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Firefighter Nutrition: 3 Quick & Easy Tips when there’s no Time to Cook

Firefighter Nutrition:

3 Quick & Easy Tips when there’s no Time to Cook

Let’s face it; as firefighters, you don’t have loads of time to spend on meal prep. Yet, there aren’t many jobs that have higher energy demands than firefighting, or are more life-threatening.

This makes the necessity of getting the right foods into your body to stay energized that much more important.

But between station duties, training, and the unpredictability of incoming calls, it’s more easily said than done. And that’s without the added challenge of coordinating meals that will please a whole crew!

3 Steps to Healthy Eating


As a professional sports nutritionist, I come across these issues on a daily basis. Let’s look at three simple tips that will help you to eat the foods your body needs to keep you fueled throughout the day:

1. The “Healthy Plate Model

 This plate model is a visual representation of the gold standard when it comes to what you should be eating. In a nutshell, you want to make sure your plate is equally split in 3 portions; one third for a lean protein source (think meat, eggs, fish, or beans, or nuts), the second third for a carbohydrate source (think pasta, bread, rice, or potatoes) and the third for vegetables. This meal balance is what your body needs to perform on the job to the max of your capacity and it also helps with portion control.

  • Carbohydrates provide energy. In proper proportions, they will maximize your performance when working on the fire ground.
  • Lean protein keeps your muscles strong and helps them recuperate from strenuous work.
  • Vegetables add fiber, vitamins, and minerals to the mix, which will help keep you full and healthy so you can make it to retirement age without too many bumps in the road.

Try this model when deciding on what meals to prepare at the firehouse.



2. Choose Easy-to-Prep Recipes that Re-Heat Well

 In a firefighter nutrition study I recently completed, practically every firefighter I spoke to mentioned that the alarm is more likely to sound in the middle of a meal than during down time. Unfortunately, this example of Murphy’s Law means that your chances of consistently fueling your body properly are quite slim!  So what’s a firefighter to do? Choose quick-to-prepare recipes that fit the healthy plate model and can be easily re-heated! These meals can also be prepared at home and brought to work to save even more time.


For simple recipes, make sure to subscribe to the Food for Firefighters Newsletter.

3. Have proper snacks on hand

This sounds pretty easy, right?  Having healthy, filling snacks on hand will help reduce your cravings between meals, which makes it a lot easier to make better meal choices later.  Your top snacks picks should be portable, able to sustain you all day without melting in your pocket, visible and readily accessible in the station. Here are some great examples:

  • Granola or protein bars
  • Individually-packed portions of trail mix
  • UHT (a.k.a. no-refrigeration needed) chocolate milk (or soy milk)

The Choice is Yours

As firefighters, you have added challenges when it comes to fuelling your body in a healthy and efficient manner. But this doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel!  These easy tips can help you take small steps toward eating more nutritious meals and snacks to compliment your fitness routines and keep you ready to perform when called.


Alina Petre, MSc, RD


If you’d like to receive monthly no-nonsense firefighter-specific nutrition tips, simply sign up to THIS Food for Firefighters Newsletter.

This article was written by The First Twenty Firefighter Functional Training Panel guest blogger Alina Petre. Alina is a registered dietitian specializing in sport nutrition. She enjoys helping highly active individuals meet their health and performance goals.

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