The Freshman Fifteen: three words that strike fear into the hearts of first-year college students everywhere! College is a time when students become more independent in almost every way. No one keeps your schedule and tells you when to go to class. No one tells you when to go to bed or wake up. No one tells you when to study. And no one tells you what and when to eat.
Therein lies part of the reason for the freshman fifteen. All-you-can-eat dining halls, food available at every turn, late-night study sessions complete with pizzas and sodas — all contribute. The other side of the equation is the fact that you may not be as active as you were in high school. You may not be participating in structured team sports any longer, and no one tells you to go to the gym.
But that extra weight isn’t an absolute certainty! Use these tips to help you avoid that college bulge:
- Try eating snacks or mini-meals every 3-4 hours to avoid bingeing.
- At the dining hall, let MyPlate be your guide: half of the plate should be vegetables (the non-butter laden variety, and no, French fries don’t count), ¼ of the plate should be a whole grain (like brown rice or whole wheat pasta), and ¼ of the plate should be a lean protein (beans, chicken, fish or lean beef — not fried).
- Try to plan what you will eat for each meal before you walk into the dining hall, and stick with your plan.
- Don’t go back for seconds unless you are truly still hungry — and wait at least 20 minutes before you do.
- If you and your friends order a late-night pizza, order a salad too, so you can control how many slices you eat.
- Stock your room with nutritious snacks like nuts, fruit, and low-fat popcorn. Take them with you when you go to class to avoid stopping at a snack cart with unhealthy options.
- Eat slowly. The faster you eat, the more calories you will eat.
- Become a MyPlate on Campus Ambassador to encourage healthier choices with your institution’s help!
- Pay attention to alcohol: It’s easy to drink as many calories as you should be eating during a whole day, or more.
- Join a sports team, or develop a regular physical activity routine — college gyms are included in your tuition! Make the most of them!
- Try scheduling at least one healthy class per semester, like yoga, aerobics, or weight lifting.
- Manage your first-year stress through social activities or exercise instead of eating.
Remember that although your schedule seems hectic and demanding, this is not too far off from the demands of life after a diploma. The healthy (or unhealthy) habits you develop now can last a lifetime!
What do you do to avoid the freshman fifteen?