Are you or your child heading off to college this fall? Many new freshmen worry about making new friends, roommates, classes, and the infamous “Freshmen 15”. Recent studies actually indicate that the average freshman gains 2.5-3.5 pounds during the first year of college, not 15 pounds. Studies more often show a gradual weight gain in college and after college, but not a spike in weight at any particular time. Going off to college can be a huge adjustment, but don’t let the huge adjustment include your pant size. Try the tips below and beat the dreaded “Freshmen 15”.
• Going off to college can be a roller coaster of emotions, stress, anxiety, and homesickness, which all play a role in weight gain. Before you go to eat a snack, think about if you are actually hungry or if you are eating out of boredom or to sooth yourself. Try going for a walk or another form of exercise to cope with feelings of stress, anxiety, or sadness.
• Keep a stock of “smart” snacks such as peanut butter and apples, hummus and carrots, hard boiled eggs, fruit, yogurt, string cheese, or whole grain cereal. Keeping healthy snacks on hand can help you avoid grabbing the bag of chips or candy when you are feeling stressed or emotional.
• Don’t forget about breakfast. It turns out your mother was right; breakfast is the most important meal of the day. If your morning doesn’t allow time for the cafeteria, keep whole grain cereal, milk, yogurt, peanut butter, whole wheat bread, 100% fruit juice, fruit, and granola bars on hand for a quick on-the-go breakfast.
• The cafeteria can be a great place if you play your cards right. Most cafeterias have high calorie goods and oversized portions, but they also have a variety of nutritious foods. Avoid fried foods and go for baked, grilled, roasted, steamed, or broiled items instead for fewer calories and more nutrients. Avoid foods that are buttered, have cream sauces, or anything prepared au gratin. Choose the salad bar more often and add a vinaigrette dressing and maintain portion sizes of croutons, bacon bits, and cheese. Have fruit for dessert instead of the optional sweet treats and save apples, bananas, and oranges for snacks later on. Don’t feel like you always have to avoid the pizza or cheeseburger. When choosing these foods, add a salad or fresh vegetable as a side instead of breadsticks or French fries and keep your portion sizes in check.
• Avoid drinking your calories. Choose water or milk instead of high calorie sodas or juice.
• Make time for regular exercise. It will help control your weight, help improve your mood, and decrease stress. Try out the gym at your university, join a workout class, and find a workout buddy to keep each other motivated. Maintain an active lifestyle by walking or biking to and from class instead of taking the bus or driving to class.
College is a great experience, but don’t let habits such as eating healthy and exercising regularly go to the wayside. Try the tips above to develop lifelong habits and beat the freshmen 15!