Every year around August, the media begins to spin stories about the dreaded Freshman Fifteen. Supposedly, students gain an average of 15 pounds during their first year of college. Over-indulging in the dining hall, late night pizzas, no kitchen facilities, limited funds, lack of exercise and high stress levels associated with exams have all been cited as factors contributing to the weight gain.
However, according to a 2011 nationwide study conducted by Ohio State University’s Center for Human Resource Research the Freshman Fifteen is a media myth. Rather than adding the Freshman Fifteen, the average student gains between about 2.5 and 3.5 pounds during the first year of college. In fact about 25 percent of college freshman in the study lost weight!
Still apprehensive about the Freshman Fifteen – although it’s really more like the freshman 3 or 4? The following tips will help you eat healthy and steer clear of unwanted weight gain.
1. Cut your portions. Never eat out of the bag or box, or drink straight from the bottle – unless you’re drinking water. Always put food on a plate and pour your drink into a glass. Check the labels on packaged foods, especially serving size and calories per serving.
2. Eat Mindfully. Don’t eat in front of the TV, computer or while studying. You’re more likely to over eat if your attention is on something else. Try to eat in one place, preferably at the table.
3. Stay away from sugary drinks. One 20-ounce sugary drink has about 250 empty calories – no nutritional value. Drink water, unsweetened tea or low-fat milk. Remember, the only thing you should drink like water is water.
4. Eat more meals where you live. It’s easier to control what you eat when you prepare your own food. Home-cooked meals are usually more nutritious and less expensive. Keep it interesting; try new, healthy foods – for example, fruits, vegetables or whole grains you’ve never tried. Don’t know how to cook? Check out the websites below for quick and easy recipes and cooking tips developed just for the busy college student.
5. Choose smaller portions when eating out. Some restaurant entrees and fast-food meals have more than 1,500 calories – almost as many calories as you should have for the whole day! When you do eat out, watch out for large portions. Share a main course with a friend, or take half home. Order a small size whenever you can. Choose healthier items, like salad – but ask for dressing on the side.
6. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Fill half your plate with fruit and vegetables. They help keep you healthy – and fill you up on very few calories. Use fruit for snacks instead of chips, cookies or other high fat, high calorie snacks
7. Feel full on fewer calories. Choose high-fiber foods: fruits, vegetables, beans and lentils, and whole-grain cereals, breads and pasta. Have a broth-based soup or green salad at the start of a meal. Slow down and chew! It takes about 20 minutes to start feeling full. People who eat too fast often eat too many calories.
8. Get moving. Physical activity improves mood, concentration and health. Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days a week, such as brisk walking or biking. This should be easy if you live on campus. Just walking burns calories, improves heart health and strengthens muscles. You don’t have to join a gym or buy expensive equipment. If you live off campus, get off the bus or subway one stop early and walk the rest of the way. When driving to campus, park your car in the lot that is further away from you class. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
Quick Easy Recipes and Cooking Tips for the College Student
- Beyond Mac & Cheese -Easy, cheap and tasty recipes for the busy college student. http://www.mnsu.edu/shs/healtheducation/bmc/
- http://www.unh.edu/health-services/good_eats/index.html – Recipes and tips created for new cooks.
Photo by: Errol Watkins