Your first year of college is a magical time. You're gaining confidence and new friends, but unfortunately, you may also be gaining weight. The dreaded 'freshman 15' plague the waistlines of many new students, but it doesn't have to happen to you. We asked nutrition expert Lisa Hark, PhD, RD, for five easy tips to help you maintain your weight and still fit into your skinny jeans come sophomore year.

1. Know your weight. You might want to add a scale to your back-to-school shopping list. If you know how much you weigh, it may make you more conscious of any weight gain that starts to creep up on you.

"There is a lot of data that says people who weigh themselves on daily basis are more likely to maintain their weight," said Hark.

2. Stick to your meal plan. Hark recommends students eat at regular meal times with their peers. They are then less likely to eat calorie-laden take-out or delivery food. Stock up on fruit and yogurt before you leave the dining hall. However-- beware of the buffet-style set-up.

 

"Don’t pig out just because it's free," warns Hark. "Stay away from fatty meats for breakfast and load up on the salad bar at lunch and dinner."

3. Ditch your car. Intramural or club sports are a great way to stay active, but you can get in a lot of exercise just by opting to walk instead of taking a shuttle or driving to class.

"It's an easy way to burn calories," says Hark. "If you have class on the second or third floor, take the stairs. Pretend there is no elevator. Try to walk everywhere."

4. Get your beauty sleep. Not only is rest incredibly critical for maintaining a normal appetite, but it also affects your immune system. Illnesses like mono run rampant on college campuses and lack of sleep can open the door for it.

"Sleep is one of the most important things to maintain stress, appetite, mood, productivity and focus," says Hark.

5. Pay attention to what's in your cup. Alcohol typically plays a role in college life but it also can weigh heavily on your health.. literally. Not only is beer packed with hundreds of calories, but over-drinking can lower your inhibitions, making you more likely to over-eat.

"If you are watching what you eat all week and then you have three or four beers or drinking wine, you figure-- what the heck," says Hark. "You do eat more after drinking alcohol."

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