In the coming days, thousands of students will descend on Philadelphia armed with all the things they will need for a successful first year of college. And as they embark on this adventure, the furthest thing from their minds will be the dreaded “Freshman 15” – the seemingly unavoidable weight gain that often accompanies the transition from living at home to college life.
The first year of college is a time of tremendous change – the biggest change being the freedom to make choices without much influence from parents. Attending classes, studying and completing homework assignments are all sedentary activities that leave little time to fit in exercise. Add to that unhealthy food choices and late night snacking and you have a recipe for weight gain.
Admittedly, it’s hard work getting the grade point average your parents are expecting and avoiding the Freshman 15, but it’s not totally a lost cause. It takes a bit of balancing, smart decision-making, planning and will power. And it’s worth the effort because research shows that losing the weight in later years isn’t as easy as putting it on.
Whether you are a college-bound freshman or a concerned parent, keep these helpful tips in mind:
· Keep healthy snacks in your dorm room or apartment such as fruit, trail mix, cereal, low-fat popcorn and flavored water like vitaminwater zero Drive. This way, if you are snacking while working into the night on a term paper you won’t pack on the pounds.
· If you decide to stash special treats in your room, try individually packaged items so you don’t overdo it – 100-calorie snacks packs and single serving containers of ice cream are easy to keep and neat to eat.
· Many Philadelphia dining halls and restaurants offer delicious and nutritious meal options. Choose foods that are baked, grilled and broiled and don’t forget your veggies. Only go back for seconds or dessert if you are really hungry.
· Substitute your favorites for low- or no-calorie versions – if you’re a soda lover, consider drinking Diet Coke or Coke Zero and if you love ice cream try fat-free frozen yogurt. This is a great way to enjoy the foods you love without all the calories.
· Try to avoid eating late at night as much as possible. Late night eating often results in unhealthy food choices and overeating.
· Limit the amount of fast food. There is nothing wrong with having fast foods from time to time but try to limit it to no more than twice a week. And steer clear of large portions and share with a friend if it’s too much for you to eat alone.
Enjoy the first year in college and here’s to a healthy beginning in the city of Brotherly Love!
Stacey Matthews-Woodson is a registered dietitian and consultant to the food and beverage industry including the Coca-Cola Company. For more information, contact [email protected].