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Do Inmates Eat Better Than You?

Do Inmates Eat Better Than You?As the consultant dietitian for the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department, I was honored to speak at this week’s Essentials of Correctional Medicine conference in Salt Lake City. The conference organizer, Dr. Jeff Keller – of the fabulous Jail Medicine blog – has a special place in his heart, and his practice, for the nutritional status of the incarcerated.

My talk – which was a focus on the positive changes my colleagues and I are making in improving diet and nutrition in correctional facilities – looked at the current state of nutrition in jails across the country.

In researching for the presentation, I found that a few trends are prevailing in correctional nutrition:

  • Calorie counts are trending down – a good thing in light of the high rates of obesity in prisons and jails
  • High sodium menu items are being phased out – most counties are aiming for no more than 2,500 mg per day
  • Fiber is on the rise – many operations are now averaging 30 grams per day

And by the way, 30 grams of fiber per day is nothing to shake your billy stick at! The average American only eats 14 grams – about half of what they need – per day.

How do inmates meet their fiber needs? It’s a combination of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and beans. A lot of beans. Our menu features an average of three 1/2-cup servings of dried peas or beans per week. They’re an affordable, low-fat way to fill up on dietary fiber.

So take a look at your diet – are you getting 30 grams of fiber a day? If not, consider eating more like the Prison Diet. Who knows…it could be the next, big, trending fad diet!

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