Weight Loss: Easy ways to avoid the freshman 15

As incoming college students embark on their new adventure, they face the dreaded freshman 15 – packing on a few extra pounds in the first year. Late-night eating binges aren’t the only reasons the phenomenon persists.

One problem is lack of physical activity. “A lot of freshmen are no longer a part of a high school sports team,” says Lona Sandon, assistant professor of clinical nutrition at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “Encouraging new college students to take a PE class, or join an intramural or club sports team, may be one way to get them physically active at least a couple of times a week.”

The high-stress environment of a heavy course load can lead to more eating and more pounds. Taking advantage of the fitness center, Sandon emphasizes, is not only a great way to relieve some of that college stress, but also a way to maintain a healthy weight.

The newfound freedom of dorm life also means parents are no longer around to oversee food choices. Without that guidance, many students find themselves eating less-than-nutritious meals. The good news is that most schools are offering more healthy dining options in their cafeterias. That isn’t to say that a less-than-nutritious study break snack isn’t going to find its way into the library occasionally.

“Take advantage of the cafeteria when it is open so that you don’t have a good reason to snack,” Ms. Sandon advises. “I caution students about keeping excess food around because it begs the question, are you eating because you’re hungry, or just because it is there?”

If hunger is the real reason, here are some healthy snacks that can survive the dorm room environment:

  • Fruits: apples, oranges, and bananas
  • Veggies: ready-to-eat baby carrots or celery sticks with light ranch dip
  • Dairy: skim milk string cheese
  • Grains, nuts and seeds, light microwaveable popcorn, almonds, peanuts, and sunflower seeds

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