Seven tips for avoiding the Freshman 15

fries_resizedGoing to college can be one of the best experiences of your life – but I bet you didn’t expect gaining the dreaded “Freshman 15” to be a part of that experience. With no parents to prevent you from eating cookies for dinner or ordering that pizza at 2 a.m., it’s no wonder pounds quickly pile on during that first year of college. The good news is that you aren’t doomed to gain those fearful pounds that first year of college if you just follow some simple tips and do some planning ahead.

Tip #1: Stock your mini-fridge with healthy snacks
If your dorm room doesn’t come with a mini refrigerator, purchase one and stock up on healthy snacks. Try healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables; lean, low sodium lunch meat; fat free milk; low-fat string cheese; salad supplies with fat free dressing; and sandwich essentials, such as sliced turkey and whole wheat bread. This will help prevent those junk food trips to the vending machine or late night fast food orders.

Tip #2: Eat breakfast every morning
Eating breakfast every morning will help improve focus and boost academic performance. In addition, eating breakfast kick-starts your metabolism by literally “breaking the fast” from sleeping at night. Be sure to have low sugar, high fiber cereal, low-fat Greek yogurt or oatmeal available in your room as a quick option. You could also choose whole grain toast and egg whites from your dining hall.

Tip #3: Limit your liquid calories
Drinking one 20-ounce bottle of soda from the vending machine or dining hall is an extra 240 calories of just sugar. If you drink one soda every day, it can amount to about 25 pounds worth of weight gain in just one year. Therefore, make the simple substitute and have water, unsweetened tea, skim milk, diet soda or black coffee instead.

Tip #4: Drink plenty of water
Be sure to carry a water bottle with you to class. Many people mistake thirst for hunger and over-consume calories as a result. Staying hydrated throughout the day will help prevent that after-class binge. Try to aim for about 64 ounces of water per day.

Tip #5: Always plan ahead
Carry small snacks to class, meetings and everywhere else you need to go. Bringing snacks to class, such as a bag of fruit or vegetables, whole grain crackers or fiber-bars, will help you maintain energy levels and keep you full between meals. This will prevent another quick stop at the vending machine or fast food restaurant. Try packing snacks the night before so you can just grab-n-go in the morning.

Tip #6: Use your microwave wisely
If your dorm room has a microwave, use it wisely. Many frozen meals contain a great deal sodium, fat and preservatives. Try other types of foods, such as frozen grilled chicken, steamed vegetables, salmon patties, black beans, wild rice and quinoa. Always check the food label regardless of what the claims on the front of the package says.

Tip #7: Make healthy choices
All dining halls follow health standards and provide healthy foods; it’s just up to you to choose them. Make healthy choices by eating from the salad bar or choosing meals that resemble home cooked meals instead of fast food meals such as a burger and fries.

About Author: Adam Schafer, MS, RD, LDN

Adam Schafer is a registered dietitian at OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center in Rockford, Ill. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Food, Nutrition and Dietetics from Illinois State University in Normal, Ill., and his Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill. In his free time.

Adam enjoys any type of exercising, whether indoors or outdoors, taking fitness classes, lifting weights or doing cardio. He also enjoys reading books and playing a variety of sports, including soccer, basketball and backyard activities such as bags, bocce ball and badminton.

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Categories: Diet & Exercise