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True or False—Is the Freshman Fifteen Real?

Updated: Jul 8, 2022

The “freshman 15” is the name for the weight gain 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 years ago. Research indicates that the “freshman 15” is both fact and fallacy. Incoming college freshmen do gain weight in the first year, but it might not add up to 15 pounds. 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 add up throughout the college years and beyond.

College is exciting—there are plenty of diversions, 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, and indulge in alcoholic drinks when they’d like. The college experience can also bring stressors—new challenges, new friends, adult decisions and sometimes loneliness, each of which can open the door to emotional eating.

To avoid creeping weight gain and help remind folks of healthy food habits I’ve put together the following Fifteen Tactics to Fight the “Freshman 15.

1. Include a variety of foods in your diet—all things in moderation.

2. Choose colorful nutrient filled fruits and vegetables —pomegranates, red and yellow peppers, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli and more.

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

4. 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.

5. 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.

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

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

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

9. Eat before heading out to party.

10. 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.

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

12. 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.

13. Snack wisely—an ounce of nuts helps keep your energy up and are 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. Making the grade with wise decisions for good health help helps ensure positive results for a lifetime.

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