Trying to avoid the dreaded "Freshman 15" weight gain? While college is an adjustment, it doesn't have to mean an adjustment in your pants size.
In fact, the Freshman 15 is a myth. Freshman students gain only 2.5 to 3.5 pounds on average during their first year in college, according to a recent study published in Social Science Quarterly. But be advised, the same study finds that college students do gain moderate but steady weight during and after college.
So stay vigilant about diet and exercise.
"Stress, anxiety and homesickness can all lead to overeating.” warns registered dietitian nutritionist, Kristi King, spokesperson with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Before you snack, ask yourself why you’re doing so. If stress, anxiety or sadness is a factor, take a study break to chat with friends or go on a walk.
Late nights and stress can lead to bingeing, so don’t keep junk food on hand. Instead, stock healthy snacks that combine protein and carbohydrates.
Don’t Skip Breakfast
"Breakfast wakes up the metabolism and provides energy to the brain and muscles for the day's activities," says King. "People who eat breakfast tend to eat less throughout the day."
King recommends that breakfast be quick and combine carbohydrates and some protein to help keep students feeling full. Good options include whole-grain toast with peanut butter, a low-fat granola bar and fruit, or a whole-wheat tortilla with hummus and an apple.
The dining hall can be a friend or foe. There may be high-calorie foods and oversized portions, but most universities provide nutritious options too. Opt for foods that are baked, broiled, steamed, grilled or roasted, while steering clear of foods that are buttered, fried or swimming in cream sauce.
When filling your plate at the cafeteria, consider following the US Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate guidelines.
"Alcohol is readily available and can pack on the pounds quickly if you’re not careful," warns King.
For students over 21, King recommends light beer and avoiding drinks mixed with regular soft drinks or sugary juices. When drinking, alternate a glass of water between alcoholic beverages. You'll consume less alcohol and fewer calories.
Regular exercise pays dividends, helping control weight, improve one’s mood and control stress.
Many universities have excellent fitness centers available for students, but you don't have to become a gym rat to stay fit. Instead of taking the bus or driving to class, walk or ride your bike.
If you'd like help creating a healthy meal plan, or want tips for controlling weight, check to see if your university offers nutrition counseling services. Registered dietitian nutritionists are food and nutrition experts, and they can help you ace your health goals.
More tips to maintain a healthy weight your freshman year and beyond can be found at www.eatright.org.
Going to college means adjusting to a new lifestyle. Don’t let the changes get the better of your health and wellness.