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How to navigate your freshman year without the Freshman 15

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As college freshmen move into their dorms and prepare for their first classes, news sources throughout the country are releasing lists for how these new students can avoid the dreaded Freshman 15.

While these lists are all well and good, it is also helpful for a new college freshman to hear the truth from a soon-to-be college graduate, who herself has had trouble with food and diet in the past.

The following are some of what has been learned throughout the past four years, and what you can do to have the best college (food) experience you can, without adding on the pounds.

1) Know your appetite: Are you used to eating three large meals a day, or five to six small snacks? Regardless of the size of your meal plan or the newfound freedom in your eating habits, do not stray too far from your regular appetite. By sticking to your regular eating habits, you will more than likely not be heavily affected by the Freshman 15.

2) Utilize all of the fresh ingredients you can: To help get one or more of your five servings of produce during the day, grab some fresh ingredients from the salad bar and sprinkle them onto your meal. Some healthy meal examples are:

  • Rice and black beans from the Spanish cuisine station with sweet potato, corn and peas
  • Whole-grain pasta with olive oil and garlic from the pasta station with carrots, cucumbers and tomato
  • Burger on a whole-grain bun from the Grill with spinach, onion and avocado

3) Mix and match: Just as you should with the salad bar, do not focus on just getting a meal from one station. For instance, instead of getting French fries with your burger at the Grill, grab some soup or black beans. By mixing and matching, you are able to get more of your grains and protein, both of which are very important to maintain a healthy weight.

4) Don't get too excited about the words "free" or "unlimited": Yes, “free” and “unlimited” are both very tempting associations with food, but do you really need—or actually want—five tacos for dinner?

5) Go off-campus once in a while: Just because you have a meal plan does not mean you should only be eating on campus. Explore the city or college town that surrounds your campus, and try to get a taste of some great food (and yes, that does extend away from just pizza).

6) Don't drink yourself silly: Just as you are now in charge of your dietary habits, you are also in charge of how much you drink. While going to dorm or house parties with tons of unlimited booze can be enticing, remember that your Jungle Juice, beer or margarita has a lot of sugar in it, and could affect not only your soberness but your weight.

7) Make a food journal: While a food journal may seem like a waste of your time, writing down and looking back on what you eat can be extremely helpful (especially in maintaining your weight). By remembering that you had a PB&J yesterday, you can remind yourself to mix it up by getting another healthy item.

8) Think of what your parents would say: Since they are most likely paying for your meal plan, keep your parents in mind when selecting your meals. Would they think that two bowls of ice cream and a burger constitutes a full meal? Most likely not.

9) Don't settle: If you feel as though you're getting bored of the food options, don't just settle for the same old grilled cheese or pasta bowl. Remember that you can mix and match ingredients, get off campus, or even make your own meals in your dorm. The possibilities for your food options are seemingly endless—don't let your own skills go to waste!

Other than just focusing on how to be the healthiest you can be, enjoy your newfound freedom! College is an exciting new experience—so do not get bunkered down by body insecurity or diet. Just remember to be smart—hell, you’ve already proven that by getting into your college!

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