The Best Nutrition Tips and Hacks for First Responders- Firefighters, Emts and Medics.

Clean up your nutrition and ensure fitness gains with these easy to follow FRF tips.

Do you want to know how fit first responders (and their families) make healthy nutrition choices?  Here are some shortcuts, recipes, cooking suggestions and go-to snacks for making the life of a first responder (firefighter, EMT, paramedic) a little healthier.

Eating healthy with a demanding job can be difficult.  Add in the fact that the firehouse is usually full of non-nutritious choices like cakes and baked goods and it is no wonder that obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer are huge concerns in the fire industry.  Yet, as any busy person, or appointed firehouse cook can attest, whipping up a healthy nutritious snack or meal at the end of a long shift can be time consuming and stressful.

In fact, research by the American Sociological Association found that cooking and food choices can make many people stressed, anxious and unhappy.  However, cooking and eating around the house and/or firehouse does not need to be so stressful.  Producing healthy meals and making healthy choices is a possibility and is not that difficult with the right help.  Here are seven (or eight) ways that you can cook and eat healthier in the firehouse (or any house).  Click the video and read below.

Tip #1- Have a plan.  First and foremost, you must make the decision to eat healthy and commit to it.  One of the best ways to ensure success is to plan your meals for the week.  Personally, I plan meals and shopping around my shifts and social calendar.  Yes, I plan when I am not going to eat healthy.  In fact, I encourage you to cheat on your nutrition but only 10% of the time.   Plan the days you are going to have that pizza and beer but only make it one day and one meal.  The other 90% of your meals are healthy meals that will help you achieve your fitness goals.   I try to shop twice a week and use food storage containers to pack healthy meal choices.   Make a family cooking and shopping day and get everyone involved.    FRF has a great chili recipe that is healthy, and the entire family will love.

Tip #2- Know what you are eating.  One of the main reason’s diets work (at first) is because they all require people to think about what they are eating.  If you follow the cabbage soup diet for instance, you must first figure out what you are currently eating and then make the necessary changes to meet the guidelines of that diet.   You become more aware of what you are eating.  And, at first when we follow a “new and shiny” diet, we plan- go to the store buy all the foods and prep what we eat.   I implore you to do that every day.  First figure out and take a mental note of what you are eating.  Make a more conscious effort to read labels, understand serving sizes and really understand what you are eating.  This is a major step.  Once you get in the habit of reading labels, making healthy choices is a lot easier.

Tip #3- Out of sight, out of mind, out of mouth.   Look around any firehouse kitchen and/or your own kitchen.  What do you see?  If you said baked goods, breads and cookies, chances are you are overweight (or need to lose a couple pounds).  Junk food on the kitchen counter is likely to lead to weight gain, a study in Health Education & Behavior found.  Among men who kept baked goods visible in their kitchen, 39% were obese while just 6% were at their ideal weights (A bowl of fruit or vegetables was more typical for the slim guys).  When you are hungry, you grab anything that is quick (and within reach).  So, keep healthy options readily available at the firehouse and place the baked goods in the cupboards (or trash).

Around our firehouse, I always try to have some celery and orange slices readily available.

Tip #4- Keep frozen.  Most of the healthy foods found in grocery stores can be found on the perimeter.  But do not forget about the frozen section.  You want to steer clear of those TV Dinners and sodium laden boxed foods but can stock up on frozen fruits and veggies.    Since they are picked and frozen at peak freshness, their nutrients are comparable to those in fresh produce.  In a pinch?  Just toss some frozen greens and shrimp in a stir-fry and you have got a dinner for the crew in minutes.

Tip #5- Winner, Winner, Easy Chicken Dinner.  Always have a lean protein source readily available.  Pick up a rotisserie chicken the store as a quick, ready-to-eat source of protein.  Or, use an Instapot or a healthy air fryer (click here for more information)  These appliances save time and are perfect for frying, baking, grilling and roasting with little to no oil.  They are an efficient way to cook because they can heat from room temperature to over 300 degrees in less than three minutes, cutting cooking time dramatically.  If you are vegan try to always have some hummus, edamame, or beans readily available. Just add any of these protein sources to some greens or use it as the base for a healthy pasta dish.

Tip #6- Use the three for 30 principle for meal prep.  There is a simple formula for 30-minutes or less dinners:  Choose a quick cooking protein (fish, chicken, or lean beef), a quick cooking whole grain (whole-wheat couscous, brown rice or quinoa) and a pre-washed green (arugula, spinach or snow peas).  You can have a super-tasty dinner on the table in as little as 10 minutes if you learn how to simply prepare these three things.

Tip #7- Stockpile healthy snacks. Get rid of the candy stash, it is too tempting when you are hungry (especially now that we are home more). Always keep healthy snacks on you or the truck—put some in your bag, have them on the kitchen counter, put some in the front of the fridge.  Some convenient go-to snacks include nuts, homemade trail mix, fruit and nut bars, apples, bananas, clementine’s, single-serve nut butters, dried edamame, and air-popped popcorn. If you have refrigeration, stock up on Greek yogurt, cottage cheese and hard-boiled eggs for protein-packed snacks.  You can click here for the 10 Best Snacks for Firefighters.

Click here for my list of the 10-best Snacks for Firefighters, EMTs and Medics.

Hydrate! Try to drink half your bodyweight in ounces of H20.

Bonus Hack- Drink more Water.  Want to eat less around the house and firehouse?  Drink more water.  Have a water bottle on the engine or truck and carry another one around the firehouse.  A lack of water can send the message that you are thirsty and on the verge of dehydration.  Dehydration can manifest as a mild hunger, so, the more hydrated, the less "hunger" cravings.

Whether you are cooking or just eating in the firehouse (or any house), these hacks can help.  Prepare to eat healthy and you will eat healthy.  Give these "hacks" a try, feel free to comment and add your own.

Stay safe and healthy,

Aaron Zamzow

Get more nutrition tips, meal plans, and snack options along with offers and workout options for firefighters, EMTs, and medics. Click HERE to join the FRF Briefing Newsletter.


  1. Danielle McCarty on January 11, 2021 at 5:31 pm

    When cooking at home, I always try to cook for leftovers and freeze a meal or 2 for a quick grab if I get a last minute call in or need a healthy lunch.

    • Zamzowfitness on January 11, 2021 at 5:40 pm

      YES, it helps to keep something healthy prepared as an option.. good stuff..

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