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Dietary Restrictions for Major Religions
Tuesday, August 05, 2008


Although there are no dietary restrictions, believers are prohibited from using alcoholic beverages, narcotics, and other habit-forming drugs unless prescribed by a physician.

Baha’is value fasting as a discipline for the soul, particularly the 19-day period each year when they completely abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset each day.


Most Buddhists follow a vegetarian diet even though this is not a precept of the faith. The precept concerning not eating after noon (12 pm) may be followed by some. The sixth precept is to refrain from eating at the forbidden time (i.e. after noon). Self-selection from the main line which includes the no-flesh option is recommended for Buddhist adherents.

Eastern Rite Catholicism

All Eastern Rite Catholics over the age of fourteen must abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent, Holy Saturday, Christmas Vigils, and the Vigil of the Epiphany. In the United States, members are urged to abstain on Wednesdays during Lent, but this is not mandatory. Members must fast and abstain on the Monday before Ash Wednesday and on Good Friday. Abstinence consists of no meat, eggs, or dairy products. These requirements can be met by self-selection from the main line, which includes the no-flesh option.


Because of the Hindu belief that all life contains an atman, strict vegetarianism is preferred but not generally required. Their religious dietary needs can ordinarily best be met by self-selection from the main line which includes the no-flesh option.


An Islamic food regimen is made up of Halal foods. In Arabic, Halal means lawful. Haram means unlawful. Everything that is not unlawful is considered Halal and only a few food items are Haram. Zaheer Uddin states in his book, A Handbook of Halaal and Haraam Products, “The rule is that everything is Halaal unless explicitly forbidden.”

1. Muslims are forbidden to consume the following foods which are Haram:

a. Pork, pork by-products and pork derivatives, including bacon, ham, pork chops, spare ribs, and lard/shortening. Muslims are not allowed to touch anything made with pork contents. In work assignments gloves may be worn where pork is present.
b. All types of blood, except the liver, spleen, and insignificant amounts of blood that are impossible to drain even in proper slaughtering.
c. The meat of any animal that has died naturally, has been killed by strangling, has been killed by a violent blow, has been killed by a headlong fall, has been gored to death, has been partially eaten by a wild animal (unless it can be slaughtered before it is dead) , or been sacrificed as an offering to idols.
d. Carnivorous animals and almost all reptiles and insects
e. Wine, ethyl alcohol, and spirits

2. The following products are definitely Halal:

a. Milk from cows, sheep, camels, and goats
b. Honey
c. Fish
d. Plants which are not intoxicants
e. Fresh or naturally frozen vegetables
f. Fresh and dried fruits
g. Legumes and nuts like peanuts, cashew nuts, walnuts, etc.
h. Grains such as wheat, rice, rye, barley, oat, etc.

Jehovah’s Witnesses

No universal dietary standard exists for Jehovah’s Witnesses. Self-selection from the mainline, including the no-flesh option, generally meets the dietary requirements.


Jewish diet is closely regulated by the Torah. Jewish detainees wishing to observe their religious dietary laws are eligible for meals certified as kosher. A more thorough explanation of Jewish dietary laws is found here.


There are no documented, required, or recommended dietary laws or customs. It is sometimes customary to consume food products offered as sacrifices to the Orisha after completion of the sacrificial ritual.

Orthodox Christianity

Orthodox Christians are required to fast regularly. Fasting periods include most Wednesdays and Fridays, Lent, Advent/Nativity (five weeks before Christmas), Dormition/Assumption (August 1-15), and a variable period before the Feast of the Holy Apostles. There are other fast days as well. The dates can be determined by consulting an Orthodox liturgical calendar. During fasting periods, Orthodox Christians abstain from animal products, including fish, chicken, and dairy products. In rare instances, fish is allowed during a fast period.

Orthodox fasting rules can be accommodated by self-selecting the meatless entree in mainline.

Protestant Christianity

While individuals may choose to exercise self-control in the area of personal food consumption, religious-oriented dietary mandates are not a part of the teachings of Protestantism. Self-selection from the main line, including the no-flesh option, generally meets the dietary requirements of Protestant Christian detainees.


Some Rastafarians eat Ital foods. Ordinarily, the dietary needs for Rastafarians can best be met by self-selection from the main line which includes the no-flesh option. Meat may or may not be a part of the individual’s diet. Fish, however, is a staple of Ital food as long as the fish is small, not more than 12 inches long. Scavengers of the earth or of the sea such as pigs, crabs, and lobsters respectively, are forbidden to be eaten. As a result, many Rastafarians are vegetarians.

Roman Catholicism


During Fridays of Lent, Catholics are expected to abstain from meat. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, Catholics are asked to abstain from meat and also fast. Minimum fasting is to eat no more than one full meal on a fast day. Two smaller meatless meals, amounting to less than a full meal, are permitted to sustain physical strength. These norms apply to persons over fourteen years of age and apply only until age sixty. With the availability of the no-flesh option on mainline in every institution, Catholic detainees are able to meet the dietary needs through self-selection. No other arrangements need to be made.

Religious diets and Catholic detainees

Catholic detainees ordinarily do not need to be on the certified food religious diet. There is no requirement in the Catholic religion for a special religious diet. They may participate in the self-serve religious diet for personal religious reasons if they so desire. Catholic detainees should be counseled on the importance of self-discipline in their diet and the importance of freely choosing to eat in a healthy manner which is pleasing to God. People honor and glorify God and purify their bodies by the disciple of choosing to eat correctly. When a detainee requests to be placed on a religious diet, the chaplain may use that time to help guide the detainee about what constitutes a healthy diet.


The religious diet of Sikhism detainees can ordinarily best be met through self-selection from the main line, which includes the no-flesh option.

All information in this section has been compiled from the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Technical Reference for Inmate Religious Beliefs and Practices.