To Protect. Serve…and eat healthy?

To Protect. Serve…and eat healthy?

Misty Kiblinger (Nason), RD, CSR, CLT, CD


The statistics are alarming.  The average life expectancy of a police officer in the United States is twenty-two years less than their civilian counterparts.  The life expectancy of a police officer is only 57 years old, compared to 69 years old as a civilian.  Digest that, twenty-two years less!


Clinical studies have suggested 50% of police officers who were screened had the presence of heart disease.  Blood vessel blockages were detected as early as 30 years old.  These statistics suggest heart disease is the ‘other’ police danger.


It is apparent law enforcement is a dangerous, stressful, and health-threatening occupation.  A study published in the Nutrients scientific journal in 2022, found that most officers consumed a high saturated fat, high refined sugar, energy dense diet with a high intake of processed foods and beverages. Findings suggested that the diet was mostly influenced by high stress, busy schedules, long working hours, inconsistent meal breaks, sleep deprivation and shift work.  As a wife of a retired police office. I have seen firsthand how high stress, pressure, sleep deprivation, long hours, shift work and spending hours in a patrol car becomes barriers to eating healthy.


So how do police officers incorporate healthy eating with so many real and challenging barriers and live long enough to enjoy retirement?


INCORPORATE HIGH FIBER PLANT FOODS: High fiber plant foods are fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains such as quinoa, steel cut oats, brown rice, amaranth or buckwheat groats. Fiber helps to create favorable (good) bacteria in the gut.  The gut is the center of the entire body, connected to every system in the body including the brain.  Clinical studies have suggested optimizing good bacteria in the gut reduces inflammation, promotes heart health by reducing chemicals responsible for blocking arteries, reduces blood sugar and insulin resistance, reduces weight, and produces chemicals that help prevent depression and anxiety.


MINIMIZE PROCESSED FOODS AND BEVERAGES: Foods and beverages containing artificial ingredients or added refined sugar increase risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and obesity to name a few.  Studies have suggested processed food is associated with changing the gut bacteria contributing to chronic inflammation and poor brain health.


CONSUME LEAN, UNPROCESSED PROTEIN: Lean, unprocessed protein includes eggs, fish, chicken, wild game, plant protein including beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds.  Adequate lean protein boosts muscle mass, helps manage weight, helps balance blood sugar, improves mood and energy, and optimizes heart health by preventing diseases such as diabetes and obesity.


INCORPORATE HEALTHY FATS: Healthy fats include extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, avocado, nuts, ground flax seeds, chia seeds, pepitas and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring or tuna.  Healthy fat is necessary.  The right fats can protect against heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and dementia.  These healthy fats can improve brain function while minimizing hunger between meals.


HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE. With water: The human body is 55-75% water.  It is needed for essential functions such as: transporting nutrients and oxygen, normalization of blood pressure, removal of body waste products, and digestion.  Whether your day starts at 5am or 1pm, start your day with water.  Hydrate with water throughout the day.  Minimize caffeinated beverages to 200mg of caffeine daily, that’s roughly 2 cups of brewed coffee.  Energy drinks are not counted as hydration.  In fact, energy drinks have been shown to contribute to dehydration, stroke, irregular heartbeat, heart failure, anxiety, and insomnia.  Bottom line don’t consume energy drinks.



Start with small changes.  Start with finding one healthy food change to focus on and decide to do your ‘ONE THING’. When it becomes habit, incorporate one more healthy food decision.


  • Increase water intake while reducing caffeine. Discontinue energy drinks or beverages with added sugar.
  • Add vegetables to lunch and dinner meals or fruit and vegetables as snacks.  Start with vegetables that require minimal preparation, such as baby carrots, mini colorful sweet peppers, or sugar snap peas.
  • Change up your Ditch the king size box of Whoppers in the patrol car, instead pack nuts, hard boiled eggs, fresh fruit, vegetables with hummus, plantain chips with avocado spread, unprocessed jerky, and clean protein bars.  Make your own trail mix such as plain nuts, pepitas and no added sugar dried berries.
  • Prioritize lean, unprocessed protein with meals. When cooking protein, cook extra and add to salad or power bowl the next day.
  • Prioritize healthy fats with meals.  Cook with extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil.  Add avocado to meals when possible.  Snack on plain nuts or add to a salad.  Include fatty fish twice per week.
  • Pack a lunch in place of stopping at the fast-food dollar menu or fast-food Chinese food.  Packing lunch is the easiest way to eat healthy while on duty. Prioritize lunch to include lean protein, plant foods and healthy fat.


Many consider law enforcement to be one of the most dangerous professions in the world, but early death on the job isn’t what ends up taking most lives too soon – it’s heart disease.  Start with small healthy food changes. It does not need to be a complete overhaul of the diet to get started. Decide to implement one change and move on to the next healthy change when ready. All those small changes WILL result in a significant positive change to overall health and disease prevention.


New Year. New Month. New Resources.

In the Finding Strength podcast, our dear friend Matt Quackenbush leads conversations with everyday people with incredible stories of struggle and triumph.  These stories help listeners learn and grow, providing helpful, concrete tools along the way to overcome all that life throws at them.  In this episode, our very own Meg DiBucci shares some insights about her path to Serving Those Who Serve.


Find more Podcasts for Survivors here. 


December Resource Highlight for the Holiday Season

Dealing with Grief During the Holidays: Megan Devine YouTube

Not sure how to balance your need for company with your need to hide out in your blanket fort for the duration of the holiday season? Need help figuring out if you should mention your friend’s grief during that holiday party? Host Helen Raptis and Megan Devine discuss grief and the holiday season – and review some relational etiquette tips.

