Going to college is an all-around adjustment: new room, new friends, new classes, and a new way of eating. Over the years, Freshman 15 has become a notorious trend, meaning many freshmen students gain at least 15 pounds throughout the year. However, there are certainly ways to avoid this dreaded tendency. Here is how I did not gain the Freshman 15:
The dining hall can be quite deceiving. I find that I am never full, yet most meals served in my dining hall have at least 800 calories. Sometimes I wonder if they magically throw sugars and fats into my chicken breast when I’m not looking! To survive the dining hall, the first thing I do is head to the salad bar. Unfortunately, my dining hall could have the worst salad bar in America, with very few options for protein in the salad. Depending on if I want an entrée at the dining hall, I fill one-half to one full plate with spinach leaves and carrots, a spoonful of shredded cheese and balsamic vinaigrette. Often, the protein of choice at the salad bar is tuna, which I do not find enjoyable. I add black beans to my salads whenever possible. Otherwise, I try to add a meat entrée, like chicken or beef to my salad. I am aware that most colleges have different (and hopefully better) salad bars than those at my school, so here are some universal tips for making a delicious low-calorie low-fat salad:
- When possible, skip the iceberg lettuce. It has very little nutritional value—you’re basically eating water. Instead, try darker, leafy greens like spinach, romaine, and mixed greens.
- Always try to add protein! Whether it’s eggs, beans, poultry, fish, meat, or quinoa, this will make the salad more nutritious and filling.
- Go easy on the cheese. Although cheese is a great source of calcium and vitamin D, it also loaded with fat.
- Add extra vegetables or fruit to make the salad even more nutritious and flavorful!
- Opt for vinaigrette over a creamy dressing. Most college dining halls do not have low-fat dressing options, so that ranch you’re adding could make your salad an unhealthy choice.
- If the dining hall has a build-your-own-sandwich station, choose the wheat or multigrain bread over the white bread. White bread has the highest glycemic index (ability to raise blood sugar levels).
- If the dining hall offers pizza, wipe off the extra grease with a napkin. The cheese produces grease, which is essentially just liquid fat on top of the pizza.
- Tell the servers exactly how much food you want. The workers in the dining hall may have a tendency to fill your entire plate with the entrée they are serving. If you only want one scoop of pasta, TELL THEM. If you only want one piece of meat instead of two, TELL THEM. It is better not to be tempted with the excess food on your plate.
- Make sure to grab any fruit that looks decent. I will always grab the cantaloupe at brunch because it generally looks fresh and appetizing. However, most of the other fruit in my dining hall is brown, so I avoid it. I do make up for the lack of fruit at the dining hall in other ways.
- Drink water and milk (non-fat or low-fat) as an alternative to soda. Soda is loaded with sugar, which will raise blood sugar levels. Furthermore, it easily gives you extra calories and cavities.
- Limit yourself when choosing a dessert. It’s fine if you want that cookie; I do too. However, stick to one cookie, and make sure the rest of your meal is healthy.
My last important tip: PLEASE EXERCISE. A nutritious diet can only go so far if it is not paired with the necessary amount of activity. If you are not a fan of going to the gym, sign up for fitness classes. My school has yoga, zumba, spinning, and kickboxing classes. Most schools have the same or similar classes. In addition to the gym, I stay in shape by walking everywhere. Even though my dorm is relatively far from most of my classes, I promised myself that I would never take the bus. Because of this, I walk an average of 3 miles per day. The simple initiative of walking can be a great outlet for exercise!
Leaving home can be difficult, which can easily affect your health. No one is making decisions for you about what to eat and how to spend your free time. It is so important to acknowledge your eating and exercise habits while in college. You are an adult now, and the decisions you make in college can ultimately influence the rest of your life.