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Fast Food in a Time-Stretched Society

Posted Feb 21 2009 10:11pm

by Megan Weinberg

I consider myself to be very health conscious. I just don’t always have the time to turn that awareness into practice. I do the best that I can, as many of us do, as a full-time working mom, homeowner, and wife. My husband and I strive to eat well and provide nutritious food for our 2 year old daughter. But I have to admit, it’s downright exhausting to come home every night and wonder “what can I make for dinner that’s healthy, quick, and tasty?” We try to prepare on weekends, making large amounts of food that can be portioned and reserved in the freezer for future meals. But it’s not always easy to do that with competing chores and activities. If we make food all weekend, that doesn’t leave much time for exercise…and if we can fit in a jog or two on top of that, when are we going to do the 6 loads of laundry…and when are we going to play with our baby daughter who misses us at daycare all week… and are we ever going to get to SIT DOWN for 5 minutes?!?!??

So, admittedly, I’m not always on the ball when it comes to having dinner ready or eating what I know is best for me.

There are times that I am driving home from work thinking it would be so very easy to pull the car over and pass through a drive-through window. I wouldn’t even have to take my daughter out of the car. There would be no post-dinner clean up. And it would be darn cheap. As if the temptation from the myriad advertisements in all forms of media wasn’t enough to entice me, I now have a time enticement as well. “If I do this, I can have more time to play with my daughter instead of deliberating over what to make for dinner, preparing the dinner, and cleaning up after the dinner.”

For my family, time is one of the biggest players in determining our overall health and weight. Couple this with the fact that there are few healthy affordable options for those of us on the go, and you have a real problem. Sometimes, people choose the lesser of two evils and I suspect that when we are stretched to the limit healthy eating takes a backseat.

Sure, I have found ways to avoid that trip to McDonald’s or BK on a night where I’m on the way home from work, with nothing prepared for dinner (and no prospects) and a whiny toddler in the backseat. Unfortunately, the alternatives to a fast food meal on nights like these don’t come cheap. I can buy a pretty delicious ready-made hot meal at various specialty markets in and around New Haven…but that will run me about $15-20 for enough to feed my family and I can’t do it often without seriously breaking the bank. (You can go to McDonald’s and order from the dollar menu and feed an army for $15.) I have found some tasty, relatively healthy (and relatively expensive) ready-made options in the supermarket that can be thrown in the oven, and I do this occasionally.

Let me remind you that I am a health conscious consumer who enjoys healthy food, likes to cook, and can afford to avoid fast food establishments. So, if it’s hard for my family, what about individuals who are really suffering financially, perhaps working multiple jobs to make ends meet, have 2 or 3 kids, run a single parent household, and/or never learned how to cook? What choice do they have but to eat junk? Top it off with a thick layer of advertising that preys on individuals like these and you have a recipe for disaster.

Unfortunately, I presume it is unlikely that fast food restaurants are going anywhere anytime soon since they provide something so precious: time (and to some: flavor and value). Demand is high for such places, but I can’t help but wonder if the demand is high because there are no viable alternatives out there (with enough money to market their product properly). Is it too much to ask that somebody, somewhere open up a new, healthier fast food chain complete with a drive-through? No burgers, no fries. Don’t try to make healthier versions of junk. I think somebody tried that and it didn’t work. I’m talking about truly healthy, good food, at a price that competes with McDonald’s and BK. Is this possible? I think there’s a large portion of us who would gladly line up on those time-stretched, ready to pull your hair out nights for something like this! Can’t a woman dream????

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