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Plan, Prepare and Portion: How to Follow these 3 P’s for Better Nutrition!

12.12.2011 / Blog Posts Health and Wellness

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By Jane Jakubczak, Washington Redskins Nutritionist

If I had a nickel for every time a client plopped themselves in my office and declared they have a “nighttime eating problem,” I would be a very rich women! I would be willing to take my nickel and place a bet that this client is not eating enough during the day. I’d bet an additional nickel that they are skipping breakfast! Click here to see last week's blog for explanation of why this pattern sets you up for overeating at night.

Some of my Redskins players struggle with this pattern of “back loading” their nutrition as well. Their days are jam packed with meetings, walk-throughs, practice, physical therapy, strength training sessions and media interviews.

Add the risk of an upset stomach if they eat too closely to an intense practice or workout, and they are left with very small windows of time during the day to get in the needed fuel. For the average football player, requirements can be 3000 – 6000 calories a day. During training camp, calorie requirements can reach 8000+ a day!

It is essential to fuel your body, whether you are a professional football player or not, regularly and consistently throughout the day to avoid overeating at night. I encourage all my clients, including the Redskins players, especially the rookies, to follow the “Three P’s”:

1. Plan
2. Prepare
3. Portion

Plan: a couple minutes at the start of your day (or night before) to plan your meals and snacks. It can save you not only calories but money as well!

Prepare: Look at your schedule for the day and prepare for times when you may not have access to healthy foods. Pack snacks and meals that are easy to carry and consume on-the-run (see resources below for packable ideas and fun lunchbox containers.)

Portion: a benefit of packing your snacks and meals is you can portion the foods in advance for easy portion control.

Is it worth the extra energy and time to practice the “3 P’s”?

You can decide by answering the following questions:

- Do you want to have more energy throughout the day?

Food to your body is like gasoline to your car. Providing your body with a slow infusion of fuel and nutrients throughout the day will keep your energy level maximized and your body’s working parts humming efficiently.

- Do you want to improve your mood?

When your blood sugar drops from not eating for long periods of time, you are more susceptible to feeling depressed, irritable, anxious and less able to deal with stressful situations.

- Do you want to enhance your ability to focus and improve your memory?

Carbohydrates supply your brain with energy, protein assists in the communication of brain cells, essential fatty acids provide your brain building blocks and vitamins and minerals supply antioxidants to defend your brain from damaging free radicals. Check out this site for cool info on fueling your brain.

- Do you want to lose weight or have an easier time maintaining your weight?

As I mentioned in last week's blog, if you let yourself get overly hungry you will have a more difficult time making smart food choices and practicing portion control.

- Do you want to save money?

By planning your eating occurrences for the day you avoid having to succumb to grabbing an expensive sandwich from the deli, or be tempted by the dollar menu at the local fast food joint or marked-up-priced snacks from the vending machine.

I asked my students last year to do an experiment. Each student created a day’s worth of meals and snacks, priced the day out with financial cost and caloric cost and compared if the foods were brought from home or bought out. The average day’s cost food purchased away from home was twice as expensive as foods brought from home AND the calories were more than double!

- Do you want to better manage your diabetes, high cholesterol and/or hypertension?

When you eat a large amount of food at one time, your body is required to work extra hard to manage your blood sugar and cholesterol, which can place extra strain on your heart/blood pressure. If you suffer from diabetes, high cholesterol or hypertension, your body is already challenged in managing these bodily functions.

Eating smaller, more frequent meals/snacks is part of the nutrition therapy for these conditions. To learn more about diets related to these health conditions, visit the websites below:

DASH diet for hypertension/high blood pressure

Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) to lower cholesterol levels

Diabetic Diet and Meal Planning

- Do you want to be a good nutritional role model for your family, friends and coworkers?

I work with college students and young adults in my practice and I am constantly amazed at their busy and overscheduled lives.

A hectic lifestyle has become part of our culture and young people are falling into the trap of letting their nutrition take a “backseat.” I tell them, “If you let food just happen, it is a recipe for disaster.” Modeling a behavior of making nutrition a higher priority in your day will be a strong lesson to others around you.

Would you agree that taking 10 – 15 minutes a day to practice the “3 P’s” is a pretty good deal for getting all the benefits above?

Some words of caution:

Eating more often does not mean eating more quantity. It is very important to reduce portion sizes at each eating occurrence. Continue to be guided by your hunger and full signals. You are striving to eat just enough to get you to the next eating occurrence without being ravenous. This may take some practice but it’s well worth the effort!

My challenge to you for this week is to take at least one day and apply the 3 P’s to your eating for that day. Don’t give up! It may seem to take a lot of time and effort, but through practice you will become very efficient at it! Share your experiences in the comment section below.

Make it a healthy week!

- Jane

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Websites for snacking guidelines, recipes and portable strategies:

Optimal Snack Equation

Long list of snack ideas, including suggested portion sizes

Fun lunch containers, packing tips and recipes (Great Holiday Gifts!)

Snacks with a gourmet twist

Have your own nutrition questions for the Redskins Team Nutritionist? Leave them below!

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