“Freshman 15” originally referred to the typical number of credit hours a full-time college student takes each semester. But pop culture also claims it’s the number of pounds college co-eds gain their first year away from home. Research shows about 70 percent of students gain weight between the start of college and their sophomore year – but the good news is the “Freshman 15” has lost weight.
College freshmen flunk when it comes to good nutrition. Results from a recent Tufts study show students should get an “F” in eating enough fruits or vegetables, a “D” in eating enough fiber-rich grains and a “C” in consuming enough calcium. On average college students consume only half of the recommended servings of dairy each day. To make the dean’s list, freshmen must make nutrient-rich foods a priority. Choosing nutrient-rich foods, which provide a more nutritious bang for your calorie buck, is the best way to build a healthy diet. For bone health, young adults require calcium and vitamin D, and dairy foods like milk, cheese and yogurt deliver both.
Many factors can tip the scales, like hectic schedules, social eating and all-you-can-eat meal plans, but the biggest culprit may be late night snacking. One study found that, on average, freshmen take in about 500 extra calories between the hours of 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. For late night snacks, I recommend sliced fruit and cheese, yogurt topped with sliced almonds or whole grain cereal with fat-free milk.
Tips for stocking a mini-fridge:
Undergrads should stock up on these fridge favorites: baby carrots and celery, hummus, string cheese, fresh fruit, yogurt, drinkable smoothies, water, pudding, low-fat and fat-free milk and lean sandwich meat. These are healthy snacks perfect for the on-the-go student, and many come in single serve options that can be packed for class.
Exercise is important too!
For good health, college students need to exercise at least 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week. It’s easy to include fitness in college life with these five tips.
- Walk or bike to class. Be active on the way to class instead of taking a bus or car.
- Go for a walk with friends. Stays fit and chat with friends at the same time. Instead of taking a shortcut back to the dorm, take the scenic route and get in a little extra exercise.
- Take a fitness class as a course. This is a good way to include fitness and earn college credit. Consider martial arts, dancing or aerobics to build muscle.
- Check out the college gym or wellness center. Most colleges have gyms that offer free services or reduced price memberships. Look for classes in yoga, cardio, kickboxing or dancing.
- Join an intramural sport. From volleyball to football, this is a fun way to meet new people and fit in exercise, too.
Eating nutrient-rich foods, including low-fat and fat-free dairy, and exercising regularly can help students beat the dreaded “Freshman 15”.