Researchers alarmed by firefighters’ eating habits

A recent survey found that firefighters get most of their calories from turkey, chicken, alcohol, salty snacks and white flour

By FireRescue1 Staff

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. —Results from a recent survey regarding the eating habits of firefighters are alarming researchers.

Post and Courier reported that a survey conducted by the University of Texas’ School of Public Heath in Houston is helping nutritionists look into how firefighter eating habits are affecting their cardiovascular health by delving into what they eat on a daily basis.

The survey found that firefighters get most of their daily calories from chicken, turkey, alcohol (while off duty), salty snacks and white flour. Potatoes were the only vegetable that made the top 20 list, and they were usually consumed in the form of French fries or hash browns.

“The fire service is nothing but a snapshot of America,” co-author R. Sue Day said. “We’re all facing the same stuff. But they’ve got a bigger burden, and we need them.”

Researchers said that about four out of 10 firefighters in the United States are obese, which is one of the leading causes of cardiovascular disease, the leading killer of U.S. firefighters.

Day said paying out of pocket for meals is another standard firefighters experience.

“We’ve seen that mindset in the firehouses that ‘I’ve chipped in my money, by God, so I’m going to eat this food,’” she said.

Day added that classes to teach firefighters how to cook healthy meals inexpensively are a good way to combat that idea.

“It’s an effect of the eating environment,” she said. “I’m optimistic we can shift the paradigm.”

Day said she plans to publish a paper soon on a weight change program for firefighters that includes both fitness and nutrition interventions.

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