For those who are unaware, “the freshman fifteen” is a term coined to describe a considerable weight gain for the majority of first year college students. Primarily liable is the increase in fast food and consumption of alcohol. However, some argue that stress is partly to blame. In any event, the weight gain is by no means a harmless part of college life, nor is it inescapable. Still, being away from home for the first time, it can be difficult to know how to manage healthy habits while juggling new responsibilities.
So, how can this problem be averted?
There are numerous proactive ways to prevent excessive weight gain during the freshman year of college. It merely requires some will power, personal responsibility and a little savvy about your diet.
Countless people eat – or overeat, in response to stress, fear, depression, or other emotions. By avoiding food when emotions run high, a lot of empty calories might be eluded.
It may seem harmless, but eating while studying or watching TV slows the brains signal of fullness. Studies has shown that people who eat while participating in other activities can eat twice as much as those who focus on their meals.
Obviously, when individuals skip meals, they are more likely to overdo it when they actually stop to eat something. Thus taking a few minutes to have a nutritious meal or snack can prevent a binge shortly thereafter. It can be tempting to opt for an extra half hour of sleep in lieu of breakfast, but doing so can be a hard habit to break. Even if it is just a bowl of cereal, a piece of fruit or a cup of yogurt, something healthy goes a long way in keeping you full, especially if it contains a significant amount of fiber.
When many young adults are away from home for the first time, they may not pay much attention to the amount of food being consumed during each meal, however at a restaurant or cafe’ the suggested serving size is often doubled or even tripled. This can can easily result in individuals taking in twice as much as they actually need. In many instances students can save calories and money by sharing an entree with a friend. Conversely, students may opt to request that half of the meal be packaged in a to-go container, so a later meal is already taken care of as well.
Some of the biggest mistakes in health and nutrition stem from a lack of knowledge. Take a nutrition class on campus or simply enroll in an online version. For most students, nutrition can be taken as an elective and virtually all health science programs require it as part of their curriculum.
It is always a good idea to read food labels, however they can be confusing. A good guideline is to avoid foods that are high in fat, sugar and sodium. Additionally, it is crucial to know that not all ingredients are easy to spot. For example, sugar can be listed as any number of terms, including: High-fructose corn syrup, glucose, corn sweetener, dextrin, dextrose, fructose, honey, lactose, fruit juice concentrate, malt syrup, maltodextrin, saccharose, sucrose, xylose, or treacle, just to name a few. This is another reason nutrition education is so vital.
While these conveniences seem to make life easier, some of the most unhealthy foods are stored in vending machines. Not only is it difficult to know how fresh the product is, but the calories, fat, sugar, sodium and various preservatives can derail even the best diet intentions. Students can maintain healthier habits by keeping a variety of quick, healthy snacks available. These might include dried or fresh fruit, vegetable slices, whole-grain crackers and low-fat cheeses, yogurt, or sugar-free pudding snacks.
This is where things can become a little tricky in terms of calorie consumption. Drinks, including alcohol and specialty coffee drinks, that contain are high in sugar, calories and fat are often the culprit behind unexpected weight gain. This is because most people do not consider how many calories they are consuming when they drink these beverages. However, many cocktails and coffee drinks are equivalent to the calories and fat of an entire meal. To circumvent these excessive calories and fat, use skim milk in coffee drinks, opt for smaller sizes and when it comes to alcohol, add seltzer water and alternate lower calorie drinks between each alcoholic beverage.