For those venturing off to college for the first time, it is a time of transition and new beginnings. Breaking away from familial routines, favorite foods and evening barbecues means time to establish independence. For many this also means the dreaded “Freshman 15” referring to the 15 pounds many young adults put on their first year at college.
Studies show that most of college weight gain occurs during the first semester of the freshman year. Let’s face it, college offers many temptations, new freedom to eat what you want, when you want and go to as many parties as you can stand. You can pile on the portions in the dining hall, eat dinners of French fries and pizza, and indulge in sugary and salty snacks to fuel late-night study sessions. In addition, unless you are on a college sports team, you may not get as much exercise as you did in high school.
College is also a time of change, and the stress of acclimating to school can trigger overeating. People sometimes eat in response to anxiety, homesickness, sadness, or stress, and all of these can be part of adapting to being away at school.
Preventing weight gain is not as difficult as it seems. Ask yourself what your mom would say like “where’s the green on your plate.” In the dining hall, instead of loading up on carbs, be sure that half of your plate or tray is made up of fruits and vegetables. Make mom proud – after all, we are always right!
Try going vegetarian a couple of times per week. Remember nothing adds extra empty calories to your diet like soda, energy drinks and alcohol. With a microwave, a mini-fridge, and a hot plate, as long as you keep your dorm room stocked with some smart staples, a healthy meal is always within your reach. Avoid eating late at night, skipping meals and try keeping these healthy options in your room for quick meals:
Whole wheat bread
Canned veggies and beans
Canned fruit (in unsweetened juice or water) or fresh fruit
Light microwave popcorn
Single serving boxes of low-sugar, high fiber cereal
Whole wheat pasta
Canned tomato sauce
Reduced-fat cheese slices
Reduced-fat or fat-free milk
Baked tortilla or potato chips
Low-fat pre-packaged lunch meals
And last but not least, walk, walk, walk. College campuses are designed for the pedestrian. Walk to and from your classes as much as possible. Being away at college for the first time is exciting, with intermittent bouts of homesickness at times. This is perfectly normal, just be sure to find other ways to cope and do stock your dorm room with plenty of healthful alternatives to the dorm vending machine.