Top six tips to avoid ‘freshman 15’ and feel your best

By Sarah Costello

College life is busy. After just a few days the chaos will hit you like a semi-truck. With the homework, the projects and the studying, making time for outside activities (and even slowing down for five minutes to eat breakfast) takes some maneuvering. In addition to the stress of normal college life, many students also struggle with another prevalent problem — weight gain.

It seems these days being a freshman is synonymous with the dreaded freshman 15. But don’t let this inaccurate myth put a blight on your first year as a college student. According to freshman15.com, the majority of freshman college students will not gain 15 pounds (so feel free to release collective breaths of anxiety). A recent study conducted by freshman15.com revealed the average college freshman will gain five pounds.

Weight gain may seem inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be. Freshman15.com highlights some sure ways to pack on the pounds, including little to no exercise, eating late at night, buying and keeping unhealthy snacks handy and making poor meal choices. A healthy diet and lifestyle is possible, even as a college student. The following six tips are designed to help you stay healthy and prevent the avoidable freshman 15.

1) Don’t skip meals

In college, meals must be adjusted to fit tight schedules. When in class all day, eating breakfast and finding time for lunch is sometimes impossible. Waking up five minutes earlier seems difficult, and grabbing chicken fingers at McEwen for lunch is much easier than packing a sandwich. There’s a reason people naturally eat three meals a day. According to youngwomenshealth.com, eating three balanced meals will provide you with energy throughout the day and helps maintain metabolism.

2) Eat a good breakfast

This tip goes hand-in-hand with number one. Eating three meals is important, but your day begins with breakfast, so make it count. According to healthed.uoregon.edu, skipping breakfast can affect performance in class. When pressed for time, grab a bagel, some granola or even a piece of fruit to ensure your stomach and grade will not suffer from improper nourishment.

3) Substitute good choices for poor ones

Dining hall and cafeteria food is tempting. When you pay for all you can eat, it’s natural to eat all you can. Sometimes turning down savory chicken and golden french fries is difficult, but if possible, try to substitute the empty caloric and greasy foods for healthier options. For instance, Chick-fil-A in Octagon Café offers both fried and grilled chicken sandwiches. You’ll save 130 calories by ordering grilled chicken and get about a serving of vegetables. Youngwomenshealth.org recommends eating whole grains instead of white rice and bread, and substituting fresh fruit for cookies and ice cream.

4) Drink water

When making better choices, do not forget the power of water. This necessary supplement is often replaced with coffee and sugary sodas, but staying hydrated is imperative to good health. Youngwomenshealth.org writes that water not only curbs thirst, but also revitalizes skin and organs. Drink often, even when you are not thirsty, to avoid dehydration.

5) Pack a lunch

Packing a lunch will ensure you eat at the appropriate time, and it puts you more in control of what you eat. When running from class to class, it may seem easier to grab a candy bar from the vending machine and eat a real meal later. By packing a lunch, you won’t skip a meal, and you’ll be able to prevent headaches and overeating at a later meal.

6) Embrace variety

From childhood, the food pyramid has been prominent in doctors’ offices and even grade school. Adhering to the pyramid diet can be nearly impossible in college, but it is possible to introduce balance and variety to your palette. Try to eat lean meats (grilled or baked chicken), carbohydrates high in fiber (potatoes and whole grains) and healthy fats found in nuts and oils.

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