Fighting the “Freshman 15”

College freshmen often come home with not just piles of laundry and cravings for home-cooked meals after several months at school, but they may also bring back a few extra pounds, often dubbed the “Freshman 15.” Addressing this issue early and effectively becomes essential, hence, the importance of strategies for Fighting the “Freshman 15.”

This excess weight is frequently the result of increased snacking, late-night eating, and poor food choices. However, the gain is not limited to the first year: According to studies, many students gain weight gradually during their college careers, which can set a pattern for years to come. Use the seven tips below to help your children maintain healthy eating habits as they move away from the family dinner table.

  1. Purchase a mini-fridge. If your student has one in his room, he’ll be more likely to open it for a snack. Make sure he has baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, string cheese, low-fat ranch dressing, hummus, fruit, and water. For a healthy, quick meal, try deli turkey or chicken or tuna-and-cracker kits. Store microwave popcorn, pretzels, graham crackers, and other low-calorie snacks on the side. Sandwich bags are ideal for transporting food on the go.
  2. Eat without thinking. Request that your child refrain from eating and studying at the same time. She won’t be as aware of what’s going on in her mouth if her nose is in the books. This can add a lot of calories. If she wants a snack while reading or working on the computer, encourage her to choose a healthy snack.
  3. Eating breakfast is preferable. Late-night snacking is a common bad habit, and it usually consists of pizza, subs, wings, and cookies. Because digestion slows in the evening, the effects of high-fat, high-calorie foods are amplified. Remind your student to avoid this as much as possible – and that eating a healthy breakfast, such as peanut butter on whole-wheat bread with a piece of fruit, will help him eat more reasonably all day and avoid late-night cravings.
  4. Be wary of the term “comfort.” College dining halls provide a variety of healthy and unhealthy options. When stressed or homesick, students turn to comfort foods like chicken nuggets, hamburgers, and fries. If your student wants a burger, substitute a salad with a low-calorie dressing for the fries. Try baked chicken with the fries the next night (but watch the ketchup!). Then go with baked fish, steamed vegetables, and a milkshake. By spreading out the high-calorie culprits, children are not completely deprived of the foods they enjoy.
  5. Be cautious when it comes to beverages. Most college students drink pop, sweet iced tea, and juice (not to mention alcoholic beverages), all of which are low in nutrition, high in calories, or both. Unless the juice contains 10% or more fruit juice, it’s just sugar water. Plain water is best, especially with meals. If you get a craving in the middle of the day or late at night, limit your intake of sugary drinks or go sugar-free. As a general rule, choose something with nutritional value (for example, milk or fruit/vegetable juice).
  6. Balance is essential. Skipping meals in order to lose weight actually slows metabolism. Although fruits and vegetables are high in nutrients and antioxidants, high-fat but meat-free snack foods can still pack a weight-gaining punch. Furthermore, carb-restricted diets can be problematic if they include excessive higher-fat meat (bacon, burgers, steak). Before your child begins any restricted eating plan, make sure he or she seeks advice from a dietician or doctor to ensure proper balance.
  7. Take a walk. College campuses are excellent places to get some exercise. Encourage your student to walk from class to class, work out in the gym, join an exercise class, or participate in a sport. This will help her lose weight and improve her physical and mental health.

Above all, remember that balancing the scales is about more than just maintaining a healthy weight. This includes eating a well-balanced diet, getting enough sleep, managing stress, and getting enough exercise.

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