Fueling the Fire: 5 Steps to Crafting Healthy and Balanced Meals for Firefighters

Create A Healthy Meal for the Crew with these Five Steps.

Many believe that preparing a healthy meal requires costly ingredients and trendy "superfoods," but the truth is far simpler. Building a nutritious meal doesn't have to break the bank or involve exotic ingredients.

It's essential to cultivate a balanced relationship with food by embracing all types of nourishment without restrictions. Follow this easy-to-follow guide for crafting wholesome and energizing meals that support sustained energy levels.

This framework can be tailored to fit breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner, ensuring that you nourish your body effectively throughout the day.  A great formula for your house and/or the firehouse.

This formula can lead to hundreds of perfectly-portioned meals that taste great and keep you and your crew resilient and ready

STEP #1. Choose a protein, vegetable, carbohydrate and fat source.

The first step is to choose one ingredient from each of the four groups: lean proteins, vegetables, carbohydrates, and fat.  Use the examples below for ideas.

  • Protein
    Sources: Eggs, chicken breast, beef, prawns, lentils, chickpeas, beans, salmon, pork tenderloin, scallops, and tofu.
  • Vegetables
    Sources: ANY vegetables – lettuce, capsicum, carrot, tomato, corn, onion, broccoli, zucchini, beans, peas, kale, spinach, brussels sprouts, bell peppers, etc.
  • Carbohydrates
    Sources: Spaghetti squash, butternut squash, red potatoes, sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, couscous, plantains.
  • Fats
    Sources: Extra virgin olive oil, walnut oil, sesame oil, extra virgin coconut oil, avocado, chopped almonds.

STEP #2. Portion your ingredients.

Serving sizes are typically based on averages. Learn to understand your hunger and fullness cues to understand how much energy your body needs and adjust accordingly.  Adjust your servings down if you are gaining weight and move your servings up if you are low on energy or losing strength.

  • Protein
    -Women – 1 palm
    -Men – 2 palms
  • Vegetables
    -Women – 1 fist
    -Men – 2 fists
  • Carbohydrates
    -Women – 1 cupped hand
    -Men – 2 cupped hands
  • Fats
    -Women – 1 thumb
    -Men – 1 thumb


STEP #3. Choose spices and garnishes.

Select a flavor below and choose three or more ingredients from the list to create a certain cuisine.

Step #4. Cooking the food.

Use these tips as a guide to create flavor:

  • Add fresh herbs to the dish throughout cooking and at the end of cooking.
  • Add dried spices (more budget-friendly).
  • Squeeze lemon or lime over the dish.
  • Sprinkle preserved foods (olives, picked onion) and/or chopped nuts and seeds over
    the dish at the end.
  • Sprinkle dried chili flakes.
  • Saute onion and garlic with vegetables.

Step #5. Put it all together.

Put together the protein source, carbohydrate source, fat source, vegetables, and garnish with herbs at the end.  See as an example of combining all of these elements (scroll down)!

Creating a healthy and balanced meal doesn't have to be complicated or costly. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can easily craft nutritious meals that support sustained energy levels throughout the day.

If you are looking for more details about this formula, you can download the Balance Meal Plan from Precision Nutrition by clicking here.

Food is your fuel.  Remember that what you eat can determine how you perform, think, and sleep.   Follow this formula and optimize your performance and service as a first responder.

Stay Ready and Resilient,

Aaron Zamzow (ZAM)


Reference: Create the perfect meal with this simple 5-step guide. Hundreds of healthy meal
combinations made easy. (2022) Precision Nutrition. Available at: https://www.precisionnutrition.com/create-the-perfect-meal-infographic

Recipe: Apricot Glazed Chicken with Apricot Wild Rice Stuffing


There is nothing quite like tying flavors into all aspects of a meal. With this apricot glazed chicken and apricot wild rice stuffing, you’ll look like a pro!


Apricot Jam:
apricots -2 cups
honey - 6 tbsp
lemon juice - 1/2 tbsp


whole chicken - 1 (4-5 lb)
extra virgin olive oil - 3 tbsp
apple cider vinegar - 1 tsp
apricot jam (recipe above)- 1/2 cup
sea salt and pepper to taste


wild rice - 1.5 cups
chicken broth - 2 cups
water -2 cups
extra virgin olive oil -2 tbsp
celery stalks, finely chopped -8
kale, finely chopped, stems removed - 1 cup
onion, finely chopped -1
bay leaf -1
ground thyme -1/2 tsp
pecans, chopped -1/2 cup
dried apricots, chopped -1 cup (about 20)


Prep Time: 10 minutes   Cook Time: 140 minutes   Yield: 5-6 servings

For the Jam:

Bring a pot to a boil and place the whole apricots in the water for 2 minutes or so. Add them to cold water or ice water to cool down and gently slip the skins off. Next, slice the apricots in half and remove the pit.

Remove the water from the pot and add the sliced apricots back in. Add in the honey and lemon juice and cook on medium-low heat. Stir continuously and cook until easily mashed into a thick jam-like appearance. Store in the fridge or set aside to use immediately for the chicken recipe.

For the Chicken and Stuffing:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Brush chicken with olive oil and sprinkle sea salt and pepper on the outside.

Place chicken inside a roasting pan and place the lid on top, with the holes open. If you do not have a lid, place tin foil over top and make small slits/holes in the tin foil.

Roast for 1.5 hours (depending on the size of your chicken this time may need to be adjusted – times are calculated at 20 minutes per pound + 15 minutes.

Take your total time and decrease it by 30 minutes as you will continue to roast the chicken at a higher heat for the last 30 minutes. For example – if your chicken takes a total of 2 hours, you will cook it for 1.5 hours in this step, and the additional 30 minutes in a later step).

While the chicken is cooking, heat a large saucepan on medium heat and add 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil.

Chop the celery, onion, kale, apricots, and pecans separately. Add celery and onion to the saucepan and cook until translucent. Set kale, apricots, and pecans aside separately.

Add rice, broth, bay leaf, thyme, and water to the saucepan, stir, and simmer covered for 40 minutes – checking around 30 minutes to ensure you have enough liquid. Add more water as needed to prevent burning at the bottom of the pan.

Remove the saucepan lid and reduce heat slightly. Stir frequently until the remaining liquid is absorbed (approx. 5 minutes). Once absorbed, add finely chopped kale on top, place the lid back on, and allow to steam until the kale is soft. Stir into mixture.

Stir in chopped apricots and pecans and remove bay leaf from the stuffing mixture and set aside, covered, until chicken is ready.

When the chicken has cooked for 1.5 hours (or 30 minutes less than your calculated time) remove the lid from the roasting pan and baste the chicken using the juice from the pan. Turn oven up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and keep roasting with the lid/foil lid off.

Mix together apricot jam, apple cider vinegar, and 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil. After the chicken has cooked for 15 minutes at the high temperature, brush the glaze (leaving some leftover) onto the chicken and roast for another 15 minutes – or as long as you need until the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit (no longer pink and juices run clear).

Remove the chicken from the oven once cooked, brush on some additional glaze, and let sit, covered in tin foil, for approximately 10 minutes to let the juices settle.

Serve with stuffing.


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