We know that Fast Food isn’t the healthiest alternative. But is it really the fastest? This past weekend, my husband and I packed up the kids and hit the road for a whirlwind trip to southern New Jersey to celebrate my mother-in-law’s 70th birthday. The drive from our town south of Boston to the Princeton area is a straight shot down Route 95, but it is long and summer traffic is tough. However, I am lucky to be married to the King of Interstate Navigation and he masterfully planned the logistics of this trip so that we spent minimal time traveling and we got the most out of our time with family. I was overwhelmingly impressed with his trip-planning skills.
Instead of fighting the Friday night exodus out of the metro Boston area, we left at the crack of dawn on Saturday morning and sailed through Rhode Island and Connecticut in record time. But then everything halted when we came to the George Washington Bridge and traveled through New York City. Once over the bridge and into New Jersey and now almost 5 hours into our trip, we just had to stop. Everyone needed to use the rest room and we really needed to eat some lunch. So, we hit the Thomas A. Edison rest area…..
along with everyone else traveling on the New Jersey Turnpike that day. It was a very busy place.
The thing about a rest area is that people don’t really want to “rest”. They really just want to hurry up and use the bathroom and eat something really, really quick so that they can get back on the road and get where they’re going to. We were no exception. We had a party to get to.
So the lunch choices were Burger King, Popeye’s, Sbarro, Nathan’s Hot Dogs, and Hershey Ice Cream.
Our kids were psyched! A chance to eat Burger King! Because there were no other choices, really. So my dutiful husband got in the very long line at Burger King with my son in tow.
I really wasn’t interested in eating anything on the Burger King menu, so I figured I would go find a bottle of water and a yogurt somewhere. I wasn’t sure where, because there were no signs other than for Popeye’s, Sbarro, Hershey’s and Nathan’s. But like I said, I’m like a Bloodhound who can sniff out healthy food. So, I grabbed my daughter’s hand and we went to forage for real food. You know, the kind that comes from plants.
Lo and behold, there were lots of great healthy choices to be found. But you have to go behind and around to find them. There was this whole “Fresh Attractions” section full of great stuff.
carrot sticks and celery sticks…
and carrots, grapes and cheese.
So all the healthy food was hidden in this one area of the food court. There was no big hanging sign advertising Fresh Attractions. You really had to look for it. And if you didn’t look hard enough, you didn’t find it.
So, my daughter and I purchased a Southwest salad and some carrots, grapes and cheese and a bottle of water. And we didn’t even have to wait in line. Because no one was in line for the food made from plants. They were all in line over at Burger King.
My daughter and I sat down and shared our Food Made From Plants together and waited for my husband and my son to finish up in the Burger King line. And we waited and waited. And we saved some salad and fruit for my husband and son. And finally, they came over with their “fast” food.
As my daughter and I ate, I watched the line at Burger King and thought about the obesity epidemic in our country. It was so interesting to see the long line at Burger King. And no one in line at Fresh Attractions. It was also interesting to me that Burger King, Popeye’s, Sbarro, Nathan’s Hot Dogs, and Hershey Ice Cream all had hanging signs showing people exactly where to go to buy their food. But there was no hanging sign for Fresh Attractions. I really had to search high and low to find it.
While there was no NuVal score on my Southwest salad, I am quite sure it would outscore what my husband brought back from Burger King. And in this case, the healthier food was the “faster” food. But we almost needed a GPS to find it in that busy rest area. I really love that when it comes down to it, my job is to help people find the most nutritious choices in food. I hope that one day it will extend beyond the grocery store – because after my experience at the Thomas A. Edison rest area, which was anything but restful – I think we sure could use it.