” said Spence in a blog post as part of the project.

“According to the social psychologists, when we hold something warm in our hands, those around us seem a little warmer too – just what we need when we are feeling lonely,” he added. “So, wherever possible, why not encourage your customers to savour the aroma, and to hold any freshly baked items in their hands, to maximise the multisensory benefits to our psyches.”

Names also have an effect, particularly on sweet bakery treats, said Spence, who encouraged bakers to play on the nostalgia angle by using descriptions such as ‘traditional’ and ‘homely’.

Britain’s top 20 comfort foods are:

  1. Pizza
  2. Fish and chips
  3. Bacon sandwich
  4. Full English breakfast
  5. Burger and chips
  6. Roast dinner
  7. Beans on toast
  8. Bangers and mash
  9. Pasta dish
  10. Scrambled eggs on toast
  11. Macaroni cheese
  12. Shepherd’s/Cottage pie
  13. Beef stew and dumplings
  14. Dippy eggs and soldiers
  15. Jacket potato
  16. Ham, egg and chips
  17. Toad in the hole
  18. Egg mayonnaise sandwich
  19. Poached egg and avocado on toast
  20. Curry