Ah, the freshman 15 ... some of us are still carrying it (and then some) to our 10th reunion. Why do so many students gain extra weight during their first year of college? "College is the time to let loose and enjoy your newfound freedom," says Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN of www.nutritiouslife.com, "specifically when it comes to the diet."
"After years of mom cooking and planning all the meals, college seems like an endless sea of food choices, not all of them being the healthiest," she says "Also, college is often the time many young adults start to eat emotionally, from stress specifically. Finally, alcohol consumption and the late-night eating that go along with it are big calorie add-ons that most likely didn't happen in high school."
We asked Glassman for a few basic, easy-to-follow lifestyle tips that can help freshmen prevent the dreaded weight gain.
Start off your day on the right foot: "Begin every day with a balanced breakfast that includes a high-fiber starch and lean protein or healthy fat," she says. "Not only will it help rev your metabolism, stabilize your blood sugar, control your hunger and boost your energy level, studies have shown that students who eat a healthy breakfast do better in their classes. Even if you don't have time to have a 'sit-down' breakfast, keep healthy items in your dorm room for 'grab-and-go' breakfasts. Make sure your breakfast of choice packs a substantial amount of protein, such as eggs or nonfat Greek yogurt. Protein not only supplies the fuel you needed to ace that exam, but it is also one of the most satiating nutrients."
Make time for meals: "Having regular meals and snacks throughout the day will help keep your hunger level in check and help you avoid late night binges on unhealthy foods," Glassman adds. "Pencil your trips to the dining hall into your planner. On your way or before you go, think of a 'meal game plan' -- are you headed to the salad bar or the sandwich line, what vegetable are you going to have, which lean protein are you in the mood for? Treat this like you are prepping to write a paper or studying for your chemistry test -- it's just as important!"
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Watch mindless eating: "Avoid eating because you are bored, studying or just because everyone else is. Try making a cup of tea or having a large glass of water instead."
Don't beat yourself up over one bad meal: "Treat every meal like it's a Monday morning and relieve yourself of the guilt from your last," she says. "Each meal is a new opportunity to eat nutritiously. [Splurging] happens; forget it and move on."