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Eating in the Officer's Mess? Dont!
By Ofc. L. Ruiz, Miami Dade Corrections & Rehabilitaiton Department
Published: 03/15/2010

Donuts I have yet to see many OM's that had healthy food choices available to CO's. My jail feeds its CO's inmate food, most of which is fried in lard or hydrogenated oils. The vending machines on every floor are filled with candy, chocolate, chips, and sugar rich sodas.

The only item available in our building that isn't nutritionally deficient would be the bottled water sold at far too high a price. This is shameful.

If you care about your health then you need to prepare for foreseeable situation. This means have healthy snacks available just in case you get stuck working over time. In addition, to snacks brown bag your lunch. Don't rely on going out for your meals because fast food is nutritionally deficient, packed with simple carbohydrates, sugars, and hydrogenated fats.

Day Shift - Sip hot herbal tea into work and then eat a light meal until you can get home for dinner.

Afternoon and Evening Shift - Eat a good meal before you leave home and bring something light to take you to the end of the night so that you can get home to sleep. Some suggestions would be:
  • An all fruit meal. Eating as much as you want of only one fruit at a time is easier to digest than eating many different kinds, but you know your body best.
  • Bring a power bar to tide you over. There are several good 'raw food' and 'green food' bars on the market that haven't been heated and have their enzymes intact. Many of these bars are also full of probiotics to help with digestion and immunity health.
  • Bring a smoothie in your own clear bottle. This is one of the best and easiest food choices in my opinion. You can put several fruit into a blender and you have an instant smoothie that can travel with you. Spinach added to any fruit disappears into the smoothie and cannot be tasted at all. It adds a lot of fiber and nutrition power to your drink.

Traditionally Lacto-Fermented Foods

70% of your immune system is in your intestinal tract. Traditional foods like sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, and pickles feed your resistance to pathogens by providing you with naturally occurring probiotics in an easily digested form.

Traditionally fermented means just that, foods which have been salted or spiced and left as a means of preservation. This ancient preparation and preservation technique produces microorganisms such as bacteria, yeasts and molds as a byproduct.

Commercially processed foods made to mimic these traditional foods are meant to increase the bottom dollar not your health. Beware. Many have been cooked to preserve and then brined in salt for vinegar and sugar for flavor.

High-heat and/or pasteurization is the last thing that you want in your ferments because they kill enzymes. The easiest way to figure out if you don’t want to buy that pickle is to see if its shelf stable or not. If that pickle isn’t continuing to ferment and produce gasses inside that container until it explodes, it’s not a real pickle. A real ferment needs to be refrigerated to slow down the enzymatic activity. Why? Because it’s a living food.

Other foods that were once fermented traditionally: Olives, (fruit or vegetable) pickles, ketchup, ciders, cheese, milk kefir, water kefir, yogurt, crème fraiche, shrimp paste, fish sauce, salami, pepperoni, soy sauce (Nama shoyu), kombucha, Bread, Cheese, Wine, Beer, Mead, Cider, Chocolate, Coffee, Tea, Sauerkraut, Kimchi, Miso, Tempeh, Vinegar.

Do the right thing for you and your family buy the above items in their unpaturized (uncooked) traditional form, or make them yourself. There are thousands of books to help you and the internet is always open to lend a suggestion.


Why doesn’t everyone know about this stuff? This is what I’m constantly wondering. A great many COs that I work with are diabetic and/or are overweight. I don’t know everyone and I don’t always have time to talk to them about these issues. Health issues usually have to be breached with tact or you run the risk of insulting people. Then they really won’t listen.

Stevia (STEE-vee-uh) known as Stevia rebaudiana is an herb related to the sunflower. It is about 300x sweeter than sugar.

  • Has been used for centuries by natives in South America to sweeten their drinks with no adverse effects
  • Has no carbohydrates
  • Won’t affect blood glucose levels and I perfect for Diabetics and anyone on a carbohydrate-controlled diet
  • Has a slight licorice-like aftertaste in high concentrations
  • Has shown promise as a treatment for osteoporosis
  • It is excellent for cooking and baking since its glycosides do not break down in heat
  • Is almost calorie free
  • A natural alternative to disease promoting artificial sweeteners which your body can’t process

It is available in liquid or powder. The liquid is easier to control and use. The liquid Stevia also comes in several varieties of flavors. You could perhaps use it to flavor your own filtered water. Studies have shown that when a person is consuming water flavored with a fragrant additive (lemon, orange, ginger) they tend to drink more.

Used in small amounts Stevia can be a nice treat for someone who couldn’t normally have sweet foods. It is considered a suppliment by the FDA and not a food; so use sparingly. Example: In liquid form 2 to 4 drops would be enough for a cup of coffee or tea.

Corrections.com author, Ofc. L. Ruiz is a Corrections Officer working at the Metro West Detention Center, Miami Dade Corrections & Rehabilitaiton Department in Miami, Florida. She had been heavy her entire life which was always normal for her... Until her weight went out of control. At 25 she was a size 28. Her health declined and she felt powerless. She started Weight Watcher’s at work; Then, her research rat instinct kicked off and she began a quest to learn. She learned about food, nutrition, and health related issues. In the course of research, she kept reading about the Raw Food Movement. It was interesting enough that she tried it out. The weight simply fell off and her health improved dramatically. When her weight was finally under control she found that she suddenly had options and became a Corrections Officer.

“If people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.” – Thomas Jefferson (U.S. President)


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  22. legaltweety on 03/21/2010:

    Perhaps you should consider feeding the inmates healthy food. Then the officers don't have to worry about what they are eating. If the food is unfit, it shouldn't be fed to the inmates. Some of these inmates are in there for a long time. Studies have told us that saturated fats and lard are not healthy, so why would you feed them to the inmates? Many come out with high cholesteral, diabetes and heart problems, etc. They have enough strikes against them without being unhealthy and having no money for medical care when they get out.

  23. fogitaboutit on 03/15/2010:

    Your points are well taken. However, very, very few workplaces have the kind of healthy food you talk about. I wish more did. President Clinton has been relatively successful in getting junk food out of our schools and replaced with more healthy food. Maybe the time has come when workers can petition their employers to provide healthier food. Large employers providing group insurance could, out of the goodness of their hearts, switch to a healthier menu. Or, they could realize that it is in their best fiscal interest if they provide healthier foods. Pay for healthier foods now, or pay for higher insurance and medical costs later. When poor diet related illnesses occur, they could cause employees to miss time from work. Sometimes their absence requires hiring an overtime replacement, an additional expense to the employer. Closed environments like jails and prisons often have to choose from the same foods served to inmates or otherwise restrict what is brought into the facilities by staff out of security concerns. Some facilities have 'deli style' food available for staff. Some have their food catered from outside vendors. Both may cost the employee more than buying and eating 'jail food,' but at least it could be healthier. Fruits are healthier, but subject to spikes in cost due to weather. You have many good suggestions on food everyone could prepare at home and consume on the job. But many of us are lazy and won't spend the time or money to eat healthy food. We just go on eating whatever is available, including the ever present peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

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