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Getting the Nutritional Support You Need as a First Responder

Date:Saturday January 2, 2021

Whether you are running off to respond to a call or just dealing with a shift where everything seems to be happening at once, as a first responder it can be a challenge just to find time to eat. It’s even harder to make the time and preparation to make sure your meals are really meals and that your caloric intake is also very nutritious.

Still, the benefits of good nutrition abound, and when your job relies on a steady supply of energy and mental prowess, like most first responders, it’s important to pay attention to what you eat. Most of us have a good idea of what we’d like to change in our diets, from more veggies to less sugary drinks, but how do you make it happen? Here are a few ways that first responders can reach their own nutrition goals.

  • Make the Good Choice the Easy Choice: Many of us feel discouraged when we end up eating less healthfully than we want, without noticing that vending machines, fast food, and other ultra-easy snacking tends toward the less healthy options. One way to push your goals forward is to deliberately put the healthy options in view. This means bringing a bigger collection of low-calorie drinks to the work fridge, or storing a whole package of whole-grain and protein bars in your backpack, or whatever it takes to have something healthy in arms’ reach when working. Make your healthy food also a convenience food.
  • Find a Nutrition Buddy at Work: Not everyone at work is likely to join your campaign to eat a little better, but see if at least one person can become your nutrition buddy at work. This isn’t about dieting or weight loss, unless you both simply want to make it that way; it’s about having someone else who is willing to order salad if that’s what you want to be eating even when everyone else is opting for something with fewer fresh veggies. Not feeling alone or singled out can help make your nutrition choices just another part of the way your group is diverse, rather than something that makes you stick out.
  • Aim for 80% and Accept Compromise: While there are nutritional rules that your doctor may specify should be followed all the time, for most of us, moderation when it comes to less-healthy foods is the key. If you can eat healthy during 4 of your next 5 shifts, with a more calorie-dense or more processed meal or two on the fifth day, that is usually great! When the only food available is outside your goals, it is almost always better to make sure you have food in your stomach. Recognize that an all-or-nothing mentality can lead to discouragement, and a moderate improvement in your nutrition intake is a great, sustainable plan.


Resources for First Responders to Get the Nutritional Support They Need:

  • Looking for a refresher on healthier options within the many food groups you often see? Check out this article from the American Heart Association about small changes and swaps you can make to add a little more positive nutritious value to your meals.
  • Dr. Kara Fitzgerald, a former first responder herself, discusses how your food is actually Tactical Nutrition, key to the skills you need at your workplace.
  • The American Heart Association discusses how your food is key to your physical exertion, whether you’re working out or doing physical tasks at your job.

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