I bet you’ve been going around thinking that death row prisoners choosing their last meals usually make do with a salad and a stick of sugarless gum. Well, science is here to rescue you, poor benighted soul, with a definitive study finding: People prefer final meals with a lot of calories.
The researchers analyzed the gustatory choices of 247 prisoners who were executed between 2002 and 2006. They found that the average Death Row meal was 2,750 calories — i.e., an entire day’s worth of food — although they just threw out people whose last meals were under 200 calories and the 21 percent who didn’t want a last meal, which doesn’t really seem fair. Anyway, people tended to eat meat, fried stuff, and starchy foods, 66 percent of them ordered dessert, and “yogurt, tofu, and explicitly mentioned vegetarian meals never appear.” I am, how you say, le shocked.
Having determined that people find comfort food comforting, the researchers go on to suggest that the “scare tactic” approach to improving people’s diet — “you’re gonna die if you eat like that” — might have a counterintuitive effect, making them eat more crap because fuck it, why not, we’re all gonna die. They do not go so far as to suggest a shift in methodology, to “you’re gonna die if you eat like that and you’re gonna be fat in Heaven.” But it just might work.
Death Row Nutrition: Curious Conclusions to Last Meals, Appetite.
Get Grist in your inbox