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Dorm and Dining Tactics To Fight The Freshmen 15

Updated: Jul 9, 2022

I’ve been fielding questions from my clients focused on kids leaving home to start college. Some parents want to give advice and step away. Others however want to hover, defeating their goals of helping develop life skills to be independent. In sharing advice and counsel with the parents of newly minted college freshmen, I remind them their kids will be faced with choices, and those young adults will replay their advice and make wise choices.

When it comes to food and fueling their bodies, college students have tons of options—on campus, off campus, fast food outlets, supermarket prepared foods, protein blender beverages and the list goes on. With endless options competing for the students’ attention, it can create dining dilemmas and a willingness to try everything. With so many choices, students often overindulge which can add up to the dreaded “freshmen 15.” The “freshmen 15” is the weight gain that incoming students often see adding to their girth during the first year of college.

Research studies show that students will typically gain between four and ten pounds during that first year of college. You may say well that is not 15 pounds, but the pounds can be cumulative, and you don’t want the weight gain to creep up leaving your child heavier at the end of his college years. Here is a list I share with parents and college students, “Michelle’s Fifteen Tactics to Fight the “Freshman 15.”

  1. Choose a variety of colorful nutrient filled fruits and vegetables —pomegranates, red and yellow peppers, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, kale, red cabbage and more.

  2. Don’t skip breakfast; college students who eat breakfast have better short-term memory retention. High protein foods like cottage cheese, peanut butter, eggs, and Canadian bacon will keep you feeling full longer.

  3. Choose low-density fruits and vegetables such as apples, oranges, and other fruits along with cucumbers, celery, and radishes. Low density foods have fewer calories for a larger portion and keep you feeling full longer.

  4. 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.

  5. Choose broth-based soups over creamy soup—they are lower in fat and calories and will help you feel full.

  6. Avoid the all-you-can eat buffets—this is an easy way to overeat.

  7. Stay hydrated. Drink 8 glasses of water a day. Many times, when you think you are hungry, you may be thirsty. And don’t forget you don’t want to drink your calories! Eat before heading out to a party.

  8. When you’re planning the party–have 5 to 7-ounce cups for beverages and make sure there are plenty of non-alcoholic drinks on hand. Serve a variety of portion-controlled soft drinks in mini cans at 90 calories. Round out the beverage selection with sparkling or flavored water and iced teas.

  9. If you’re of legal age to have alcoholic beverages, drink plenty of water and don’t overindulge in alcohol. Mixed drinks and beer are high in calories.

  10. Include at least 30 to 45 minutes of exercise 3 to 4 times a week.

  11. Avoid late-night pizza parties and snacking. Keep healthy snacks on hand such as dried or fresh fruit, Greek style yogurt, low-fat cheese, low-fat popcorn and nuts.

  12. Don’t go food shopping when you are hungry.

  13. Snack wisely—an ounce of nuts helps keep your energy up and is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.

  14. Weigh-in on a scale regularly; this will help keep the pounds from adding on unnoticed. Don’t forget to nix those baggy clothes.

  15. Get a buddy—by pairing up with a friend you’ll have a support system, and you can encourage one another to fight the “freshman 15.”

Take Away–Fighting the “freshman 15″ helps focus on the importance of healthy eating and lifestyle choices.

Image courtesy of Ambro /

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