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If you are heading to college or are the parent of a soon-to-be college student, then you’ve probably heard of the freshman 15. Although this expression is grossly overused and only
about 10% of freshman actually gain 15 pounds or more, the issue of college weight gain is real. Booze, junk food, and laziness is a dangerous combination that can lead to weight gain and other health problems. The best way to avoid the freshman 15, or any unwanted weight gain in college, is to eat right, exercise, and take care of yourself. Start your first year of college off right by following these seven healthful tips.
One of the easiest ways to keep off the freshman 15 is to eat a healthy, balanced diet. This may sound simple in nature, but college students often forgo healthy foods in lieu of fast, cheap, and convenient meals. Even if you can’t afford organic produce or grass-fed meats, you can still eat well on a tight college budget. Think variety and color when you’re shopping for groceries or dining out. If you eat nutrient-dense foods most of the week, you’ll feel healthier and fuller and even leave some wiggle room for the occasional pizza or ice cream splurge.
It doesn’t take much for the pounds to add up when you’re consuming lots of empty calories every day. Many of the foods and drinks college students consume contain empty calories, which offer very little or no nutritional value. Pizza, sodas, ice cream, alcohol, energy drinks, chips, and cookies are just a few examples of empty calories. While it’s unlikely you’ll eliminate these delicious foods and drinks from your diet entirely, it is advised that you limit your intake of empty calories and save them as occasional treats.
College dining halls are filled with just about every food imaginable. But just because you have endless options doesn’t mean you should indulge in everything the dining hall has to offer. Be conscious of your portions and pay attention to what you’re putting on your plate. Stay away from foods that are fried, battered, or smothered, and opt for baked, broiled, or steamed meats. Make sure your meal includes plenty of fresh vegetables, whole grains, and fruits.
College can turn any student into a lazy bum. A sedentary lifestyle of sitting and not exercising, combined with junk food and overeating can cause weight gain in no time. The truth is, college students have a lot of downtime that can, and should, be spent being active. Find something you enjoy doing and do it as often as possible, whether it’s running, yoga, or intramural flag football. Another easy way to incorporate exercise into your daily routine is to walk or bike to class instead of driving or catching the campus bus.
College students are notorious for giving into their late-night cravings for pizza, French fries, and Taco Bell’s “fourth meal.” As if the late-night snack choices weren’t bad enough, most students are chowing down after binge drinking for hours on end. This messy combination can result in serious indigestion and noticeable weight gain. If hunger strikes late at night and you must eat something before going to bed, opt for healthy, filling snacks like hummus and veggies, mixed nuts, or oatmeal and fruit.
It’s not always what you eat, but how much you eat that matters. Portion control is crucial for managing your calorie intake and keeping your weight in check. When you fill up your plate, try to keep the portions small, or only eat as much as you need to satisfy your hunger and bring the leftovers home. Remember, keep your foods varied, your portions small, and don’t overdo it on any one food.
College students are known for staying up late and sleeping till noon and using naps as a way to make up for lost sleep. Skipping out on the recommended eight to nine hours of sleep per night can be disastrous for your mental and physical health. Not only does sleep deprivation affect alertness, immune function, and stress, but it also can cause you to gain weight. Those who are sleep deprived are more likely to engage in unhealthy late-night snacking and may experience a spike in their appetite due to sleep-related hormonal changes.
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