Julie Whittington, RD

Healthy tips from a Registered Dietitian

Tips to prevent college “freshman 15” weight gain

If you or your child is a freshman at college this fall, body weight may become a hot topic of conversation in your household.  Teens (and their parents) often worry about the potential to gain the “freshman 15” while away from home, at college.

Many variables can play into a student’s weight changes at college.  However, it is often the case when teens leave home and become independent as college freshman, poor lifestyle habits contribute to unhealthful weight gain. Nutrition and fitness play a central role in whether the “freshman 15” will occur.  So, it is crucial these things stay in balance in order to maintain healthy weight…at college or not.

It is certainly possible to keep weight and health in focus while away at college.  Sure, there are plenty of things that can get a student off course from late night pizza runs and daily desserts on the cafeteria line to alcohol consumption and exercise changes. Consider all the high school athletes who go off to college and no longer play in the sports they did in high school…it can make for quite a significant change to one’s energy output, and if diet is not modified, can lead to unwanted weight gain.

To prevent any unhealthy, unwanted weight gain in college, consider the following (or discuss them with your college-aged child):

-don’t skip meals
-avoid significant alterations in your usual eating plan that might cause an increase in total daily calories (i.e. avoid Belgian waffles every day for breakfast…especially if you are used to oatmeal and fruit). Focus on balance of “sometimes” foods and everyday foods
-keep physical activity a priority. Even if you are not on a sports team anymore, keep healthy by incorporating activity most days of the week, even if it is jogging around campus or taking a Pilates class
-minimize boredom eating…especially late at night or when studying
-keep fresh fruit and veggies on hand for snacks in your dorm mini fridge
-stay hydrated
-allow yourself treats from time to time but not all the time
-check in with your stress levels and make sure not to confuse hunger with stress
-see a campus dietitian with nutrition questions or concerns
-stay aware of your body and lifestyle choices to ensure you stay as healthy as possible!

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