How to Avoid the Freshman 15

Posted August 26, 2014 in healthy eating, college, freshman, healthy living, weight loss, healthy food, fitness, workout, university

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It's been 14 years since I was a freshman in college (yikes!), but working at a university makes me think back to my days as a newbie on campus. 

I had so much anxiety about finding my classes, getting my work done on time, making new friends, etc. What I ate wasn't really something I thought about. 

But as a new student, the days of having your own personal cook (your mom or dad) and someone telling you not to eat that ice cream sandwich before dinner are gone! 

Also, if you were a student athlete and you're not playing sports in college, you'll need to pay close attention to what you're eating! Sorry, you can't eat like you're practicing every day!

This was a typical day of eating for me when I was a college freshman...

Breakfast: LIFE cereal with skim milk or a doughnut from the dining hall

Lunch: pasta with marinara sauce and a breadstick from the pasta bar in the dining hall + soft serve ice cream cone

Dinner: Pasta Roni made in my dorm room microwave (I worked evenings and ate when I got off around 10 p.m. most days)

Holy carbs! 

Obviously I didn't know a whole lot about balanced eating. Where were the fruits and vegetables? I also don't know how I survived without snacking (something I do often now).

Now that I have more knowledge about healthy living, work on a college campus and know what resources are available, I know there are a lot of things I would have done differently my first year of college.

Learn from my mistakes and make it through your first year of college feeling healthy and energized.

How to Avoid the Freshman 15 (I'm pretty sure colleges are getting away from using the word "freshman," but First Year 15 needs more explanation so I'm sticking with Freshman for the sake of simplicity).

  • Don't go crazy in the dining hall. The majority of the offerings in the dining hall are not healthy - pizza, fried processed chicken strips, French fries, sugary cereals, ice cream treats, etc. Eating healthy takes a very conscious effort. I work at the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) and our dining hall has a decent salad bar and a Mongolian grill, which are both healthy options. You'll also have TONS of options every day (something you didn't have when mom and dad cooked your meals). Don't feel like you need to take everything from the buffet.
  • Ask the dining hall chef about healthy options. The chef at your dining hall should be willing to talk to you about how food is prepared and where food served in the dining hall comes from. The dining hall at UNK serves RBGH-free milk, cage-free eggs and some locally sourced items. 
  • Keep healthy foods in your dorm room. Stock up on healthy snacks like nuts, Greek yogurt, snack bars, bananas and hummus and whole grain crackers. Eating healthy snacks will help you stay energized for studying or working part-time. It will also help you make healthier choices at mealtime because you won't be starving.
  • Beware of greasy/salty/sugary weekend and late night eats. You order in pizza with your roommates, go out for ice cream with some new friends, reach for a bag of chips during a late night study session. Unhealthy food is everywhere during college. It will take an effort to avoid it. Suggest that you and your friends go on a bike ride, go bowling, go on a hike or do something active instead of heading to the ice cream shop. If your roommates are ordering pizza opt for something healthier like a thin crust veggie pizza light on the cheese. 
  • Take advantage of the rec center. There is a gym on campus that you can use! You pay for your gym membership in your student fees so you might as well take advantage of it. Ask a friend to join you and hit the treadmills or weight room. In addition to managing your weight, working out will help you de-stress and give you a boost of endorphins, which will keep you in a good mood!
  • Add a fitness class to your course load. On many campuses, fitness classes are offered for one credit. I took weight lifting in college! I loved it because I learned how to use all of the weight machines and free weights in the gym. At UNK, they offer Zumba, yoga, Pilates, cycling and other classes. You can also take fitness classes as non-credit courses.
  • Join intramurals. If you played sports in high school or you just like a particular sport, join intramural sports on campus. You will be active and make friends!
  • Hire a personal trainer. You can often hire a personal trainer through your rec center for super cheap. Some exercise science students get certified as a personal trainer while they're in college to gain extra experience. Check with your rec center!
  • Don't be too hard on yourself. You're in college, have fun! If you gain a few pounds, don't beat yourself up. This is a crazy busy time in your life!

What is the biggest healthy living challenge as a college student?

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