Keep off the freshman 15: Eat right on campus

The freshman 15. It’s an ominous way to refer to those extra pounds you pack on as you start your college career. But no one is immune to weight gain, and it can be a challenge to eat right on campus.

Good eating habits will help keep the freshman 15 away. (Credit: Daina S Winters)

Good eating habits will help keep the freshman 15 away. (Credit: Daina S Winters)

You canand should!exercise on campus, and you can check out tips from Ginny Gaylor in “DIY workout–how to start an exercise program” or Bessie Mazur in “DIY fitness tips for college students,” both on CengageBrain, to help you get started there. For DIY tips on healthy eating and keeping off the freshman 15, check out these hints, including the benefits of dark chocolate and some quick Greek yogurt nutrition facts.

Nutrition and science

It’s not always easy differentiating good health tips from fad diets. Even the experts are sometimes stymied by how foods impact our bodies. In “Why Scientists Constantly Disagree on Nutrition,” a contributor to DIYHealth noted that for years, health food experts said the worst thing for your body was saturated fat. But scientist Walter Willett of Harvard’s School of Public Health said as early as 1996 that replacing fat with carbs was actually making obesity and heart problems worse for the American public.

Why the change? Nutritional data is on observational studies, “which monitor the nutrition habits of people over time and try to identify trends,” wrote the DIYHealth contributor. “The best that an observational study can do is to generate a hypothesis, which then should be tested to determine causality.”

What does the contributor recommend?

  • Fruits and vegetables. No one has yet put out a study blaming these guys for the freshman 15.
  • Cut back on refined carbs, like pasta, bread, sweets, and sweetened beverages.
  • Don’t worry too much about fat, because it’s not the evil people used to think.
  • Eat whole foods rather than prepackaged meals.

Greek yogurt and dark chocolate

Luckily, some fads are based in science. In L’Oréal’s Rent the Runway On Campus, the contributor writing “Everything Will ‘Werk Out’ In The End” noted that dieting isn’t all about looking good, but feeling good.

While I don’t suggest going overboard on Hershey’s Special Dark, recent studies have shown the benefits of dark chocolate. According to the Rent the Runway On Campus contributor, “Dark chocolate is packed with a potent type of antioxidant, making your skin more firmer and supple.” But that’s not all:

  • Chocolate doesn’t increase your LDL (bad cholesterol levels).
  • Those antioxidants it has are great not only for your skin, but for your immune system.
  • Chocolate is a great source for magnesium, which benefits muscle development and nerve function, and phosphorus, which is great for strengthening bones and teeth.
  • Chocolate triggers endorphins, or feel-good chemicals in your body. There’s a reason eating chocolate makes people happy!

So what about Greek yogurt nutrition facts? Greek yogurt has reduced sugar and sodium compared to regular yogurt, and it also contains double the amount of protein. What are some other benefits?

  • The probiotics in Greek yogurt are good for your digestive system.
  • It’s a good source of magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, protein and calcium, which can help lower your blood pressure and increase your bone health.
  • Greek yogurt can be very diverse; because it’s creamy, it can be substituted for whole milk as an ingredient in pastries. But it can also be used as a vegetable dip (especially when paired with garlic and cucumber) or fruit and honey.

To be totally fair to regular yogurt, it has a lot of these same benefits, and has a higher amount of calcium per serving.

Impact of how you eat

It’s not just what you eat, but how. Jené Luciani, writing for Shape on January 23, 2013, posted “Why Eating Right and Gym Motivation is Mental.” She cited that in recent studies, “So-called ‘brain training’ is proving effective in helping people make smarter food choices, work out more often, and even cut out unhealthy habits like excessive drinking.” Memory games and positive thinking can actually help increase will-power, Luciani wrote, and she pointed out that exercising regularly for a period of six months can actually retrain the brain’s reaction to food.

Other tips to keep off the freshman 15?

  • Eat mindfully. If you’re distracted while eating, you’re less likely to realize you’re full. That certainly will not keep off the freshman 15.
  • Eat slowly. You’ll digest better, and probably eat less.
  • Set specific goals for what you want to accomplish; replace the general “I need to eat better” with the specific “I need to eat more fruits and vegetables” or “I need to drink more water.”

Because while dark chocolate is great, setting a goal to eat more of that seems a little like cheating.

What are your tips to avoid gaining the freshman 15? Tell us in the comments.

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  1. […] As students enter college they no longer participate in activities and don’t replace the lack of physical activity with something else—hence the weight gain. Don’t fret! There are a few simple things you can do to recover from the freshman 15! […]

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