How to avoid the ‘freshman 15’ weight gain

Trying to avoid the dreaded “freshman 15” weight gain? While college is an adjustment, it doesn’t have to mean an adjustment in one’s pants size.

In fact, the freshman 15 is a myth. Freshman students gain only 2.5 to 3.5 pounds on average during their first year in college, according to a recent study published in Social Science Quarterly.

But the same study finds that college students do gain moderate but steady weight during and after college. So stay vigilant about diet and exercise.

Be prepared. “Stress, anxiety and homesickness can all lead to overeating,” said registered dietitian nutritionist Kristi King, spokesperson with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Before snacking, ask the reason. If stress, anxiety or sadness is a factor, take a study break to chat with friends or go on a walk.

Don’t keep junk food on hand. Instead, stock healthy snacks that combine protein and carbohydrates.

Don’t skip breakfast. “Breakfast wakes up the metabolism and provides energy to the brain and muscles for the day’s activities,” says King. “People who eat breakfast tend to eat less throughout the day.”

King recommends that breakfast be quick and combine carbohydrates and some protein to help keep students feeling full. Good options include whole-grain toast with peanut butter, a low-fat granola bar and fruit, or a wholewheat tortilla with hummus and an apple.

Cafeteria 101. The dining hall can be a friend or foe. There may be high-calorie foods and oversized portions, but most universities provide nutritious options too.

Opt for foods that are baked, broiled, steamed, grilled or roasted, while steering clear of foods that are buttered, fried or swimming in cream sauce.

When filling a plate at the cafeteria, consider following the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate guidelines.

Alcohol. For students over 21, King recommends drinking light beer and avoiding beverages mixed with regular soft drinks or sugary juices.

When drinking, alternate a glass of water between alcoholic beverages as a means of consuming less alcohol and fewer calories.

Exercise. Many universities have excellent fitness centers available for students. Also, instead of taking the bus or driving to class, walk or ride a bike.

Get help. For help in creating a healthy meal plan or tips for controlling weight, check to see if the university offers nutrition counseling services. Registered dietitian nutritionists can help students reach their health goals.

Going to college means adjusting to a new lifestyle. Don’t let the changes get the better of your health and wellness.

Courtesy State Point Media.