On the Road to Fitness: Dietary Suggestions



Photo Claire Kozower
Firefighters from a Somerville, Mass., firehouse take part in a nutrition workshop.

So many times we get rolling on a call and find ourselves deep into the day without having anything to eat. Our bodies start to fail and slowly we get agitated and weak. What do we do? The thing too many choose is a stop off at the nearest fast food joint. We justify this because it's quick and will supply us with much needed energy. And, after all, who knows when we are going to stop today?

This type of thinking will only work once in a while if you really have been put through that continuous workload. If you find yourself having to stop at a fast food joint, think about the number calories in that burger or fries. Many outlets nowadays publish this information on their menus. It may be a meal that ends up adding 500-2,000 calories in one sitting. You can decide to substitute this with the healthier choices that most fast food establishments have to offer.

Another option can be to carry healthy snacks with you that you can munch on throughout your shift. Spreading out your intake throughout the day by doing this will help increase the metabolism, burn fat and keep you energized. Here are some good snack ideas that you can purchase at any grocery store:


  • Granola bars
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Protein bars 
  • Natural baked chips
  • Mixed nuts

Setting up your daily diet
Men and very active women may need up to 2,500-3,000 calories daily. Other men and women who are inactive may only need 2,000 calories daily. A safe plan is to eat 300-500 calories less a day so as to lose 1 to 2 pounds a week.

The idea is to use up more calories than you eat. For instance, working out and doing a cardio workout for 45-60 minutes can use up to 300-600 calories. If you are taking in less calories than your body needs to maintain the level at which you are at than with the workout you are doubling the calories wasted per day. That could turn out to be more than 2 pounds a week. Remember you may not lose actual weight, but lose fat instead, considering muscle is heavier than fat.

You need to eat less fat and sugar which will help cut calories. Fried foods and fatty desserts can quickly use up a day's calories and they may not provide the other nutrients you need. Make sure the other foods you eat are also low in fat and calories.

Eating a wide variety of foods can help you obtain vital nutrients that the body needs. Remember to eat in moderation — and portion your meals!

  • Large breakfast (mixture of carbs/protein)
  • Little snack between breakfast and lunch (preferably a protein-type snack)
  • Large lunch (one of the largest meals of day) of carbs/protein
  • Option of a small snack such as fruits or vegetables
  • Medium-size meal with more protein and less carbs for supper  

Where to look?
Another problem is that most firefighters like things quick and easy. The workload tends to be either on the high end or on the low end, with nothing in between. Either way, time is always of the essence. We do not have much time to waste so we like it fast and easy. So where do we go for tips on quick and easy meals. The Internet is a great source of information. Many sites offer well balanced diets with quick, easy to use recipes such as HelpGuide.org.

And how about making meals at home prior to arriving at the station for your shift? A lot of folks do this so that they do not have to spend time cooking when they could be learning or running calls. If you like your cooking done at the station so that it feels like home, refer to some sites that can help decrease the fat intake, calories and easy to prepare recipes.

Start the new year off right. It's up to you to make this lifestyle change. As much as it may reflect your performance on or off the job, it still lays solely your responsibility.

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