For Teens by Teens: Eating at College And How to Avoid the “Freshmen 15”

A fresh bout of the “freshmen 15”—an expression that describes new college students’ weight gain during their first year—is threatening to claim its next class of unsuspecting targets. The birth of this virus can usually be attributed to the newfound responsibility of late teens choosing their own meals and having a more autonomous schedule. Those students who are aware of the hazards of early college life must take the following measures to avoid being victimized by this nationwide epidemic.

Working out:

Set up a reasonable workout schedule as soon as you are settled into your college schedule. “Reasonable” is the operative word here. If you over-commit or push yourself too hard at first, you will burn out and end up not working out at all. An example of an acceptable workout schedule can include using the elliptical, treadmill, or stationary bike for half an hour, four times a week, directly followed by strength training for 20 minutes. You should not be trying to lose weight your freshman year. Your priorities should lie in maintaining your weight and adjusting to your new college responsibilities.

Eating and leisure:

A habit you should try to avoid is using leisure time to watch a show with a snack in hand. Creating this habit will make you believe that relaxing equals eating and sitting still. Instead, go on a walk with music, hike with friends or head to the gym! It may seem odd to view running at the gym as “recharging.” After all, you are expending a lot of energy. However, regular exercise actually increases your daily energy and bolsters your mood far more than staring at a bright light for 45 minutes. Entering college is a good time to discover inventive ways to unwind. Coloring books for grown-ups, reading outside, board games or foosball in the common rooms, art projects, visiting friends’ halls, and playing a little Frisbee or soccer on the lawns are all great options.

Eating out:

If you are heading off campus to study with friends, suggest leaving directly after a meal; that way, you are not as tempted to stop for fast food. If you do end up eating out, eat fresh vegetables or smaller portions, supplemented with healthy snacks from your car. Also, picking tea at your coffee study hall over sugary coffee drinks is good for you and your wallet.

Eating in the cafeteria:

Meals should go something like this:

For breakfast, grab some fresh fruit and also take some extra to pack away for a snack later in the day. Whole-wheat toast with a little peanut butter for protein is also a great option.

For lunch, visit the salad bar before the hot line. Also, check out the soups.

For Dinner, inspect all your options before making your decision and don’t forget fresh vegetables. You should be wary of foods that do not clearly display all of their ingredients, like casseroles. Do not get into the habit of drinking soda at meals. Instead, bring a water bottle everywhere. Not only does drinking water keep you hydrated and prevent headaches in class, but it also keeps you feeling full and satisfies the need to munch on something. Finally, stay away from the dessert bars altogether; instead, keep a bar of dark chocolate in your room for an evening treat.

Eating in your room or hall kitchen:

These healthy foods may be helpful to have on hand in your hall kitchen or mini fridge: clementines or bananas for hurried breakfasts and almonds, dried fruit, and granola for snacks. You may also feel the need to stock up on meal options for busier days. If so, collect salad ingredients, and choose instant rice packets over ramen or canned soup. If you do choose to buy soup, choose types with low sodium and vegetables, instead of meats and noodles. Pan-frying several strips of chicken and bell peppers, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper, makes a great topping for salads throughout the week, and it keeps well in the fridge.

Many innocent students may feel that eating habits should be low on their list of priorities as college begins; however, food selections may seriously affect their ability to defend against the freshmen 15; a disease that can inhibit one’s focus and alter stable moods. It is vital to supply potential weight-gainers with the nutrients that will make them feel healthy in the long run. If students take the time to develop nutritious habits early on, they may avoid the devastating epidemic, and save the time they would otherwise waste by creating new habits directed toward getting back into shape.

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