It’s not every day you get to feed a fire department, but ThedaCare Executive Chef Larry London and I did last fall. We teamed up to teach the firefighters with the Hilbert Volunteer Fire Department about good nutrition, healthy eating habits, and how to make healthy food taste so wonderful that no one realizes some high fat ingredients may be missing.
This started when one of my patients, who is also with the Hilbert department, had a stroke. As part of his recovery, we started talking about good nutrition and healthy eating. I think that it’s important for the people who serve and protect our community take good care of themselves. I read about a Harvard study that showed firefighters were at higher risk of heart attacks than the general public.
I connected with the Hilbert fire chief and asked if I could speak at one of their monthly meetings about good nutrition. I talked with Chef Larry about cooking a healthy meal for the firefighters, too. He jumped right on board and we were off. We had a great evening where the firefighters experienced new foods – about half had never eaten salmon before – and learned about good nutrition and how healthy food can be tasty, too.
Of course, the lessons shared with the firefighters apply to everyone. While many aspire to eat healthy, it’s easier said than done. But there are some simple tips everyone can take to make their diets healthier:
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. The recommended daily total is two cups of each for adults and I am sure not everyone reaches that goal. Look for ways to sneak in some extra fruit at breakfast or at lunch. Or consider snacking on carrots or another veggie as a snack rather than chips or crackers.
- Choose whole grain. The next time you buy bread, pick whole grain. Whole grains are rich in fiber and vitamins. Grains are also a great source for carbohydrates.
- Eat lean proteins. Meat is a great source of protein, which builds up body’s muscles, bones, blood and other systems. When it comes to choosing what kind of meat to eat, pick a leaner cut. Don’t forget other meatless sources of protein, including fish and beans.
- Pick low-fat dairy products. This change can make a big difference on your health and most people don’t even notice a difference with the taste.
- Follow the government’s My Plate plan, which shows that half your plate should be a mix of veggies and fruits with a quarter going to whole grains and the last segment for protein. Plus, a glass of milk.
Change is hard, but a little at a time is doable. For example, salmon is a great healthy food – it’s rich in Omega-3 fatty acids – but people may be hesitant to try it thinking that if it’s healthy, it can’t taste good. But as Chef Larry showed the firefighters, it does taste good. The firefighters raved about the salmon and I hope they’ll start incorporating this healthy food choice into their regular diet.
I’m thankful the Hilbert Fire Department allowed Chef Larry and me to meet with them. I hope to attend another meeting sometime this year and talk to them about another healthy habit – doing yoga and stretching exercises. That should a lot of fun!
By Scott Schuldes, certified family nurse practitioner and associate medical director at ThedaCare Physicians-Hilbert. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.