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Eating on Campus & Dodging the “Freshmen 15”

Updated: Jul 8, 2022

Several of you are sending children off to start the “college student journey.” One of the biggest challenges facing both students and their parents is to refrain from indulging to the point of bulging. Adjusting to independence, new schedules and new lifestyles can create an upheaval in one’s eating habits.

In looking at these changes through the student lens, I reached out to Noah Draper, Certified Personal Trainer and a second-year kinesiology or exercise science student.  When asked about challenges to new students on campus and advice to avoid the “Freshmen 15,” Draper shared “The food available is significantly more than most kids would have at home.

There is a real abundance and too often students are eating more simply because it is there.”  Draper continued, “Binge-drinking is also a culprit-—you need to be responsible and exercise self-control in drinking and food choices.”

When it comes to food and fueling their bodies, college students have tons of options—campus dining halls, cafes, and markets; off campus fast food, supermarket prepared foods, sustainable, locally sourced and the list goes on.  Today college foodservice teams provide a diverse set of menus to address the food interests of their students.  Traditional and plant-based menus are available to appeal to those who want semi-vegetarian, flexitarian, pescartarian, lacto-ovo vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free meals.

The choices for campus dining have exploded as colleges and universities compete with the options the restaurant and supermarket industries have created to compete for a share of students’ stomachs.  The choices dished up by college dining halls can make it a challenge to avoid the dreaded “Freshmen 15.” My counsel to parents sending their young adults off includes sharing “Michelle’s Ten 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. 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.

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

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

  8. Keep healthy snacks on hand such as dried or fresh fruit, Greek style yogurt, low-fat cheese, low-fat popcorn, jerky and nuts.

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

  10. Don’t skip meals.

Take Away–Fight the “Freshman 15″ by focusing on healthy eating, moderate portions and including some type of exercise in your schedule at least three to four times a week.

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