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5 healthy on-the-go meals for paramedics and EMTs

These planned meals will help you stay healthy and full between EMS calls

Wraps of vegetables are a tasty and healthy on-the-go meal for EMS providers.

We often make nutrition too difficult and complicated. When yours truly was on the street in a busy urban system, I would prepare meals the day before a long week of running calls. While it takes some planning, I was able to eat well, save money and control myself from the high-sugar and low-health foods that seem pervasive in our world.

Let’s get cooking to improve our fitness and health.

1. Fit responder bars

This is a homemade protein meal-replacement bar that you can modify to fit your taste.

  • 2 cups oatmeal
  • 4 scoops of vanilla egg white powder (use the scoop in the tub, and egg whites taste best when cooked)
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1 cup raisins
  • ½ cup diced nuts of your choice
  • 2 tbsp. almond or peanut butter
  • 1 cup almond milk and 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp. apple sauce

Preheat oven to 295 F. Combine ingredients in a bowl, and mix well to desired consistency. More moisture is better than less. Bake in a round cake pan for 16 to 18 minutes. Do not over cook. Cut into equal pieces; each piece will contain roughly 12 grams of protein.

Keep the bars in the refrigerator until your shift, and bars will be fine unrefrigerated for at 12 to 14 hours.

2. Responder wraps

Here’s a gluten-free, spinach or whole wheat wrap for a tasty and healthy meal on the go.

  • 4-5 slices of reduced-sodium turkey breast (tuna or chicken works too)
  • Mustard
  • Cheese such as provolone or cheddar
  • Loose leaf spinach or kale
  • Spinach or whole wheat wraps

Make two wraps and cut each in half after rolling them. These are easy to eat between calls no matter where you are. One wrap will keep you going for at least two hours, and will help to control your portions. Drink water as you eat each wrap to feel full and stay hydrated.

3. Basic protein base

Every good meal needs a good base to enhance it. With this combination you can add any protein you like and it will always taste good. Plus it can be eaten hot, cold or in-between, depending on when the tones go off.

  • 2 cups brown rice
  • 1 can black beans
  • 2-3 diced tomatoes
  • Loose leaf spinach
  • Any protein you want

Cook rice according to directions on package. When rice is done, immediately add the beans and tomatoes. Season to taste.

Once cool, place the mix in a storage container and throw it in the fridge. Before your shift, combine the rice mix with loose-leaf spinach and a protein source.

Consider pre-cooking three to four chicken breasts and adding ¾ of a breast (diced) into the mix.

A salad dressing like Newman’s Own honey mustard can really add some flavor.

4. Ready-made oatmeal

This is a very healthy, tasty and easy recipe for a pre-made breakfast or even a meal.

  • Old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant, quick, or steel-cut)
  • Greek yogurt
  • Almond or soy milk
  • Handful of chia seeds — yes chia seeds, they are a super food and tasteless

Add the ingredients to a 1-cup Mason jar in this order: oats, milk, yogurt, and chia seeds, along with desired sweeteners or flavors. Consider frozen blueberries, peanut butter and bananas, or apple sauce and cinnamon. The options are endless.

Gently mix and place in the refrigerator overnight. Enjoy the next day. Four jars will keep for a long shift week.

5. Easy calzone

Makes a great meal and will feed as many as five people, or keep you fed for four or five shifts.

  • Whole wheat pizza dough
  • Diced veggies of your choice
  • Pre-cooked chicken breast or other protein of your choice
  • Cheese optional

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a pizza stone or baking sheet with olive oil. Roll out your pizza dough into a circle and set aside.

In a separate pan lightly sauté diced vegetables of your choice. I prefer zucchini, broccoli, onion, garlic and at the end spinach (fresh or frozen), but any green vegetable will do.

Add a chicken breast or protein of your choice (pre-cooked).

Add the lightly sautéed veggies to the pizza dough and carefully fold to make a calzone. You can of course add a bit of cheese; I like to add extra leaf greens like kale, greens or spinach as they cook down very quickly.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the crust is done. A little pasta sauce on top completes this awesome meal.

These are all easy, budget friendly and healthy meals that I developed during my time in the field. With a little planning you’ll be eating well all week long.

Bryan Fass, ATC, LAT, CSCS, EMT-P (ret.), dedicated over a decade to changing the culture of EMS from one of pain, injury and disease, to one of ergonomic excellence and provider wellness. He leveraged his 15-year career in sports medicine, athletic training, spine rehabilitation, strength and conditioning and as a paramedic to become an expert on prehospital patient handling/equipment handling and fire-EMS fitness. His company, Fit Responder, works nationally with departments to reduce injuries and improve fitness for first responders.

Bryan passed away in September, 2019, leaving a legacy of contributions to EMS health and fitness, safety and readiness.