Diet is a primary consideration. It is the responsibility of every member to try to follow a diet that helps minimize a cancer-related occurrence. The best nutrition for the body is to eat as many whole foods as possible for each meal. Whole foods naturally provide necessary vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that are vital to keeping the human body healthy and free of disease. Processed foods, on the other hand, tend to have fewer nutrients and more unhealthy fats, sugars and other additives, which can increase the risk for diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer. The cleaner the diet, the better the body will run and the immune system will be more effective when it has to deal with viruses, bacteria and other toxic exposures.
Most fire fighters get adequate amounts of proteins and grains but tend to lack vegetables. Vegetables help the body process food and should be eaten prior to the bulk of your meal, such as having a salad before dinner. When presented with an opportunity to select vegetables, choose a variety of colors, as each different colored vegetable provides a different health benefit when consumed.
Most nutritionists will tell you to eat three meals a day (breakfast, lunch and dinner) with two to three snacks in between the larger meals and avoid eating past the hour of 8 p.m. In the fire service, this can be difficult, if not impossible, due to the erratic schedule, and the use of food as a comfort to a high stress job.
In general, it is advised to eat a large breakfast and start off the day well nourished, and then as the day unfolds, try to hold to the ideal of lunch around noon and dinner around 6 or 7 p.m. When snacking, try to pick a low sugar snack, especially the closer it is to the sleeping hours. Caffeinated beverages, especially energy drinks, and a high sugar diet at night will increase the inability to fall asleep; coupled with calls, this can lead to severe sleep deprivation.
Lastly, getting 64-88 ounces of water per day helps the body process and move food/fuel through the digestive system and has a huge impact on nutrition overall. A good rule is to drink a glass of water prior to each meal, prior to training and after any call that requires physical exertion or the donning of bunker gear.