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Don’t Add Weight Gain to the Syllabus this Fall

Updated: Jul 9, 2022

College can be a liberating time with all new freedoms—for example, there are plenty of food options, and students don’t have to consider “Mother, may I?” The freedom from parental supervision and their rules allows students to skip meals, eat dessert first (or only dessert), pile on the potatoes, snack late into the night and try all-you-can-eat dining options.

The college experience can also bring stressors—small budgets, new challenges, new friends, adult decisions, busy schedules, and sometimes loneliness, each of which can open the door to emotional eating and the infamous “freshman 15”. The “Freshman 15” is the name for the weight gained those incoming students often see during their first year of college. In this era when food has more “cred,” aka credibility, campus dining halls and restaurants offer more options than they did years ago.

Research indicates that the “Freshman 15” is both fact and fallacy. Studies show that typically the students see a gain of four to ten pounds during the first year of college. Four pounds may not seem like a lot, but the pounds can add up throughout the college years and beyond. It doesn’t have to be that way, to avoid creeping weight gain, and help remind folks of healthy food habits, I’ve put together the following syllabus for curbing considerations to combat college weight gain.

  1. Don’t skip breakfast. High protein foods like cottage cheese, peanut butter, eggs, and Canadian bacon will keep you feeling fuller longer.

  2. Include Fruits and Vegetables. Choose colorful nutrient filled fruits and vegetables, such as pomegranates, red and yellow peppers, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli and low-density ones such as apples, oranges, cucumbers, celery, and radishes.  Low density foods have fewer calories for a larger portion, so you’ll stay full for longer.

  3. Pack for Class. Keep on hand pre-portioned snack options when you have an afternoon of back-to-back classes or activities. Running low on fuel can make you sluggish and having smart snacks can keep you more alert and prevent over-eating at meals. Look for packable options like Sargento sting cheese, Coke mini cans, apples, Kind Bars, or Emerald on-the-go nut and granola mixes.

  4. Keep it balanced. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, one-quarter with simply prepared lean meat or fish or plant protein such as beans, legumes or tofu, and the last quarter with a whole grains like brown rice, couscous or quinoa. This will ensure you get all of the nutrients you need to keep you going.

  5. Burn Calories. Managing your weight means thinking about the calories you’re taking in and the calories burned. Try to include at least 30 to 45 minutes of exercise 3 to 4 times a week.  It can be hard to fit into busy schedules but thinks of way to incorporate added activity when possible, such as taking the long way to class or climbing the stairs to your sixth-floor lecture room.

Michelle J. Stewart is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator better known as the Nutrition Planner who has been leading the way to a healthier you for more than 25 years. Michelle is a Certified Wellness Coach whose motto is “EAT LESS MOVE MORE”. She is a consultant for the food and beverage industry, including formally with The Coca-Cola Company, and offers expertise in corporate wellness, weight loss surgery, menu and product development. All opinions expressed are her own. 

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