Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Freshman 15

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One of my best friends just sent her son to college last weekend and it reminded me of my freshman year. I can’t believe it was 15 years ago that I went off to Purdue University as a freshman--how time has flown!

Going away to college is probably one of the most exciting yet unpredictable life events. You are going out on your own for the first time and have a freedom you have not known before. Many people gain weight their freshman year due to late night pizza while studying, unlimited buffets in the dorm cafeteria, dessert available at every meal, an ice cream machine in the dining room, and of course an increase in alcohol calories (not everyone, but for many college freshman). Many teens were active in sports in high school but then go to college and their exercise dwindles. All of these factors result in the dreaded “Freshman 15” pound weight gain.

If you are heading out to college this fall, here are tips to avoid the “Freshman 15”:

  1. Eat nutritious foods and don’t “junk out.” It is easy to find yourself snacking while studying, drinking coffee drinks or soft drinks full of sugar to stay awake, or giving in to late night cravings. Have nutritious foods like yogurt, fresh fruit, whole wheat crackers and low fat cheese, nuts, and cereal on hand for healthier, lower calorie snacks and meals.
  2. Pay attention to portions. If your cafeteria has an all you can eat set-up you can end up with much more food on your plate than you are used to getting at the dinner table at home. Take small amounts and only go back for seconds if you are truly still hungry.
  3. As Mom always said, eat your vegetables! They are low in calories and will provide you with lots of disease fighting phytonutrients and vitamins and minerals for brain power.
  4. Plan study breaks that include movement. Aim for a break every hour to hour and a half. Go for a walk around the block, go up and down the stairs a few times, do some yoga or stretching, or just do some jumping jacks in your room!
  5. Exercise daily. Go to the gym and work out for at least 30 minutes every day. If you don’t think you have the time, remember that you will be more efficient studying and won’t need the caffeine if you have more energy. Exercise is a natural energy booster! Start right away with the exercise so it becomes routine.
Photo of Purdue Pete courtesy of ckroberts61
Photo of Purdue University emblem courtesy of The Udall Legacy Bus
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About the Author


MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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