Beginning college is one of the most exciting times of a student’s academic career. It is also the first time most young adults begin making all of their own day-to-day decisions for themselves. This is especially true when it comes to eating habits and selecting meals and snacks. Gone are the days when mom tells you to “eat your veggies,” and many college students are so excited about their new dietary freedom they will often select more caloric items as their usual fare. These higher calorie foods, along with frequent late night snacking, can be responsible for weight gain commonly seen during the freshman year. The typical weight gain has been ‘affectionately’ dubbed as the “the Freshman 15”. Here are a few tips to help enjoy your dietary freedom without adding unwanted pounds.
Set limits when dining in limitless settings
Many campus dining halls offer buffet style meals, which certainly makes it easy to pack on the pounds. To successfully navigate this scenario, start your meal with a food high in water content such as a green salad or broth based soup. These foods will help to fill you up and prevent overeating during your main meal. For your main meal, follow a simple formula: half your meal should be veggies, a quarter lean protein and a quarter from starch. On those days you really want to ‘treat yourself,’ keep your eye on the prize. No browsing. Head directly to the burger & fries or your favorite food to prevent grabbing something you don’t need, and add a side of veggies or fruit!
Stock dorm rooms for mid-day and late night munchies
Being prepared with healthy snacks and sensible drink options - in the perfect sizes - will help to prevent poor dietary choices and unwanted weight gain. Grab perishable items such as fruit, yogurt and vegetables from the dining hall and store them in your mini fridge for later. Take the guesswork out of portion control by choosing foods and drinks such as Wholly Guacamole Minis, mini hummus packs and Coke mini cans which are perfectly portioned! Whole grain crackers, Kashi whole grain bars, nuts, trail mix and Justin’s peanut butter are great items to keep handy. It’s rare that busy college students have time to shop, so consider ordering these items online or having a family member send them to you.
Breaking bad habits is difficult, so start your life as an adult on a positive note. Try to incorporate physical activity into your life daily activities, even if it is just walking around campus with your friends or taking the stairs instead of the elevator to class. Remember, any type of physical activity helps to burn calories and prevent unwanted weight gain. Most importantly, enjoy your freshman year!
Stacey Matthews-Woodson, MS, RD, LDN is a registered dietitian and consultant to the food and beverage industry including the Coca-Cola Company.