Many students will head off to school this week for the first time with great expectations of higher education and an incredible social life. Yet, forewarnings of “The Freshman 15” loom. Consider that 17.4% of adolescents are overweight or obese and 66.3% of adults. The doomed freshman 15 puts them several steps closer to joining two-thirds of their parents. Weight gain at such a young age accelerates their risk for heart disease, certain types of cancer, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
While the freshman 15 is an over estimation of true college weight gain, students are at an increased risk due to the abrupt change in lifestyle. Level of activity, diet, stress, living arrangements and social life all do a 180 degree turn. What’s the best piece of advice from “The Dietitian” to incoming freshman? Well, based on research we know that college students:
- Consume too much daily fat
- Consume inadequate fruits and vegetables
- Reduce physical activity
These facts translate into three recommendations to the college bound freshman.
- Limit fat. Your dorm breakfast buffet will boast options of doughnuts, pastries, high fat muffins, sausage and bacon. The aroma after late night studying will be tempting. Limit these to once per week. Instead, opt for hot or cold cereal, whole grain breads, eggs, low-fat yogurt and whole, fresh fruits. Lunch and dinner options will regularly include pizza, burgers, fried foods and casseroles loaded with cheese or creamy sauces. Limit these to once per week. Instead opt for the deli, taco, stir fry and salad bars where you can indulge on the veggies and control the toppings. Broth based soups, baked chicken, roast turkey and fish are always good options too. Desserts are available at every meal, including portable cookies and bars for study breaks. Limit these to one per day.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. Create a specific, quantity goal for yourself and stick to it. The Food Guide Pyramid recommends 3 servings of fruit daily. I recommend starting your day with ¾ cup, 100% fruit juice or mixing fruit in cereal or yogurt such as berries or bananas. If you grab a piece of fruit for a study break later in the day, you only have one more serving to fit in at lunch or dinner. Unfortunately, cooked vegetables are not known for their “5 Star” appeal at the dorm cafeteria. I encourage students to get 2.5 cups total per day from the salad bar, veggie sticks with low-fat dip or humus, and mixing them into stir fries, tacos and soups. If your chef is adept at mass producing and holding steamed vegetables, than definitely enjoy them as a side.
- Get active. The social life of a freshman is a blast but choose activities that keep you active and limit the liquid calories! Spend time at the University gym regularly, walk the campus and use exercise as a study break. It is a fact that you will be able to recall new information better, when you alternate study time with activities that get your heart, lungs and blood pumping.
College life is a wonderful opportunity, make it a healthy experience!
Categories: Nutrition & Wellness