Studies have shown that comfort foods fight off the blues and have a significant positive effect on people’s moods. But unfortunately, the comfort they provide usually comes courtesy of fat and/or sugar, which most people would benefit by reducing in their diets.

But scientists may have found a workaround in getting the positive effects of comfort food without the calories.

During a period of three months late last year, researchers recruited 61 students from St. Bonaventure University in New York state. Most were slightly overweight according to measurements of body-mass index (BMI).

The subjects were divided into four groups; each group was asked to draw a different item: high-fat, high-sugar cupcakes; high-fat, low-sugar pizza; low-fat, high-sugar strawberries; and low-fat, low-sugar peppers. All were given the same colors to use.

The researchers then analyzed the participants’ hunger, mood and level of interest and excitement before and after the brief drawing exercise.

Drawing pizzas improved the subjects' mood by 28 percent, while sketching cupcakes and strawberries boosted spirits by 27 percent and 22 percent, respectively. According to the results, drawing peppers did little to improve moods, nudging them by a mere 1 percent, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The study concludes that the mood changes were likely due to the food depictions, suggesting that creating images of delectable high-fat and sugary foods could be an effective way to buoy one’s spirits.

So next time you’re feeling blue and fighting the urge to grab some pie, try a pen and paper instead.

The study was published in the Journal of Behavioral and Brain Science.

Your key to happiness, below:

Related stories on MNN:

Feeling sad? Draw a cupcake
A new study shows that the simple act of drawing comfort food can have a significant effect on mood.