FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -- Some Fayetteville firefighters are putting the two-alarm chili dinners on the back burner and replacing traditional meals with healthier foods.
It's part of the department's focus on stronger, healthier firefighters, Capt. Zahra McBee said.
She and other firefighters on B shift at Station 5 on Boone Trail are now using organic foods and low-fat ingredients when they cook their meals.
It's one more step toward a healthier fire department, said McBee, who has helped launch a fitness program for firefighters.
It's part of a Wellness Fitness Initiative that's being funded through the Department of Homeland Security.
While physical fitness is a big part of the program, another component that's just as important is eating healthy, McBee said.
"It's a double-edged sword," McBee said. "You can work out like a fool but it's no good if you're eating like a garbage compactor."
Firehouse chefs are renowned for their cooking skills, but not necessarily healthy ones.
Station 5 firefighters -- McBee, Ty Quinn, John Galloway, Jonathan Nichols and Carmine Colantuono -- showed they can whip up a hearty meal that's still healthy.
Late last year, Quinn manned the grill and cooked chicken breasts while Galloway handled stove duties: preparing green beans, mushrooms and onions sauteed in olive oil, wild rice and whole wheat rolls.
"We try to get fruits and vegetables with no preservatives," McBee said.
Galloway is known for his homemade spaghetti, a recipe that calls for sausage -- which has up to 22 grams of fat per serving. Galloway said he now uses ground turkey, which has about 2 grams of fat per serving.
Even though half a bag of potato chips still is in the cabinet, snacks are getting more nutritious.
So, what are the firefighters reaching for when it's snack time?
"Yogurt," Baker said, opening the door of the refrigerator to reveal low-fat containers of the dairy product.
The emphasis on fitness is paying dividends, said Galloway, 40, a nine-year veteran. Since the department embarked on its fitness overhaul, he's noticed there are fewer on-the-job injuries and fewer firefighters who are out sick.
Galloway's also been able to ditch his blood pressure medication, and Quinn has managed to drop 56 pounds since November 2009.
Fitness testing done last October revealed that the city's 324 firefighters are in relatively good shape, McBee said.
"Muscular strength ex-ceeded our expectations," McBee said. "But overall, we need improvement on cardio, core strength and flexibility."
The goals sound simple, but it goes beyond running on a treadmill, doing pushups or building core strength. It means a lifestyle overhaul, McBee said, which is something that carries over into the personal lives of firefighters.
"It makes no sense to test our ladders and maintain our trucks when our people are our best asset," McBee said.