Late Nights and Frozen Burritos: Too Busy for Healthy Eating?

If you’re anything like me, the roar of the vacuum cleaner is the first clue that it’s well after work-hours – and I’m still glued to the computer.  Confused, I look up and blink a few times until my overly constricted lenses can focus on our office cleaner, staring at me with a familiar look of pity from across the suite.  As my stomach grumbles and my neck protests with movement, my mind inevitably wanders to an alternate reality.  It’s a magical land where I sashay into my house at 6:00 PM, don a ruffled Kay Dee apron, and cook a delicious dinner using fresh, organic ingredients from my amply stocked refrigerator.

“Do you want me to skip vacuuming your office, again?”  Startled back to reality, I meet Nancy’s eyes in embarrassment, collect my things, and scurry out with a muttered “good night.”    

Stumbling into my kitchen 20 minutes later, greeted by an angry cat who does not appreciate waiting until 8PM to be fed, I hurriedly throw a frozen burrito into the microwave.  Rummaging through a depressing produce drawer, I pull out an ancient nectarine and a cluster of grapes that officially qualify as raisons.

This sad tale is not uniquely mine.  Over 39% of Americans work over 50 hours per week.  And most busy professionals find themselves choosing between “luxuries” like sleeping, grocery shopping, planning and preparing fresh meals at home, or going to the gym. Grocery shopping takes an average of 48 minutes (not counting time getting to and from a store) and trips to more than one store – plus an additional stop at the farmers’ markets if locally sourced food is important to you.  It’s no wonder that busy people view shopping for fresh, unprocessed ingredients as the biggest barrier to eating healthy.  Factoring in another 38 minutes to prepare a meal, 15 minutes to consume it, and another 15 minutes to clean up – it’s no surprise that the frozen burrito is a trusted friend. 

With 475 calories and a 3-minute prep time, I reluctantly forgive its 800 mg of sodium, 15g of fat, and list of preservatives and additives long enough to remind me of college chemistry exams.