How to Beat the Freshman 15

Choose foods packed with vitamins and minerals.

“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.

The Freshman 15 IS real. 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. In reality it is more like the “Freshman 8.” But whether it’s 8 or 15 pounds, it’s the same factor contributing to the obesity epidemic among all Americans – a small increase in daily calories causes significant weight gain over time. 

 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.

 Many factors can tip the scales:

  • Like hectic schedules
  • Social eating
  • All-you-can-eat meal plans
  • 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.  

 Stocking up the dorm room: 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. 

 Students can fuel up between meals or for late night study sessions with easy grab- and- go healthy snacks such as:

  • Animal crackers
  • Canned fruit
  • Fresh or dried fruit
  • Granola bars
  • High fiber cereal (portioned boxes)
  • Nuts or seeds (pumpkin, almonds, sunflower, walnuts, pistachio)
  • Popcorn (light or fat-free)
  • Tuna fish
  • Trail mix
  • Pudding
  • Oatmeal
  • Reduced fat peanut butter
  • Whole grain crackers

               These snacks can be mailed in a surprise care package to hungry freshman.

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
  • Go for a walk with friends
  • Take a fitness class as a course.
  • Check out the college gym or wellness center.
  • Join an intramural sport.

 In addition to eating nutrient-rich foods and exercising regularly, freshmen can prevent packing on the pounds by:

  • Making Time for Meals
  • Don’t Skip Breakfast
  • Get Plenty of Sleep

 Eating nutrient-rich foods, including low-fat and fat-free dairy, and exercising regularly can help students beat the dreaded “Freshman 15!”

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