University life affords students a variety of new freedoms, including the opportunity to eat what they want. Many freshmen opt for on-campus meal plans that allow them to eat in dining halls where food is in abundance. Thrown into this environment, freshmen often struggle to make healthy choices. As a result, some new college students gain weight, a phenomenon known as the Freshman 15. The number 15 refers to the number of pounds a typical student gains during his or her freshmen year. Fortunately, there are strategies to help you avoid the Freshman 15.
Practice Portion Control
In many dining halls, some or most of the food is self-serve. That means you can plop as many fries as you want on your plate, a habit that’s sure to lead to the Freshman 15. Instead of grabbing large quantities of food because it’s available to you, learn to use your hand as a guide to giving yourself proper portions. For example, your palm is about the same size as 3 ounces of meat, which is the ideal serving size for adults. If the meat on your plate is bigger than your palm, the portion is too large.
Eat Three Meals a Day
Even though classes, study groups, a job, and social events monopolize your time, get in the habit of eating three meals every day. If you skip a meal, you’re more likely to give yourself permission to overindulge when you finally do sit down to eat. If you absolutely have to skip a meal, at least eat a healthy snack such as fresh fruit or Greek yogurt to hold you until you can have a full meal.
Remember That Liquid Calories Add Up Quickly
For many college students, the soda fountain in the dining hall is very tempting, but an endless supply of sugary soft drinks quickly packs on the pounds. While you chat and laugh with your new friends, it’s easy to lose track of how much soda you’re drinking. If you want soda, limit yourself to one 8-ounce serving per day. Otherwise, grab water, sparkling water, coffee, or tea. Just don’t load up your tea or coffee with sugar.
Build Exercise Into Your Routine
You may notice that a week goes by and you haven’t gone for a jog or visited the gym. Put time in your schedule for exercise, just as you plan time for all your other activities. By being intentional, you can work in time to exercise three to four times a week.
Keep Healthy Snacks on Hand
Create a stash of healthy snacks to keep in your dorm room and backpack. When you have nutritious food on hand, you’re less likely to buy something impulsively and scarf it down. As you browse potential snacks, check for sugar content. You may be surprised by the amount of sugar in common “healthy” treats such as granola bars, freeze-dried fruit, and trail mix. Opt for low-sugar nut bars, cheese sticks, apples, bananas, and jerky.
Through careful planning, portion control, and regular exercise, you can fend off the Freshman 15 and maintain a healthy weight during your first year on campus.