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A new cookbook will help anyone eat and cook like a Arlington firefighter

An ACFD ambulances heads to a call (Staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

A new guide will help anyone eat like an Arlington firefighter.

The Arlington County Fire Department recently released online a 103-page nutrition guide and cookbook detailing what local firefighters and emergency responders eat, cook, and have in their kitchens. Firehouses are famously home to some top tier amateur chefs, and the mix of culinary skill and practicality is on display in ACFD’s new publication.

Appropriate portion sizes (“a golf ball = 2 tablespoons”), pantry staples, and wholesome, filing dishes are all cataloged in the guide. Recipes like summer breakfast skillet and cauliflower alfredo are designed to be big enough to feed an entire family or an entire firehouse. There are separate sections for all shifts, including breakfast, lunch, snacks, sides, and dinner.

“The recipes do not follow a strict macro-nutrient profile or calorie count, as everyone’s needs are different in that regard,” reads the introduction. “Instead, they are focused on whole foods and minimally processed, nutrient-dense ingredients, in dishes that can be prepared on a budget and scaled for firehouse crews of different sizes.”

Arlington firefighter and nutrition specialist Clare Sabio helped assemble and verify the guide. She tells ARLnow that the reason behind releasing this large guide publicly is because they get questions all the time about how firefighters eat, train, and stay ready to respond to calls.

“We wanted to proactively share this with the public as a free resource for their health benefits as well as ours,” she says. “Citizen health and education is a big part of our job as Emergency Medical Service providers so it’s nice to be able to help our citizens stay healthy.”

The recipes and ingredient lists avoid “empty calories,” like refined sugars, Sabio notes, and highlight complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, proteins, and plant-based sources of vitamins.

The point is to keep folks full in between opportunities to eat, which can be an extended period of time due to constant calls. Plus, they must be delicious.

“Healthy food doesn’t work if it doesn’t taste great & make our folks want to eat it. That was also the reason for having every recipe in full color with a photograph,” she says.

The guide also is designed to help long-term, including to encourage longevity, muscle gain and recovery, and cancer prevention.

Firefighters have a higher risk of cancer and heart disease than the general population due to exposure to toxic substances and stress on the job.

The project of finding, writing, compiling, and putting together the book took about three months, Sabio says. The guides are not just available for the public, but are being distributed to county firehouses as well.

The physical books are intended to be used in firehouse kitchens for the long haul. Pages are removable to take to the store and are lamented for an easy clean in case of a spill.

Sabio would love it if Arlingtonians reached out saying which recipes worked for them and which ones didn’t.

“We are all happy with how it turned out & hope the citizens of Arlington enjoy it,” says Sabio. “We would love to see pics of anyone who tries a recipe from the book & get their feedback on how they liked it!”

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