Friday, August 27, 2010

The Prison Diet

If you're ever incarcerated, you can stay in shape by lifting weights in the yard, doing yoga, or cranking out some prison cell push-ups (either the P90X way or "Dirty Jobs" style). But exercise is only 20 percent of the fitness equation -- so what are you going to eat?

In Illinois, inmates are served "Nutraloaf," -- "a dense block of food-like stuff that meets the requirements of providing prisoners with daily calorie intake and nutrients, but deprives them of enjoyment."

Critics characterize Nutraloaf as "cruel and unusual punishment," and reviews by intrepid taste-testers have been decidedly yuck. (See here and here and here.) As one reviewer described Vermont's version of Nutraloaf:
It looked the best of the three -- it was moist -- and the nondairy cheese and canned carrots gave it a fetching orange color. But it tasted terrible. Mike, a computer guy at NASA, said the raisins were disconcerting; you couldn't tell if they were supposed to be in there or not. Steve said he hated it, but it wasn't the worst thing he'd ever eaten. I asked him what was the worst thing he'd ever eaten. "Cat," he said. "But I didn't know it was cat."
Blech. But hey -- at least (most versions of) Nutraloaf's made from recognizable ingredients, like eggs, meat, and veggies. Seriously: What's more cruel and unusual: Nutraloaf or most of the chemically-altered, HFCS-infused, super-processed lab experiments you find on supermarket shelves?