Other Resources By Megan Devine

November Resource Highlights for the Start of the Holiday Season

Written by Mary Gormandy White for LoveToKnow

For someone who is experiencing their first major holiday without someone they loved deeply, the occasion is anything but merry and bright. Don’t ignore people who are grieving a fresh loss during the holidays, but choose your words carefully. Rather than relying on chipper and upbeat holiday greetings and off-the-shelf cards, let them know you’re thinking about them in a way that demonstrates both empathy and sensitivity. The sayings and poems below can help you do just that.


Someone you love is hurting. It’s the holidays. You want to help. What should you do?

Host Andy Dean is joined by licensed social worker Chrissy Isaac to explore how to be supportive of a friend or loved one who is grieving during this usually festive time of year.



This handbook can help those in mourning through the holiday season. Mourners will work to better understand their complex emotions after reading about such topics as honoring thoughts and feelings, creating new traditions, finding ways to de-stress, and incorporating healing rituals into the holiday season.


The holidays can be a challenging time when you’re in grief. So often, our

friends and relatives don’t understand, and they want us to just get over it.

Join David Kessler as he shares strategies to navigate the holiday season.

All are welcome – whether your loss is new or the holidays are bringing up grief from seasons past.



September. National Suicide Awareness Month.

September. National Suicide Awareness Month.
September 26. National Law Enforcement Suicide Awareness Day.
Join in the nationwide mission this month – #Bethe1to
Over the past year, BtBF has been called on for guidance and support four times when an agency lost an officer to suicide – that’s twice as often as our responses to department-declared Line of Duty Death during the same timeframe. While we do not share publicly our responses to every call for assistance from an agency or family in need, we do believe it important, during National Suicide Awareness Month, to speak out about the need for support of families and agencies who lose an officer to a death by suicide – and to highlight resources available for prevention and awareness.
There are two resources we want to highlight this month for our  Suicide Survivors.
Survivors of Blue Suicide (SBS) Foundation’s mission is to foster hope by uniting survivors of law enforcement suicide to support one another and honor our fallen heroes.

Blue H.E.L.P.
Honoring the Service of Law Enforcement Officers Who Died by Suicide

Offering comfort and honor to the families who have lost an officer to suicide is necessary to maintain the credibility of the thin blue line. All officers, regardless of method of death, deserve thanks; all families deserve your support.

August 2023 Insider Newsletter

Our August Insider Newsletter, shares words from Madison Thompson, surviving daughter of Deputy Ryan Thompson, Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office, EOW 03.19.2019. and a special Seafair event, a see you later to a special staff member, and reminds you of our trainings, events and resource center. Check it out here.

National Law Enforcement Suicide Awareness Day

As we close the month of September, we recognize National Law Enforcement Suicide Awareness Day.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, there are an average of 130 suicide deaths per day. The number of suicides amongst law enforcement officers and first responders is unprecedented. While this sadness seems to spin beyond our control there is reason to be hopeful. Now we can acknowledge the cumulative effect of stress and trauma in a law enforcement career. And, with that, the resources available today, from training and outreach to peer led and professional  support providers is ever expanding.

If you know someone who is struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out – you might save a career, a marriage or even a life.

Brian Johnston

Executive Director

Behind the Badge Foundation




National Suicide Hotline – dial 988

National Survivors of Blue Suicide

Code 4 Northwest

Safe Call Now


Two Feet on the Ground – Gravity Podcast

“There is a lot of noise and chaos in our world. How do we filter through the noise to remember our foundations? Gravity podcast explores the relationships, experiences, and values that keep us grounded in a chaotic world”


Click HERE to listen to the latest Episode of

Gravity Podcast – Marriage Mondays

“Tune in every other Monday to listen to Jaimie and Chris unpack over two decades of marriage. It is going to get messy!  You are guaranteed to laugh and maybe even cry.”

The 3-part EMS assessment: Your patient, your partner and yourself

As we move further into the month of May and many of our agencies, officers and families feel increased emotional response as recognitions happen across the state and the nation in preparation for Peace Officers’ Memorial Day on May 15th.  We hope you’ll be intentional in taking time to be aware of not only your own mental health and wellbeing – but that of your work partners and your loved ones at home.


Take a look at this article for one such break – be well and take care of one another.

How to assess mental health in your EMS partner, yourself (

Officer wellness and family welfare – Start Here!

If I was going to start with one offering for new and seasoned law enforcement officer wellness and an exceptional resource for their overall family health, it would be this – “Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement by Dr Kevin Gilmartin.  My agency gives a copy of this book to every new hire – it is the gold standard, remaining one of the pre-eminent offerings for law enforcement emotional/psychological awareness.

The book’s foreword starts, “If you’re a cop, you’re going to love this book.  It could change your life.  It might even save your life, your career, your home life.   If you’re not a cop, you’ll still love it because the ideas in this book could certainly apply to you too.  Maybe you’re in a relationship with a cop…”

“Dr Kevin Gilmartin is eminently qualified to write about emotional survival for law enforcement because he lived it, studied it, researched it, and taught it.”

Anyone who is, loves or wants to support a law enforcement officer and/or their family will benefit from the full-length book.

In this podcast from “The Squad Room”, Dr Gilmartin talks Leadership, Health and Wellness

120: Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement with Dr. Kevin Gilmartin | The Squad Room

Once you finish that – I encourage you to listen to more episodes from “The Squad Room” with Garrett Te Slaa.  There are so many great topics for cops, families and friends.


On behalf of all of us here at Behind the Badge Foundation – be well, take care of yourself and look out for each other.

Stand with pride my friends –


Detective Meg DiBucci

Programs and Services Director

“Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement” by Dr Kevin Gilmartin

“The Squad Room” Episode 120